Remember us: A modern trail of tears

Remarks from a solidarity rally

Remember us: A modern trail of tears

These remarks were offered from the back of a pickup truck on November 12, 2023. They are very lightly edited for clarity.

An estimated 850,000 of 1.1 million Palestinians from northern Gaza have left, most of them on foot. Yesterday I watched the videos, one with a caption describing it as a Trail of Tears.

If you don’t know, the Trail of Tears was actually multiple displacements between 1830 and 1850 after the US government passed the Indian Removal Act in 1838 requiring that Indigenous people from primarily the southeastern US be relocated to what was then called ‘Indian Territory’ west of the Mississippi. This included the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw people. 60,000 native people, including some non-native people such as spouses or Black people, both free and enslaved, walked from Georgia to what is now Oklahoma, hundreds of miles. Many of them died along the way from hunger, from cold, from getting shot.

When I wrote about the Trail of Tears in my book, along with other strategies of removal like reservations, epidemics including the use of blankets to spread smallpox, and starvation I called it “a period of violence and upheaval.” My editor wrote back and said that this phrase, “violence and upheaval” did not adequately convey what I had just described. And so I changed it to “after this period of genocide and ethnic cleansing” because that’s what it was. Genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Some people on Twitter objected to describing this movement of Palestinians from northern Gaza to the south as a “trail of tears,” though I noticed that most of those who objected had an Israeli flag beside their name (which doesn’t mean they were Jewish or Israeli, only that they demonstrate support for Israel). The few people who identified themselves as Indigenous agreed with it. This is a forced march into exile, it may not be the hundreds of miles that those tribes had to walk but it is still a march into exile. When home becomes inaccessible, does distance really matter? When you’ve been forced to leave everything behind and walk into the unknown, with weapons trained on you and explosions echoing around you, does distance really matter? When you are denied the basic necessities of life like water, electricity, and food does distance really matter?

We are here to demand a ceasefire. Not a pause in the killing but a ceasefire. Will a humanitarian pause restore the hospitals that have been shelled? Will it restore electricity and water and rebuild neighbourhoods?

We are here to demand an end to the occupation of Palestinian land. An end to occupation and the violence required to maintain it.

On November 10 Canada and the United States, along with only four other countries, voted against a resolution calling for an end to Israeli colonization of territories seized by military force in contravention of international law. Many of the countries who voted against or abstained are themselves guilty of the same thing, doing the same things with Israeli weapons and technology.

This is 19th century colonialism with 21st century technology. Technology tested and perfected on the captive population of Palestine.

Palestine is, in the words of journalist Antony Loewnstein, a laboratory where the technology of occupation is tested and perfected before being exported around the world. Obama tried to distance himself from US complicity in this violence by claiming that racism and colonialism, along with the violence required to maintain these systems, were relics from a different era. As if the genocide and ethnic cleansing like that of the trail of tears and other forced removals like the trans atlantic slave trade that built Canada and the United States no longer mattered. As if that violence does not still exist in policing and prisons and the deliberate impoverishment of Black and Indigenous communities.

Netanyahu has no pretense, he says, with his whole chest, that the future belongs to authoritarian capitalism, to governments who combine aggressive and racist nationalisms with economic and technological might. And Israel is happy to sell weapons and surveillance systems tested on Palestinian peoples to almost anyone willing to pay for it. Selling drones to Germany and Greece so that they can survey the Mediterranean and delay the response until migrants seeking safety have drowned. Israel is openly forming relationships with Austria, Hungary, Italy, and Romania all of whom were historically associated with Nazis. It worked with the US to provide weapons and training to right wing forces in Central and South America including Guatemala, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Argentina. It sells weapons to places like Congo, Rwanda, and others who are committing human rights abuses. Narendra Modi, the leader of India is a Hindu fundamentalist admires Israel’s occupation of Palestine, seeing strategies India can employ in the largely Muslim territory of Kashmir.

Canadian police forces across Canada have met with or received training from Israel. The RCMP takes part in active training maneuvers as part of Operation Proteus who work as police advisors to the team that coordinates security between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, a colonial governance much like our own Indian Act band councils. The technology and strategies that Israel develops on Palestinains finds its way into Canada and the US.

Antisemitism is a real and dangerous force in the world. We have seen synagogues vandalized, shootings, almost every manifesto written by white supremacist shooters refers in some way to globalists or Jews and it cannot have any place in our movements. This is a problem of Zionism, of a colonial power rooted in ethno-nationalism which is why it finds common ground with so many other genocidal regimes around the world. Many of the protests around the world are lead by Jews who say not in my name. The only path forward to a free Palestine, to Land Back, lies in forming relationships of solidarity against these colonial states.

Doctors without Borders tweeted this out on November 10, Medical staff in #Gaza are so inundated by the sheer mass of patients arriving that the surgical board used to keep track of the weeks upcoming surgeries has been wiped clean and replaced with these words:

"Whoever stays until the end will tell the story.

We did what we could.

Remember us."