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Freedom for Gaza and Grassy Narrows

Jesse McLaren

August 7, 2014

The last week of July saw one of a series of marches for Gaza and the annual River Run for Grassy Narrows. Growing Indigenous resistance and solidarity is helping people see the connections between Israeli and Canadian colonialism.
From Gaza to Grassy Narrows
Israel has been colonizing Palestinian land for decades—driving people from their homes, building an Apartheid wall, laying siege to Gaza, and periodically launching military assaults.
For all this time Palestinians have resisted—from armed struggle to launching the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement—and have inspired solidarity movements around the world.
These movements are now connecting with their own indigenous resistance movements.  A year after the Arab Spring began, Idle No More emerged—a continuation of centuries of struggle against Canadian colonialism.
Canada was founded on the genocide of Indigenous peoples through war, starvation and residential schools. Canadian corporations continue to steal Indigenous land and resources with the support of the Canadian state.
But there has been 500 years of Indigenous resistance, including the struggle at Grassy Narrows First Nation. Despite suffering the ongoing effects of mercury poisoning, the community has sustained the longest logging blockade in Canadian history, and is building a growing solidarity movement.
Stop Harper
Harper shows us the connections between colonialism in Canada and Israel. Having previously declared that Canada has “no history of colonialism,” Harper applies the same colonial whitewashing to Israel, which he praises as “the bloom that the desert has yielded”—erasing the catastrophe that this “bloom” has meant for Palestinians.
Harper cut humanitarian funding to Gaza—making Canada complicit in Israel’s siege—and then cut funding to Sisters in Spirit that documents missing and murdered Indigenous women.
At the same time Harper promotes the colonization of indigenous land from the Arab World to Canada—with a billion dollars a year for the oil industry’s ecocidal tar sands, and almost half a trillion dollars over 20 years to the military so Canadian corporations can profit from wars and occupations.
Warren White, Grand Chief Treaty 3, has compared the resources of militarism to the neglect towards a report on Grassy Narrows poisoning: “A genocide on people in Canada is very wrong. When they can’t eat the basic foods that they have lived on—the fish and wildlife—it is an infringement on treaty rights and way of life. I call on the federal government and Ontario government to acknowledge that there are serious problems in their own backyard. They react to all these wars across the seas with millions and millions and millions of dollars, and they can’t even recognize a report again that’s sitting on the shelves of their government bureaucracies.”
Colonialism and capitalism
Capitalism has never been a “free market.” The violent theft of indigenous land is the foundation on which capitalism was built, as the revolutionary Karl Marx wrote in 1876, the year the Canadian state was founded:
“The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalised the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production…The treasures captured outside Europe by undisguised looting, enslavement, and murder, floated back to the mother-country and were there turned into capital.”
But corporations don’t generate profits on their own. The turning of resources into capital required a working class, created by driving peasants off the land and into cities to work as wage labourers. By exploiting workers—paying them less than the value they produce—capitalism extracts profits, which it reinvests into greater production, giving the system a relentless drive to expand.
The expansion of capital continues to rely on the state—from the courts that recently dismissed Grassy Narrows aboriginal and treaty rights, to the billions invested in tar sands and militarism. The colonization of indigenous land, the exploitation of workers, and the war and environmental destruction that result cannot be ended through Parliament, but can be challenged through struggle.
Solidarity in struggle
Because capitalism is rooted in exploitation, workers can collectively resist by withdrawing their labour power. While Palestinians are excluded from the Israeli economy, the Arab dictatorships on which Israel depends are vulnerable to mass strikes inspired by Palestinian resistance.
Solidarity with the Palestinian intifada was part of the wave of protests that erupted with the Egyptian revolution. It was mass strikes that drove dictators from Tunisia and Egypt, and the Arab working class is key to Palestinian liberation.
As Egyptian revolutionaries organizing an aid convoy to Gaza wrote, “We are again reminded that the road to a free Palestine starts with the removal of Arab dictatorships. In Egypt this means that every step forward in the continuation of the Egyptian revolution is a step forward towards the freedom of Palestine.”
In Canada we need to stop Harper’s military and diplomatic support for Israel, and restore funding to Gaza—as part of challenging colonialism abroad and at home. Idle No More has challenged Harper’s agenda and connected it to centuries of colonialism and capitalism. There is growing solidarity for indigenous struggles within the labour movement—from justice for missing and murdered indigenous women, to climate justice and green jobs.
By supporting and connecting indigenous resistance and working class struggle we undermine the foundations of Harper’s agenda, and raise the possibility of a better world.
For more information visit Join the August 9-10 Gaza solidarity days of action. On August 12 join the discussion “End the attack on Gaza, stop Harper’s complicity.”


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