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After Assault on Gaza, Palestinians Join Native Americans on Alcatraz Island
The annual sunrise gathering on Alcatraz Island, led by Native Americans on Thanksgiving Day, included a Palestinian delegation marking the solidarity between indigenous peoples of North America and Palestine in the face of histories of occupation and second-class citizenship.
In the wake of a week-long Israeli military siege of the Gaza Strip that left over 170 Palestinians and 6 Israelis dead, members of the Bay Area Palestinian community were welcomed at the annual sunrise gathering of Indigenous Peoples on Alcatraz Island. In view of the 65-year history of Palestinian suffering from ethnic cleansing and occupation, Native Americans now recognize Palestinians as an indigenous people, most of whom have been forcibly exiled from their homeland.
Arriving by special ferry service in the pre-dawn darkness, some 5,000 people observed a Native American gathering on Thanksgiving Day – November 22, 2012 – to reassert Native American heritage and their historical connection to the land in the Bay Area. Forming a great circle, they watched hundreds of Native Americans perform dances and sacred ceremonies around a central bonfire.
Palestinians along with the native Jews of Palestine were the indigenous inhabitants of today’s Israel and Palestine before the world Zionist movement moved to colonize Palestine during the British Mandate. So it was entirely natural that Palestinians of the Bay Area join Native Americans in celebrating the human rights of indigenous peoples. As one Native American speaker reminded the audience, this gathering is also “an act of resistance” against unjust oppression.
The 8-day Israeli military offensive that included both aerial attacks and cross-border incursions by ground troops damaged or destroyed thousands of civilian targets. While Israel claims that the raids were in response to unguided rockets fired by Hamas and other militias from Gaza into southern Israel, Hamas was actually observing a ceasefire until Israeli gunfire killed an 11-year-old Palestinian boy in Gaza on November 8. Only then did Hamas and other militias begin a new round of rocket attacks in response to the Israeli raid. As both sides exchanged fire, raising the death toll, another Israeli airstrike bombed the car of Hamas’ chief of security, Ahmed al-Ja’abari, on November 14.
The death toll continued to mount until an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire went into effect on November 22. Among the dead were at least 34 Palestinian children. A thousand Palestinians were wounded.
The National Park Service that now maintains the island as a National Monument has come around to support preservation of the history of the Native American occupation of Alcatraz Island. In addition to facilitating the annual sunrise gathering, the National Park Service has permitted the restoration of graffiti written by Native Americans during the two-year occupation of the island in 1969-1971.
Eyad Kishawi, representing the Palestinian American community, presenting a plaque commemorating Palestine to Native American leaders during the sunrise gathering on Alcatraz Island.