Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Lack of Empathy: Iroquois Nationals criticized for ignoring Israel boycott call
A Native Americans team is ignoring appeals from Palestinians and Indigenous activists to cancel its participation in the 2018 World Lacrosse Championships in Israel.
Israel plans to use the visiting players as “ambassadors” for its global propaganda effort to assert its political claims to Jerusalem.
But Palestinians are still hoping that the Iroquois Nationals will change their minds just days before the team’s first match is scheduled to be played at Netanya stadium.
“Our basic position on this is that we are going to play the game of lacrosse,” Ansley Jemison, executive director of the Iroquois Nationals, told The Electronic Intifada by telephone on Monday. “This is a gift that is a medicine game in our culture. We are trying to bring a medicine game, a healing game.”
“We are bringing a message of peace,” Jemison added. “There are issues on both sides of this. We are trying to remain neutral in this discussion.”
But Jemison’s contention that sports and politics should be kept apart in this case is entirely at odds with how the Iroquois Nationals team has itself taken an active role in the struggle for Indigenous recognition and sovereignty.
The Iroquois Nationals team represents the Iroquois Confederacy, also known as the Haudenosaunee, a group of Indigenous nations whose territory extends across parts of what is now the northeastern United States and eastern Canada.
Earlier this month, PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, urged the Iroquois Nationals to deny Israel “the opportunity to use the national sport of the Iroquois to cover up its escalating, violent ethnic cleansing of Palestinians throughout our ancestral lands.”
“As Indigenous peoples, we have both seen our traditional lands colonized, our people ethnically cleansed and massacred by colonial settlers,” PACBI said in a letter published just as Israel moved to begin the final and complete destruction of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar.
The letter highlighted Israel’s systematic violence against Palestinian athletes and its destruction of Palestinian sports facilities.
PACBI has pointed out that the lacrosse tournament is being played at venues built on ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages, including Bayyarat Hannun, whose lands are in the shadow of Netanya stadium.
The tournament is being sponsored by the Israeli government as part of its efforts to use international cultural and sporting activities to whitewash its crimes against Palestinians, most recently its massacres of unarmed civilians in Gaza, which human rights groups say must be investigated as war crimes.
David Lasday, the head of Israel’s lacrosse federation, has acknowledged the propaganda value of hosting the tournament, calling the 10-day competition an opportunity for “amazing exposure both domestically and internationally for Israel and lacrosse.”
Lasday wrote in The Times of Israel that Israel will be giving the players “the gift of Jerusalem,” sending each team on a day trip that will include the Old City, part of occupied East Jerusalem, which Israel claims to have annexed in defiance of international law. Palestinians in Jerusalem face systematic Israeli violence to force them out of their native city.
Lasday added that “each visit will be filmed and broadcast during the games” and that “the championship will create an unprecedented amount of influencers to serve as ambassadors for Israel.”
Last week, some members of the team met with Dani Dayan, Israel’s ambassador at the United Nations in New York. Dayan is a former leader of Israel’s settlements built on land stolen from Palestinians in the occupied West Bank in violation of numerous UN resolutions.