The council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) has declared its support for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
Years of conflict have greatly impacted the ability of Palestinians to receive an education. This critical issue has now prompted one of America's leading Native American group to join the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
NAISA says the decision came after much discussion. In fact they wrote their own declaration of support, rather than simply adding their name to the existing declaration.
Chadwick Allen, 2013-2014 NAISA President, says a NAISA member initially brought the petition to the attention of the NAISA Council. "After extensive deliberation on the merits of the petition, the NAISA Council decided by unanimous vote to encourage members of NAISA and all who support its mission to honor the boycott."
It is no secret that many Native Americans find a distinct parallel between their own history and that of the Palestinians, who have lived under Israeli occupation since the late 1940's.
In occupied Palestine, students who attempt to reach Lebanon to file scholarship paperwork have been shot and killed.
Ninetieen-year-old Palestinian student Muatazz Idreis Sharawnah was struck down on the first of July this year when he was shot by an Israeli military vehicle in the Dura city in the southern West Bank district of Hebron. Locals say the Israeli military blocked the access of Palestinian Red Crescent Association paramedics when they attempted to reach Sharawnah to offer emergency care and evacuate him to hospital1.
It was reported on 07 February 2011, that Christian Peacemaker Team volunteers were escorting Palestinian children to school in At-Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills to protect them from stone throwing Israeli settlers.
In an al Jazeera article from 30 May 2011, Joseph Massad, a professor of intellectual history at Columbia University, wrote, "The number of Palestinian children killed by Israeli soldiers in the first Intifada (1987-1993) was 213, not counting the hundreds of induced miscarriages from tear gas grenades thrown inside closed areas targeting pregnant women, and aside from the number of the injured. The Swedish branch of Save the Children estimated that "23,600 to 29,900 children required medical treatment for their beating injuries in the first two years of the Intifada,” one third of whom were children under the age of ten. In the same period, Palestinian attacks resulted in the deaths of five Israeli children.
According to UNICEF, "More than 2,500 children in the West Bank cross through one or more checkpoints daily to reach their schools, with girls mostly dropping out when they need to travel to schools outside their communities. Exposure to the November 2012 escalation of conflict in Gaza has had a devastating impact on the psychosocial well-being of children and adolescents."
Regarding NAISA's decision to join the Boycott, Inside Higher Ed touched on the critical aspect of Israeli involvement, discussing how
"Academic boycotts have been deeply controversial: opponents argue that boycotts in general represent a violation of academic freedom while saying that boycotts against Israel in particular are discriminatory in singling out one nation for criticism."
In their declaration, NAISA clearly confirms their understanding that everyone is not on the same page when it comes to Israel and Palestine, and explains they are committed to the robust intellectual and ethical engagement of difficult and often highly charged issues of land, identity, and belonging. "Our members will have varying opinions on the issue of the boycott, and we encourage generous dialog that affirms respectful disagreement as a vital scholarly principle. We reject shaming or personal attacks as counter to humane understanding and the greater goals of justice, peace, and decolonization."
Edward Said, the world-renowned scholar, writer and critic, wrote after visiting Jerusalem and the West Bank that Israel's violence strengthened Palestinian determination. "Palestine and Palestinians remain, despite Israel's concerted efforts from the beginning either to get rid of them or to circumscribe them so much as to make them ineffective," Said wrote in the English-language Al-Ahram Weekly, published in Cairo.
NAISA's President Chadwick Allen explains that the NAISA Council's Declaration of Support for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions is an expression of the group's dedication to free academic inquiry about, with, and by Indigenous communities.
The declaration states:
"The NAISA Council protests the infringement of the academic freedom of Indigenous Palestinian academics and intellectuals in the Occupied Territories and Israel who are denied fundamental freedoms of movement, expression, and assembly, which we uphold.
"As the elected council of an international community of Indigenous and allied non-Indigenous scholars, students, and public intellectuals who have studied and resisted the colonization and domination of Indigenous lands via settler state structures throughout the world, we strongly protest the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and the legal structures of the Israeli state that systematically discriminate against Palestinians and other Indigenous peoples."
As scholars dedicated to the rights of Indigenous peoples, says NAISA, they affirm that their efforts are directed specifically at the Israeli regime, not at Israeli individuals.
"The NAISA Council encourages NAISA members to boycott Israeli academic institutions because they are imbricated with the Israeli state and we wish to place pressure on that state to change its policies. We champion and defend intellectual and academic freedom, and we recognize that conversation and collaboration with individuals and organizations in Israel/Palestine can make an important contribution to the cause of justice. In recognition of the profound social and political obstacles facing Palestinians in such dialogues, however, we urge our members and supporters to engage in such actions outside the aegis of Israeli educational institutions, honoring this boycott until such time as the rights of the Palestinian people are respected and discriminatory policies are ended."
The challenges faced by Native American people were insurmountable for millions and millions. The University of Minnesota's page "Brief History of American Indian Education" reveals that in 1990, "among those in the population who were 25 years and older, 66% of American Indians finished high school, compared to 75% of the total US population." Only 9% had attained a bachelor’s degree or higher. Compare that to the total US population, of whom roughly 20% attain their four year degree. Only about 3 percent of Native American people hold graduate or professional degrees, compared to 7% of the total US population. "In 1992, the dropout rate for American Indians was 56% and 46% for Alaskan Natives."
The list goes on and on, proving that the educational impacts starting with the arrival of the conquistadors have remained in place. It is hard to imagine how the Palestinians will not be facing the fallout from this problem for many years to come.
Educators and students in America are not always aware of the historical impact on the state of American Indian education today. "While there may have been collaboration in some communities, federal policies did not support cooperation on a national level. Federal policies for American Indian cultural assimilation were implemented after policies of extermination and removal were set aside," the Univ. of Minn. writes.