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Israel, Palestine, and aboriginals

Rachelle Friesen's Settlers and the unwanted (Aug. 26) attempts to draw sympathy to Palestinians living in Israel at any cost -- even by compromising the truth and the aboriginal struggle.

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Comparing the plight of aboriginal people in Canada to that of Palestinians in Israel minimizes aboriginal pain and the injustices that were done to them.

Aboriginals in Canada were subjected to cultural, ethnic and religious oppression planned and orchestrated by the Canadian government. Arabs in Israel and in the occupied territories are free to live their lives according to their religion and cultural beliefs.

What first appears to be a passionate plea for a disadvantaged people is really a misguided (or exploitative) use of the plight of aboriginals.

Yolanda Papini-Pollock




Rachelle Friesen has co-opted the challenges facing Canada's First Nations to make a misguided and inaccurate comparison with the Palestinians.

Having been to the region multiple times, I can attest to the fact that Israel -- the only liberal democracy in the Middle East -- is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people, who are indigenous to the region no less than are the First Nations to Canada.

I continue to hope for a peaceful, negotiated solution in which both Israelis and Palestinians can build a future for their children. At the same time, I am disappointed that Friesen would, in her simplistic analysis of the serious problems facing aboriginals, use our community's challenges for the political purpose of bashing Israel.

Chief Ron Evans

Norway House Cree Nation



Conflating the situation of Palestinians and aboriginals, as Rachelle Friesen does, distorts the true reality of both situations and only serves to perpetuate misguided and biased opinions about both.

The very real colonial experience of aboriginals has contributed much to their present-day problems. Yet, not to diminish the tragic legacy of colonialism, it must be acknowledged that the white colonialist narrative, unlike that of the Palestinian leadership, did not include an exterminationist goal.

The assimilationist intent of colonialist policies was to destroy aboriginal culture, language, and identity, but it did not seek the physical extermination of every last aboriginal from the land, which is the stated goal of Hamas for the Jews.

Penny Jones Square




One could argue with some points in Rachel Friesen's comparison of the colonization of Canada to the colonization of Palestine, but David Matas' letter Inflaming Mideast conflict (Aug. 28) evades the issues she raises by inventing something called "anti-Zionism" which he says is the root cause of Palestinian problems.

There is certainly an ideology called Zionism. We know when and where it was invented, and know about the suffering produced by its policy of ethnic cleansing both in 1948-49 and in later campaigns, as detailed by Israeli historians such as Benny Morris and Ilan Pappé.

But most wrongs perpetrated by the new state of Israel have had nothing to do with supporting or opposing Zionism. The villagers of Deir Yassin were not threatening anyone when, in 1948, they were killed in the hundreds by Menachem Begin's Irgun and other terrorist groups. The hundreds of thousands driven out of areas designated as a Palestinian state in 1948-49 weren't actively opposing a Zionist state; they just got in the way of its expansion.

Matas cannot be ignorant of these and other events which punctuate the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians, yet he chooses to hide historical grievances behind a rhetorical smoke screen and -- sad irony -- accuse Friesen of "propaganda."

Christopher Petty



Responding to Rachelle Friesen's op-ed, David Matas claims she suffers from a form of Stockholm syndrome, having "become a prisoner of the anti-Zionist narrative."

He doesn't extend that diagnosis to Friesen's views of Canadian colonialism, and for good reason.

Were he to dismiss her concerns over the plight of aboriginal women as delusions arising out of an "anti-Canadian narrative," we would see his argument for what it is: ad hominem and crude pop psychology.

Bryan Thomas

Toronto, Ont.


Rachelle Friesen's opinion piece, so harshly critical of Israel, is actually a strong rebuttal to the many left-leaning Canadians who demonize that country.

As she correctly points out, many parallels can be drawn between Israeli and Canadian society. But the comparison breaks down in two ways: Israeli Jews also have a claim to indigeneity, and aboriginal people in Canada have not embraced violence like Hamas.

These differences cast Canada in a worse light than Israel. If we are concerned about people displaced and oppressed on their ancestral land, we need to set our own house in order.

If we can achieve justice and reconciliation, perhaps we will have something to teach Israelis.

Justin Jaron Lewis


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 30, 2014 A16

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