If Liel Leibovitz is Serious About His Māori Politics He Shouldn’t Be Undermining Indigenous Sovereignty in Palestine, Turtle Island and Hawai’i

Nā Tina Ngata

I would like to start this post off by acknowledging the Indigenous Peoples of the lands involved here:

Nā tēnei mokopuna a ngā whānau whānui o Ngāti Porou, i te Tai Rāwhiti o Te Ika a Maui, tēnei te mihi atu kia koutou te iwi mōrehu, te iwi māia i Parihitini – e Kōkā ma, e Koro ma, e Tama ma – tēnā koutou.

Kia koutou hoki aku tuakana i Motu Honu Nui/Abya Yala me Hawai’i – tēnā koutou.

And to you, Lieb Leibovitz, I will say: E Noho (take a seat).

Just like broader society – there are Māori who support Israel.

I mean not many, but they’re there.

There are many more who support, and empathise, with Palestine. Māori support of Palestine is well documented, and voiced, through communities such as Kia Ora Gaza – and proudly represented by Māori MP Marama Davidson who recently travelled to Gaza on board the Women’s Peace Flotilla as an Indigenous woman to stand in solidarity with Palestinian women and in opposition to the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Like them, I support Palestine, and as an Indigenous Woman and a Wāhine Māori I’m saying to Leil Leibovitz:

You do NOT get to use our suffering at the hands of our colonizers to erase the crimes of Israel against Palestine.

The thought that this guy – as a past employee of the Spokesperson Unit of the Israeli Defence Forces; as a member of a settler-colonial state; who is LIVING on Turtle Island; who actually wrote a book that uses religious entitlement to legitimise not only the occupation of Palestine and Turtle Island, but also going to war on their Indigenous inhabitants – THIS GUY would all of a sudden become the bastion for Māori Rights?

Yeah, nah.

Let’s get a few things straight:

YES – In 1831, fewer than 1,000 Europeans were living in New Zealand, foreigners vastly outnumbered by the “local Māori tribes”. And yes, fifty years later, that number skyrocketed to half a million, courtesy of British policy that encouraged settlers to sail to distant shores and remain there.

THIS IS PRECISELY why we are able to empathise with the Palestinian experience of Israeli settler population influx in their lands.

YES in 1863, the NZ government ordered all Māori to lay down their arms and passed the New Zealand Settlements Act, which enabled them to thieve 4 million acres of Māori land without even the pretense of due process.

THIS IS PRECISELY why we stand in solidarity with Palestine who have experienced rapid land theft at the hands of the Israeli government. (That paragraph of the article was particularly vomitous by the way).

YES, according to a recent UN report, over 300,000 Māori children, one-third of the country’s child population, now live under the poverty line. And yes, we are indeed almost three times as likely as non-Māori to experience unfair treatment on the basis of our ethnicity.

Understanding the impact of systemic bias upon our children is PRECISELY what underpins our opposition to Israel as the only country in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts which lack basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees. It is precisely why we decry the arrests of nearly 8,000 Palestinian children since 2000, who have been prosecuted in an Israeli military detention system notorious for the systematic ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children.

And YES – Lorde should very much be mindful of the way settler colonialism has played out in her own nation (even I pointed that out early on). Just as Liel should be mindful of how settler colonialism allows him to sit where he is writing what he does.

And let’s be clear on what he writes:

Liel Leibovitz believes that, as chosen people, Israel and the USA have a divine right to colonize Palestine, Turtle Island and Hawai’i. This includes the divine (in fact necessary) right to go to war on its Indigenous inhabitants.

Good old “God said I could” – and hasn’t just about every Indigenous People heard that old chestnut.

If it’s difficult for you to reconcile that with Liel’s cry for Māori rights that’s your astute gland at work. He’s not at all interested in Māori rights, or Indigenous rights, at all, just in using our mamae in the latest version of #Whataboutism in order to distract from his own nation’s ongoing violations of Indigenous and Human rights.

So NO, Liel – you don’t get to use our pain at the hands of the settler colonial state in support of your own settler colonial state.

You DON’T get to wave us about as a distraction from the crimes of your own government.

You DON’T get to write books that undermine the sovereignty of our Indigenous brothers and sisters in Turtle Island, in Hawai’i, and in Palestine – and then try to uphold a platform for Māori rights.

You want to rummage around on the net for distraction tools to fix your rapidly deteriorating propoganda machine – look elsewhere. Te Ao Māori ain’t it.

 

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About Te Wharepora Hou

Te Wharepora Hou is a collective of wāhine who are mainly Tāmaki Makaurau based, but we have strong participation from wāhine based elsewhere in Aotearoa and the world. We have come together to ensure a stronger voice for wāhine and are concerned primarily with the wellbeing of whānau, hapū, iwi and all that pertains to Papatūānuku and the sustenance of our people.
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