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Opinion: Visits to Israel stirring controversy in Indian Country

Filed Under: Opinion
More on: israel, joy harjo, navajo

"More recently, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and his wife Martha visited Israel to learn about issues from agriculture to tourism. On his arrival here on December 8 he said, “We set out on this mission to look at how Israel has advanced in growth in some of the same areas we face in the Navajo Nation.” The trip, funded by Navajo faith-based organizations with non-governmental ties, was designed to draw inspiration from Israeli methods in agri-tech, tourism, capital infrastructure and offering government services to rural areas, according to Shelly’s adviser, Deswood Tome.

But the criticism of Shelly’s visit and one by Indian literary diva Joy Harjo (who was scheduled to speak at Tel Aviv University) was anything but supporting of Israel. In truth there has been an upsurge of anti-Israel sentiment by a very small but very vocal contingent in “Indian country” within the past two weeks, most notably in opposition to both visits.

The response has included very negative, vitriolic letters to The Navajo Times against President Shelly’s visit and a similarly negative and vitriolic op-ed piece in Indian Country Today opposing Joy Harjo’s visit, sponsored by supporters of the BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) movement.

Janene Yazzie, CEO of Sixth World Solutions in Lupton, Arizona, writes in the Navajo Times: “It should not shock or surprise us that our Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly has taken an unexpected trip to visit Israel, a government that has committed itself to carrying out genocidal practices against its population of indigenous Palestinian peoples. To hear that our president believes the apartheid government of Israel has more to offer than the Diné people in his homeland fighting against his policies is hurtful and unbelievably ignorant. I stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine and those indigenous nations and non-indigenous peoples fighting against continued corporate, religious, and political exploitation.”"

Get the Story:
Sherwin Pomerantz: Native Americans turning on Israel? (The Jerusalem Post 1/1)

Related Stories:
Jerusalem Post: Poet Joy Harjo draws fury with visit to Israel (12/19)

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