In 1840 the Comanche chief Buffalo Hump raised a huge party of warriors and began raiding towns in the Republic of Texas. During the raids they killed approximately 30 whites, nearly burned down the entire town of Linnville, stole hundreds of horses, and stole quiet a bit of bullion. The Great Raid of 1840, as it is now called, was one of the largest single raids by an organized ‘war party’ of Native Americans in the history of Western “settlement.” And the killing and pillaging by the Comanche raiders was widely used as an illustration of Native “brutality” and “savagery” as the process of “settlement” went on through the rest of the 19th century.
However, as we know now, the people of the West commonly used such events to characterize the Native Americans as ‘savages,’ and ‘settler’s’ used the argument “we have a right to defend ourselves”” in their process of genocide. Very few people today, except the most racist, would ignore the fact that it was, in fact, the Native Americans who were defending themselves against an ongoing, concerted effort to take all their land and commit what amounted to genocide. We might look back and be saddened by the deaths of ‘average people’ who were just trying to live their lives at the hands Natives, but we are separated from the history enough to understand that what was really going on was genocide and that the relatively few numbers of whites that died in conflicts with the Natives, though sad for those people and their family members, amounted to the very small efforts that the Natives could go to in fighting against the theft of their land and the destruction of their culture. When Western “settlers” massacred Native communities with the claim of “defense” we know that such an argument could only be made by isolating individual events from the backdrop of land theft and genocide. (Of course, racism against natives is still extremely wide spread and, sadly, even culturally accepted. However, eve those who have a racist, twisted, or radically misinformed view of North American Indigenous peoples, understand that it was, generally speaking, the Natives who were defending themselves, not the other way around.)
But the realization of genocide and White atrocities has taken a long, long time. And we can, sadly, conclude that it was only once the theft of the land was assured that anyone began to listen to the idea that whites had acted atrociously and were, in fact, guilty of the worst kinds of human crimes. And this struggle continues even today as a case can be made that North American Governments continue to be guilty of ongoing crimes against humanity in their treatment of the Indigenous peoples.
However, what I find saddest of all is that we have learned so little from our crimes against the Indigenous population of North America. Today in Palestine, the very same thing is going on. Almost all of the land of the Palestinians has now been taken with the exception of a few, very crowded and isolated areas. Like the Manifest Destiny of the Whites who came to North America, Israel seems bent on taking all the land of Palestine for itself and running the others off or killing them in the process. The Palestinians now live in a series of open-air prison camps and have very few resources at their disposal. Occasionally the Palestinians fight back with their meager resources against the most powerful, per-capita military in the world. And like the White “settlers” of the Old West, Israelis and their apologists claim that they are defending themselves against a “savage” enemy. But just as in the Old West, it is the Palestinians who are, in fact, defending themselves against a much more powerfully armed peoples who are hell-bent on taking all of their land until the Palestinians are little more than a handful of people with nothing to their name and subjugation becomes a really simple matter. It is another genocide, committed with a claim of moral righteousness, and it is no less savage or unjust than the committed against the Indigenous peoples of North America. They don’t want you to look at the “big picture.” They don’t want you to look at the historical facts. They don’t want you to see the maps which illustrated the gradual, but consistent swallowing up of Palestinian land against UN Directives and International Law. Like the White “settlers” of North American, Israel and its apologists want you to look at every effort by the Palestinians in complete isolation so they can mischaracterize it as savagery and characterize themselves as victims simply trying to “defend” themselves. All the while, they continue their illegal settlements, continue talking the land, and continue committing genocide while the West looks the other way.
But if the human race is still here in a couple of hundred years, the destruction of Palestine will be seen as no less a crime than the destruction of the Indigenous cultures of North America. Perhaps more so. And the few of us who speak against it will be like those few Easterners who spoke against the brutal nature of Western Settlement, people on the right side of history at decidedly the wrong time.