Guest Commentary

It's time to end the illegal occupation of Arizona

When most people hear the words "illegal occupation," "settlers," "checkpoints" or "wall of separation," the image of a far-off Middle Eastern country is conjured up. What most of those who protest the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land don't realize is that they themselves are participating in an occupation, the illegal occupation of Arizona by imperial America.

America, too, has a separation wall, between the Arizona border and Mexico. Arizona also has "checkpoints" on southern roads that lead to Mexico. Arizona also has well-armed settler militias. Beyond that, the images one finds on the Mexican border or among the Immigration and Naturalization agents who work the buffer zone south of Tucson are not so different than the ones propagandized by anti-Israel protest groups such as ISM (International Solidarity Movement) or UPJME (Union for Peace and Justice in the Middle East). These organizations have supporters at the local college campus, and their widely disseminated views are familiar to most educated Tucsonans.

When people speak of Israel turning back the clock of history and "withdrawing to her natural borders" or accepting U.N. Resolution 242, what they should also be calling for is the ending of all "occupations" everywhere, particularly here in America. The 1846-1848 Mexican-American war netted America new lands here in the southwest, including Arizona. It wasn't until 1912 that Arizona even became a state. All this time, Anglo settlers have been illegally settling this land. When one looks at the arguments of books like Architecture of the Occupation, and they see the neatly planned Israeli settlements next to the impoverished Arab villages, they shout in horror and scream in agony at the injustice. Yet few people stop to see that the neatly planned settlements of the foothills or those such as Rita Ranch and all the similar US Home subdivisions are almost identical to these much maligned Israeli settlements.

People may say, "My ancestors were not responsible for what America did in 1848." But these people ignore the fact that only a tiny minority living in Israel today were involved in the events of 1948. Famous critics such as Noam Chomsky claim to see "points of similarity" between the Israel "occupation" and the crimes of Nazis. The same line of reasoning has made these people call on Israel not only to give up the conquered territories but also to leave other parts of Israel, and they have called on a "Right of Return" for Palestinians. On every issue, those who think in such a way should be prepared to pack up their belongings and leave the illegally occupied American lands, stolen from Mexico and stolen from the Native Americans.

If these peace activists believed what they said, then they would also willingly fight for the right of return of all Mexicans to the lands here in the Southwest. They would be protesting the ugly American wall that separates Arizona from Mexico. They would protest the checkpoints along the U.S-Mexico border.

If the anti-Israel types and the right wing neo-Nazis who oppose Israel so vehemently are not prepared to end their occupations and hand over their properties to Mexico, then they should stop their calls on Israel to do it.

In the end, all countries in the world occupy what used to belong to some other country or some other people. No people in the world live in their original place. The history of the world is the history of migration. If one starts turning back the clocks to contrived dates, then all one creates is a vicious cycle of people fighting over whose land is whose. Arizonians more than anyone should be aware of the nature of conquest and settlement and should be smart enough to realize that the Israeli war of independence of 1948 ironically sits on the 100-year anniversary of America's conquest of the Southwest.