April 02, 2010

Palestinians = Na'vi

Bil'in weekly demonstration reenacts the Avatar filmThe village of Bil’in reenacted James Cameron’s new film Avatar during today’s weekly demonstration. Five Palestinian, Israeli and international activists were painted blue, with pointy ears and tales, resembling the Avatar characters. Like Palestinians, the Avatars fight imperialism, although the colonizers have different origins. The Avatars’ presence in Bil’in today symbolizes the united resistance to imperialism of all kinds.

Today’s non-violent demonstration was again met with excessive violence by the Israeli army. Sound bombs and tear gas were used, leaving four people directly injured by the canisters. The canisters were shot directly at the protesters, which is in violation with the IOF’s firing regulations. Many other activists suffered from tear gas inhalation.
Comment:  Palestinians have dressed up like Indians before to protest Israeli colonialism. This way is better.

Both approaches--dressing up as Indians or Na'vi--are valid ways of criticizing government oppression. Dressing up as Indians goes back to the Boston Tea Party, if not earlier. But dressing up as stereotypical Indians--in headdresses, buckskins, and warpaint--is wrong as far as I'm concerned. The negative stereotypes negate the positive message.

Why not a slave auction?

You could put black shoe polish all over your body and pretend you're a slave on the auction block. But no one uses that approach. Why not, if you think the government is enslaving you? Because blacks and others would denounce a mock slave auction, and rightly so. It would send the message that it's okay to remind blacks of their tragic history. That it's okay to reenact slavery if the cause is important enough.

Dressing up as faux Indians, even for a non-Indian political protest, sends the same kind of message. Blacks were slaves and Indians were savages, and it's okay to treat that as if it's normal. Well, obviously it's not okay, so we should condemn both kinds of protests.

Therefore, dressing as the Na'vi is an improvement. Since they're fictional, no one will get upset if they're used in a non-Na'vi context. Moreover, the whole point of Avatar was to send an anti-imperialist message. James Cameron created the Na'vi for precisely that purpose. So it seems a extension of his work to use the Na'vi for related purposes.

Cinema's profound influence

Incidentally, once again we see the influence of movies. Halfway around the world from any Hollywood studio, someone dresses as a giant Smurf and people instantly get the message. The Palestinians are being oppressed just like the Na'vi.

So much for the asinine claim that movies are just movies. Yeah, right. The Bible is just the Bible, the Qu'ran is just the Qu'ran, and Avatar is just Avatar. No human endeavor involving words and pictures has ever moved anyone to act.

For more on the subject, see Indigenous Themes in Avatar and The Indian-Palestinian Connection.

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