Israeli-Palestinian Protest at Navajo Council Chambers
By Terry Bowman
WINDOW ROCK, July 17, 2014
(Times photos – Terry Bowman)
"From Window Rock to Palestine, Occupation is a Crime!" were some of the chants protesters shouted Thursday in and around the tribal capital of Window Rock, where the legislature was in a special Nabikiyati Committee meeting.
The demonstration also is days before the entire Council convenes for a special summer session, which begins next Monday.
The protesters comprised of students from the University of New Mexico, as well as organizers from the Facebook page "Stop the attack on Gaza! End Navajo Partnerships With Israel."
From the Council Chambers, the protesters began marching to the intersection at Navajo Route 12 and Highway 264 around noon. In return, they received honks from passersby and even odd looks from tribal bureaucrats during the tribal lunch hour.
Navajo Nation presidential candidate Moroni Benally, who is one of 17 candidates vying to be the next tribal president, joined in the protest outside the chambers. He pleaded for Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly to discontinue the tribe's partnership with Israel, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict known as "Operation Protective Edge" continues on its tenth day.
"Mr. Shelly, in the building over there, and the Council delegates inside here, I ask you to please seize this partnership with the state of Israel," Benally said from a megaphone outside the chambers.
Benally was referring to Shelly's ongoing partnership with Israeli government officials, which is mostly for economic development reasons.
"I, as a Navajo citizen, don't want to be associated with that," said Melanie Yazzie, a concerned citizen who was part of the protest that began Thursday morning.
Yazzie explained that the reason for the march was to educate the Navajo people about the conflict in Israel, and a proposal that is being pushed by fellow protester Andrew Curley.
Curley is lobbying the Navajo Nation Council and its Nabikiyati Committee to pass a bill that would let the Navajo public decide their future arrangements with Israel.
"We want people to be more serious and have some education on this conflict," said Yazzie, on her march toward a major highway intersection in Window Rock.
Yazzie's observance from their demonstration included myriad of honks and questions were raised from Navajo-Christians.
Yazzie explained that the march was targeted to bring awareness on the conflicts in Israel and the issues regarding the partnerships between Israel and the Navajo Nation. The demonstration was not for religious purposes, she said.
"We want the Navajo people to know that they have the right to make their own choices," Yazzie said in regards Curley's effort to lobby the Council.
"If I was elected president, I would immediately seize this partnership with Israel," added Benally.
The outspoken presidential candidate requested that Shelly and the Navajo Nation send financial aid to the Palestinian government - based on the Navajo principle of Ke'.
"Even though we don't have much, we still have compassion. And that we can afford," Benally said.
In December 2012, Shelly travelled to the State of Israel to discuss agricultural development and technological business with members of the Israeli government.