Land acknowledgements are widely derided as farces and, generally, I agree that they are. When Microsoft sets aside time to open its internal communications with a list of Coast Salish peoples that “since time immemorial” occupied the area that is now the company’s headquarters, this does not imply that they intend to return the land to the indigenous people who once lived on it, or even that they will do anything else substantive for their benefit. It’s just marketing, much as it is when REI does it at the start of a video urging its employees not to unionize. And yet, there has been quite a bit of surprise this month at the number of people who, when they talk about “decolonization” and the idea that Palestine should extend “from the river to the sea,” appear to literally mean that the seven million Jewish “settler-colonialists” who live there ought to be eliminated from the area, whether through death or expulsion.
Any argument that “decolonization” is a moral imperative requiring the removal of Jews from Israel applies equally to the non-indigenous population of the United States. Actually, it applies more clearly, given the ambiguity about who was really in the Holy Land first and the clear fact that Coast Salish people were in (what is now) Redmond, Washington before white people. Is it a good idea for non-indigenous Americans to adopt a rhetorical framework that implies we ought to give our land back and leave our home country on the basis of the idea that everyone knows we don’t really mean it?
Of course it’s a good idea! It’s not like anyone thinks such people are serious about anything. As Barro says, it’s marketing.
There’s a faction of the left — how large a faction I have no idea — obsessed with the idea that political sins must be paid for, though always exempting themselves from the responsibility of payment. I think of Albert Camus’s paraphrase of the attitude of the lefties of Metropolitan France to the Algerian pieds-noirs: “Go ahead and die; that’s what we deserve!” To all these people desperate to find someone else to bear their sins, I want to say: Have you ever heard of Jesus?