Lara El Mekkawi

Lands of Solidarity: Understanding Contemporary North American Indigenous and Palestinian Realities 


On December 6, 2017, US President Donald Trump announced the United States recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordered plans to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This news came as a blow to the millions of Palestinians displaced in and out of the country. As an indictment of this decision, acclaimed musician, Roger Waters recorded “Supremacy” in collaboration with Palestinian band Le Trio Joubran. The lyrics of the song are from the late Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish’s poem, “The ‘Red Indian’s’ Penultimate Speech to the White Man”(2009). Darwish’s poem reflects a history of solidarity between Palestinians and Indigenous communities in North America, formed over similar histories of imperial occupation and land seizure. 

Malek Rasamny and Matt Peterson’s 2018 documentary, Spaces of Exception, explores the commonalities found between Indigenous and Palestinian communities in North America and Middle Eastern refugee camps respectively. The documentary ‘attempts to understand the land, it’s memories and divisions’ (Spaces of Exception 2018). What is evident in this film is that the land assigned to these communities is still constricted and conditioned by governmental powers, be they American, Canadian or Israeli. The declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reinforced the 53 year long belligerent occupation of the Palestinian territories, further deterring the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.  

Building on the theory of inter/nationalism developed by Steven Salaita and Mike Krebs and Dana Olwan’s comparative study of settler-colonialism, this work aims to analyze the potential, as represented in Spaces of Exception, for solidarity between Indigenous Nations and Palestinians. In this work, I argue that the documentary’s depiction of daily life in North America/Turtle Island and Palestine attempt to decolonize these communities and reaffirm the need for Indigenous and refugee solidarity more than ever in the present moment. 


Lara El Mekkawi is currently a 2nd year PhD student in English at the University of Waterloo. Her research interests are in Cosmopolitanism and Transnational literature; Lara studies the complicated connotations behind being a part of the world. Her dissertation work is specifically on transnational narratives of familial migration, focusing on trauma and memory. She is the recipient of the Provost Doctoral Entrance Award for Women (2019).

Research Material

Presentation Slides