Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Indigenous Argument


The argument for denying the Jewish nation their rights to political sovereignty on the Land of Israel a.k.a. Palestine is based today principally on the claim that there is an indigenous non-Jewish Palestinian nation whom the Jews have dispossessed, and one of the stronger (IMO) refutations of this is the counter-argument that there is today no nation indigenous to Palestine other than the Jewish nation. This clash of views may raise a cogent meta-question: Does the term “indigenous” have any objective meaning at all? Or, to put it another way, is there more to the clash than an ideological assault on Zionism and the Zionist response to it?

I contend that the term “indigenous” has significance beyond the subjective. That said, I will concede two points:

  1. The term has a relative, not absolute, meaning; we can objectively point out that a certain nation is indigenous to a land, but we can only do so in a context. That by itself explains why lovers of exactitude are reluctant to embrace such a term.
  2. There are many arguments for the rightness of Zionism; my choice of the indigenous argument over the others is indeed motivated by the prevalence of the “Zionists dispossessed the indigenous Palestinians” claim of the anti-Zionists.

The rest of the article will follow from these two points.

A Relatively Descriptive Term

Some may scoff at the term “indigenous people” on the grounds that it can mean anything one wants it to mean. While this is not so, it is easy to see how it is possible to reach such a conclusion: There is no absolute definition of the term as in more solid history, let alone the hard sciences, and the way the Progressive Left selectively applies the term “indigenous” also makes it seem arbitrary. I will deal with the significance of the second issue later; the first issue to be understood is that the term is meaningful but not absolute—it has a relative meaning.

Who, for example, are the indigenes of Britain? The answer depends on the context of the question. In the sense that the Celts had populated the island for thousands of years before the Germanic Anglo-Saxons invaded, conquered and pushed the Celts aside, the Celts are the indigenous British while the Germanic peoples are colonists. However, in the present-day context it is considered that the descendants of both the Celts and the Anglo-Saxons are indigenous British, while the modern colonists are the third-world immigrants of the last few decades. The Anglo-Saxons are colonists relative to the Celts, while the arrivals from the former overseas possessions of Britain are colonists relative to both Celts and Anglo-Saxons.

What about the American Indians? It is agreed that they are the indigenous peoples of America, despite the fact that it is well known today that they too are arrivals to America from the outside, although much further in the past than the Europeans in America, and by way of the Bering Straits rather than the Atlantic Ocean. The priority in time, as well as the fact of having a culture (or remains of it—more than you can say for the Arabs pretending to be “Palestinians”) that is tied to the land, are the reasons for calling the descendants of Siberians in America indigenous. Were America to be settled once again by a new nation from abroad, both American Indians and the descendants of European arrivals (and of African slaves) would be indigenous in relation to the new invaders.

We can see that the term “indigenous” is not devoid of meaning; but because of its relative sense, it is less precise than classifiers would like it to be. All attempts at defining “indigenous” in absolute terms have either been foiled by too many exceptions or have proven to be subjective, teaching us more about the user than the people referred to. One proposal to use the term “autochthonous,” meaning “sprung from the soil,” has been raised but solves nothing at all; it particularly fails on the common-sense ground that, well, human beings do not normally grow out of the soil (maybe into, but not out of). It is futile to square the circle; better accept that “indigenous” is a relative term and deal with it from that standpoint.

Bringing this relative term to the question of Palestine, we might now ask which nation passes. The Canaanites would be the indigenous Palestinians if they still meaningfully existed, but they have not survived culturally. Even if some of the speakers of Arabic in Palestine are genetically descended from the Canaanites, they are not meaningfully Canaanite because it is culture, not genetics, that makes a distinct nation. The oldest nation extant having a cultural connection to the land, a real, not imaginary one, is the Jewish nation. Runners-up would be the Samaritans, who are an ancient Palestinian nation too but later arrivals than the Jews. The Arabic-speakers are fully within the cultural and linguistic milieu of the Arab nation, in Palestine as in Iraq and Morocco; this makes them colonists in all lands outside the Arabian Peninsula, where they are the indigenes.

By now the readers may be frustrated by the depth of the terminological discussion and its application. They may well ask why this matter is so important that it needs to be delved into in such detail. The answer is that, for the Progressive Left, the term “indigenous” has a significance far beyond being a descriptive term.

A Morally Prescriptive Term

The Progressive Left does not freely allot the term “indigenous” to a nation, even when the case for it is overwhelming. The decision to call one nation indigenous and deny that status to another rests on political expedience, for the term “indigenous” in Progressive Leftist usage is quite apart from a description—it carries with it a moral dictum. To be accorded the status of “indigenous people” by the Progressive Left is to be handed a Moral Authority card, a certificate of Moral Absolution that grants the people in question the right to do things that the Progressive Left claims to stand against. Were this certificate put into formal writing, here is how it would read:

We, Progressives of the world, hereby give You, (name of nation), as the Indigenous People of (name of land), the Moral Authority to engage in acts that are criminal for Colonists to engage in. Included herewith is the agreement that Your wars against Colonists shall be called resistance, that Your war crimes against Colonists shall be called reaction to oppression, that Your bigotry and even racism against Colonists shall be blamed on the Colonists, that Your acts of terrorism against Colonists shall be considered as weapons of the weak, and that should You even engage in genocide against the Colonists, that shall be excused and blamed on the Colonists’ intransigence. Granted to You herein is Moral Absolution: Your crimes are not crimes, Your ethnic cleansing is not ethnic cleansing, Your atrocities are not atrocities, Your hatred is not hatred, Your bloodlust is not bloodlust and Your slaughter of innocents is neither slaughter nor are they innocents.

It is important to understand the impact of this unwritten agreement. Once the Progressive Leftists have labeled the one party “indigenous” and the other “colonists,” this is how they will judge the conflict between them. There will be no fairness toward the “colonist” side, and conversely, the worst acts of the “indigenous” side will be given a justification, and one that blames the “colonist” victims (who are never called victims, of course) at that.

The Progressive Left having decided that the Jews in the Land of Israel are “colonists” and the Arabs are the “indigenous Palestinians,” this is exactly what we see. The moral prescription overrides all—this explains why the Progressive Left anti-Zionists stand with Hamas despite the latter being a theocratic organization whose values are all diametrically opposed to what Progressives profess to stand for. So too in the news, on the Arab “indigenous Palestinian” side, the world gets to see women and children in their homes, while the same news “reports” show only soldiers or screaming men on the Jewish “colonist” side. The narrative feeds itself.

Let me be blunt: The portrayal of the Jewish–Arab Conflict as one between “Zionist colonizers” and “indigenous Palestinians” is, through the mindset of the Progressive Left, a wholesale license to murder Israeli Jews. They will deny it, of course; they will say, “A total lie! We do not condone hurting Israeli civilians.” Which is true, they don’t—they only make excuses as to how the Israeli Jews deserved it, how they made the “Palestinians” do it, when it happens. Over the years, through the trickling of this subtle message in the media, the world is primed to view the murder of Israeli Jews as comeuppance. That alone is the reason why the false narrative of the anti-Zionists needs to be struck at its root.


  1. The very concept of the term indigenous represents a view that whomever you're discussing has neither the capacity nor the expectation of ever integrating into a nation, as such. One could transplant the 'indigenous' Arabs to Wallonia Belgium and they would still be told and telling us that their 'nationhood' precludes any discussion on making them Belgians. It is ethnic monoculture at its core. It is the belief that France isn't a nation but an illegal overlay across the 'indigenous' lands of the Bretons, Picardies, Strasbourgians and so on. The end game of 'indigenous' identity politics is the the dissolution of all countries. It's not enough that 'Palestine' exists, it can only exist as a racist xenophobic society where only 'Palestinians' are permitted. Syria is a lie and should be broken apart into its 6 or 7 different 'indigenous' statelets. Spain isn't Spanish as long as it illegally occupies Catalonia. Scotland yearns to be free of the yoke of British culture, language, religion and history. Quebec for the Quebecois except for the Newfoundlanders who still live there and who need to break off or move. I don't know who gets Norway. The Laplanders? What do you do with Rwanda? Well we kind of saw that.

    Indigenous politics is pretty close to the real apartheid or something quite like it. Or at best it's the clan and tribe of the Mideast. One's loyalty is to the tribe, the clan, the village. Not a nation certainly. And after all is said and done, when or if the "Palestinians" get their indigenous nation, since it really doesn't exist and it a meaningless term in their case, they can....what? Split up and kill each other over which demarc's now? I'm sure they would, I suppose it would be along the line of all the subtle distinctions of insaneislamism. One group can hang gays while the other requires them to be beheaded and such.

  2. Nicely done.

    This is precisely the kind of thing that I am looking for.

    It's on point, relatively concise, and goes right to the heart of the question.

    I sent a note to David Swindle, Associate Editor of Pajamas Media, pointing to this piece.

  3. Empress Trudy,

    "Indigenous" to the Progressive Left, just like calling wars of aggression "resistance," is the feat of verbal acrobatics they use to justify their support for various groups doing the exact things they lambaste other groups (Israel, the West) for doing. It's a smart structural contraption employed for preventing the Progressive-Leftist geopolitical worldview from collapsing under the weight of its contradictions.


    "It's on point, relatively concise, and goes right to the heart of the question."

    Makes me glad I trimmed it down, then. The original version had two more headings, one about the issue of binational solutions and the other about the traditional Jewish pedigree of the Indigenous Argument, but I decided those were peripheral additions making the article far too long. I might fold them in somewhere else.

    Thanks for forwarding it. I read PJM regularly, but I wouldn't write there, because it's a generally American forum while my focus (besides Israel and Zionism) tends to go to what's happening in other places than America, such as Europe and those parts of Asia and Africa that are under Islamic imperialist assault (Nigeria, India, Thailand and so on).

    1. I would like to read the missing pieces from the original version, as well as your thoughts on what's going on in places like Nigeria, India and Thailand. For the record.

    2. Jay,

      Unfortunately it's incomplete. When I came to the conclusion the article had gotten too long, I was in the middle of writing and then just stopped. So, it's not ready for public display, though otherwise I have no objection to posting it.

      I can summarize the two sections here:

      1) The U.S. of A. as a nation-state where people become a nation on their basis of a shared location is an anomaly in the world; the usual case is that the nation comes first (defined by ancestry, culture or some such criterion) and gets to have a space of land to its name. Violating this usual case by trying to impose the American model on a nation-state usually results in adverse consequences, including genocide (as in Rwanda). Israel, the Jewish State, is in the usual paradigm, hence a "binational solution" is totally out of the question.

      2) The Indigenous Argument, while not the most frequent one made traditionally, does have a base in Jewish tradition: The traditional sources tell us one of the reasons HaShem rebuffed Moses's request to enter the Land of Israel was that, while Joseph called himself a Hebrew in his Egyptian prison cell, Moses kept silent when Jethro's daughters called him a Midianite; from the fact that Moses was actually born in Egypt, the Midrash concludes that every Jew is tied to the Land of Israel (IOW, he/she is a Palestinian) no matter where they were born. That's really the Indigenous Argument.

      The first section was too much of a tangent, and the second was also making things partisan, so I scrapped them, at least for that article.

    3. The cases of Nigeria, India and Thailand are notable because they fall under raw Islamic imperialist aggression with no possibility of interpreting them as "comeuppance for past colonial wrongs" as is done for America, Europe and Israel. Those peoples under attacks are not white, nor have they done anything to provoke Islamic aggression. The Thais especially are a poignant case, because they're Buddhists. No matter what one thinks of Buddhism as a religion, the fact is it's the one religion that deserves to be called a religion of peace, while giving this appellation to Islam other than in sarcasm is simply delusional. The thrust of my argument is very simple: If you're unable to coexist peacefully with Buddhists, then the problem is with you.

      Nigeria is split between an Islamic north and a Christian south, the latter terrorized by the Islamic Boko Haram, who do a Tsarnaev and a Woolwich multiplied every day with their massacres. One thing that took my notice a few months ago was the announcement by Boko Haram leaders that an attack on the south was imminent and all Muslims residing in the south were to flee temporarily to the north to await victory and return to take the spoils. The massive attack didn't take place in the end, but what struck me was that that was exactly the pattern in 1948, when the leaders of the neighboring Arab states told the Arab residents of Palestine to flee temporarily and await a return to take the spoils once the fledgling Jewish State were defeated. Uncanny.

      As for India, they're like Israel in so many ways: The partition into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan should have solved things, but apparently India like Israel left a substantial minority of Muslims who may have been docile at first but are now a constant headache; and India like Israel has a largely Progressive-Left leaning press that regularly carries water for the Islamic imperialists, "explaining" how India's policies made them do it.

      What the Chinese call "interesting times."

    4. Thanks, Zion. I need to learn much more about these situations. The Philippines would maybe find themselves in a similar situation, too, if I recall?

      My interest in the Philippines would be the most personal, as my daughter is Filipina on her mother's side.

      My personal interest in the Indian and Nigerian situation would be due to growing up in a New Jersey town which is actually well-known for its Indian restaurant- and business-district; and also in having a Nigerian Christian friend whose family came here from Nigeria in the early-90s, and who I just so happened to reconnect with on Facebook this week.

      Particularly in my latter friend's case, I really have to wonder now if perhaps what you mention may have been the impetus for his family's move in the first place?

    5. Yeah, the Philippines too, another case where the usual Politically Correct weaseling—the kind we can now see after the Woolwich Murder—is simply untenable. In those cases, the media have portrayed the Islamic terrorists as "separatists," spinning it as a regional conflict between equal national contestants just like they've done with Israel. Uniquely, with Israel the Far Left gets to play both the "separatists fighting for a state of their own" and the "resistance against Western colonialism" angle.

      I have no relations that far away in the world; my interest in those conflicts has been, from the start, piqued by the similarity shown by Islamic imperialist aggressors and their attack-patterns everywhere, hence the vacuity of the narrative about their "legitimate grievances" leveled at "oppressors." In the course of reading about Islam's record throughout both space and time, my conclusion is that any talk of Muslims responding to unprovoked aggression is like an offer of a bridge for sale. I would agree this is a broad brush, but the thing is, after comparing their worldwide rioting following the Danish cartoons to their lamb-like silence on Beslan, I just don't care anymore. We're not the ones with proving to do.

    6. He;'s going to have to answer this question, in a satisfactory manner, next time he shows up here.

    7. Jay,

      If he were to confront that issue honestly, the whole Manichean house of cards Far Leftists live in would come crashing down. You know how the narrative goes: Everything was fine until whites/Westerners (which includes Zionists) colonized the world. Portraying Muslims as a non-white, non-Western "race" fits snugly into this narrative. So when you bring up those non-Western victims of Islamic imperialism, *poof* the whole bubble bursts in an instant.

      I'm looking forward to seeing his feet held to the fire on this. From my experience, though, the response is usually a slippery one.

    8. He's quite far from the brightest bulb amongst them, to say the very least, and last time I asked him an uncomfortable question, he cried and screeched to the heavens about being "intimidated." So I wouldn't expect anything other than that next time.

      But I'll still make sure to ask. ;)

      Stronger competition would certainly be appreciated, of course. Any of them who'd like to try are more than welcome.

  4. Boko Haram, means literally, 'destroy the west'. In Nigeria, the southern Christians have been split along ethnic and other lines for as long as there's been a Nigeria. The Igbo and Yoruba have been fighting for centuries on and off. Evident the Ibo or Igbo people who tried to establish their own nation, Biafra, and failed. Factoid - a million people starved to death in the Biafran war and this triggered the formation of Medecins sans Frontiers.

    Over the years, the Nigerian government has shown itself unable and unwilling to corral Boko Haram, largely because there was enough oil money around and it is one of the most corrupt governments in Africa. So in many ways, Boko Haram is in a war over oil money just like everyone else.

    You see the truly disturbed side of Boko Haram when you realize that EVERY year you see a spike in polio across the Muslim world, right after the annual Hajj because Boko Haram (among many other groups) expressly forbids polio inoculations because they are 'western evil magic'. But in that sense they're as big a danger to each other as they are to anyone.

    Currently Boko Haram anti Christian atrocities in the north account for about 1,000 deaths a year, which, considering the vast population of Nigeria (162 million! I bet most people don't know that) is considered acceptable by the Nigerian government. To that add the bigger problem of Boko Haram terrorist attacks in the south aimed at the oil infrastructure, which don't appear to carry any sane reason at all, not even for them. It's just anarchy for anarchy's sake.

    Anyway, long story boring, Nigeria isn't going to fracture on religious lines and it's unlikely Boko Haram is powerful enough to be more than what that are today, a problem for Nigeria but of little regard to anyone else.

    1. "Boko Haram, means literally, 'destroy the west'."

      I read on some sites that it meant "Western education is a sin."

      "...1,000 deaths a year, which, considering the vast population of Nigeria (162 million! I bet most people don't know that) is considered acceptable by the Nigerian government."

      That has a familiar ring to it. Like rocket shelling for years on end in Israel being "acceptable," or the statement Obama once made that the U.S. can absorb terrorist attacks.

      Governments worldwide suffer from the affliction of forgetting the nation they're supposed to represent and defend.

      "...a problem for Nigeria but of little regard to anyone else."

      I'm not worried that Nigeria could succumb to Islamic rule, but the very idea that people should accept life (death, actually) under the menace of Islamic terrorism is one I find repugnant. You can be sure it's not lost on the jihadists worldwide that they can engage in terrorism without serious consequence to the home fronts they spawn from. In that sense, Israel and Nigeria are in the same situation, the same deadlock caused by cynical governmental calculations or plain cowardice.

  5. More your point....all across Africa and I suspect elsewhere, no one sees THEMSELVES as 'indigenous' peoples. It simply is a meaningless term. They are of a tribe or clan or language or a specific animist faith that has nothing to do with a geography or place or 'land'. There is almost no nothing of a nation, not in the sense that clan sees itself as more than a clan. The idea of a nation on top of that is somewhat useless. One is a citizen of Ghana or Angola or Mali or Senegal or Congo by accident but it's of little value. The 'country' doesn't do anything for them. And they rarely have a specific affinity for this place or that. More likely you are Dan tribe and you grow cocoa because everyone you ever heard of was Dan tribe and grew cocoa. The white man was often not seen as a conqueror from which to reclaim their heritage or indigenous nature. The white man was an army and police force who often was quite cruel but could be used to some advantage like providing schools and hospitals. And to kill one's rival tribes. This is partly the history of Rwanda where the Tutsi were able to use the British to oppress the Hutu who would periodically would rise up and kill people. But in either case they never saw or see themselves as 'the rightful owners of'. There's no notion they are 'indigenous' because that would mean someone else is not indigenous. And of course everyone is.

    1. Agreed, this is a political construct born out of—how ironic for the anti-Western Far Left—none other than Western political thinking.

      There are so many arguments as to why Zionism is right and just. If I couldn't use the Indigenous Argument then it'd be no great loss for me. However, since I can use it for Zionism, one of the reasons why I like it so much is that it gives the Far Left anti-Zionists a dose of their own medicine. Co-opting their own arguments for use against them is a maneuver I simply can't resist.