Monday, December 23, 2013

The Indigenous People

Michael L. 

{Cross-posted at Jews Down Under.}

The tidbit below was written by Jonathan Tobin and published in Commentary:
By attempting to portray the Palestinians as the “indigenous people” of the territory on which the State of Israel and the administered territories exist and the Jews as the colonial settlers, they are perpetrating the big lie of Palestinian history. Jews are not foreigners in Israel as Europeans were in Africa. They happen to be the indigenous people of their ancient homeland and efforts to deny this isn’t scholarship. Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people and those who would deny them the same rights accorded other peoples are practicing bias, not scholarship. As with Palestinian attempts to deny the Jewish connection with the country or with Jerusalem and ancient Jewish holy sites such as the Temple Mount or the Western Wall, attempts to cast the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one between foreign occupiers and natives is revisionist myth recast as left-wing politicized scholarship.
This is the kind of basic, fundamental statement that we need more of in pro-Jewish / pro-Israel advocacy.

What I have consistently argued is that if we ground our arguments within the Jewish history of the Middle East, we have a much better chance of bolstering those arguments to the rest of the world.  It is probably fair to say that many, if not most, westerners think of the local Arab population in Israel as the indigenous population.

They are not.

History tells us very clearly that the only extant people who can possibly be considered the "indigenous" population of that land are the Jews.  We have at least 3,500 years of demonstrable history in our native homeland and were there for almost 2,000 years before the conquering Arabs showed up in the 7th century.

When we make our arguments before the larger world, whether on blogs or in the comments within blogs, or in high-brow magazines or low-brow magazines, or in personal conversations or lectures or discussion panels, we need to make people understand that the Jews are the indigenous population of our own land because we are, in fact, the indigenous population of our own land.

Once we make that clear the whole dynamic of the conversation has to change in our favor.  Or, if it does not, this can only mean that liberals without sympathy for Jewish claims to Jewish land stand in direct opposition to their own alleged values of social justice and human rights.

To the extent that the Jewish people are losing the overall argument concerning Jewish claims to Jewish land it is, at least in part, due to the fact that much of the west views us as militaristic interlopers.  Decades of Soviet and Arab propaganda around this issue has done its work very well.  At this point it is considered "common sense" that the regional Arabs are the natives and the Jews are the imperial-colonialist-fascist-racists.

This is false, but until we educate people otherwise, we have no case.

We cannot stand before a hostile world and say something to the effect of, "Yes, well, we are Occupying and abusing the native Palestinian population, but we mean well and hope to sometime stop doing so."

This will simply not cut it, but it represents the general position of the pro-Israel Jewish left.

No one is going to respect a political position grounded in admission of guilt toward a poverty-stricken, indigenous people and they should not.  The western-left likes to think of itself as standing with the underdog and so long as we think of the "Palestinians" as the underdog then we might as well pack it in and go home, because we have no case.

There are three points that need to stand forward in our advocacy and each of these points, thankfully, has the benefit of truth and history behind them.

1)  The Jews are the indigenous people of the region.

2)  The conflict is part of a long-standing, Koran-based, aggression of the Arab and Muslim majority against the Jewish indigenous minority.  It is, therefore, not an Israel-Palestine conflict, but an Arab / Muslim conflict against the Jews.

3)  The Jewish people in the Middle East are a people under siege by a much larger, aggressive majority.

Each of these points are unquestionably true, but until we ground our arguments within those points, we should expect no sympathy and will get none.


  1. Even if they were, so what? What does that actually mean?

    Let's expel all blond haired blue eyed people from Spain since they're clearly the progeny of Vikings a thousand years ago.

    The Huns who fought the Romans weren't from "Hungary" they were from Ukraine.

    Libya is 20% Arab and 80% Beduin. Let's frog march the Arabs out of the land they invaded in the 7th century.

    Kick all the white people out of New Zealand and Australia.

    What is faux-love for the noble savage?

    1. Trudy, the reason that it's important that the Jews are the indigenous people of the area is because we don't just reside there, many of us, but we basically run the joint.

      It is important, from both a PR standpoint and an historical standpoint, that we make it very clear to everyone that Israel, including Judaea and Samaria and the entirety of Jerusalem, is the 3,500 year old home of the Jewish people.

  2. It's only important if you sign on to the antisemitic credo that we're all permanent rootless wanderers. When we were in Europe they told us to leave. When we asked to leave they stopped us from leaving. When we snuck out and some of us made it to Israel they told them they were foreign invaders and they had to leave Israel. When a Jew in the US speaks favorably of Israel s/he's branded a traitor with 'dual loyalties' who should leave. If they make aliyah they're called traitors. If they stay in America they're accused of secretly controlling the government.

    By the 'palestinians' OWN definition, there's absolutely no requirement for their own so called 'indigenous status' at all. UNRWA rules stipulate that in order to call oneself a 'palestinian refugee' all one needs is to claim that they or a male ancestor lived more or less in the general vicinity of Israel in the period 1945-1948. And that's it. That's not 'indigenous'.