Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Palestine/Israel problem is not an indigenous rights issue

The problem of bringing peace to the Holy Land is a complex one, and it is not one that can be resolved by resort to the issue of "indigeneity" -- i.e. who is more "indigenous".

The solution will require thinking, compassion, and intellectual integrity. Simplistic sloganeering will not do it, and ignoring history would be fatal to the process.

There are those who seem to think, or at least say, that the Palestinian Arabs are more "indigenous", because there was a relatively large migration of Jews in the 20th Century.

And there are those who argue that the Jews are more "indigenous" because their presence extends back more than 1500 years prior to the conquest by the Arabs.

Both of these arguments are wrong, and neither is constructive.

The presence of the Jews in the Holy Land goes back more than 3000 years. In addition to the continuous residence of the Jews in the Holy Land throughout recorded history, the repeated genocides, enslavements, expulsions, and exiles to which they have been subjected prior to, and even after, the formation of the State of Israel, which thinned their numbers time and again, have never caused exiled or escaped diasporan Jews to forget their history, or to stop considering the Holy Land -- where the remains of their forefathers are buried -- as their sacred land. The land of Israel (Eretz Y'Isroel) and the city of Jerusalem (Y'Rushaloyim) are central to Jewish culture and religion in the Diaspora, and always have been. Almost every part of Jewish liturgy contains references to the Holy Land and to the Jews' being there and returning there. There are holidays which were celebrated in the middle ages in the cold steppes of Russia which were centered around fruits and growing seasons that existed only in The Holy Land. Synagogues in the Diaspora are constructed so that worshippers facing the ark, or cabinet, in which the Torah is kept, are facing in the direction of Jerusalem.

Some argue that the Palestinians are non-indigenous because there was no such thing as an "Arab" in the Holy Land until after the conquest by the Arabs in the 7th Century A.D. This is propaganda, not serious history, since (a) it is highly unlikely that the Palestinian Arabs of today are all purebred descendants of the Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula, (b) it is highly unlikely that all of the non-Jewish indigenous residents of the area in the 7th Century disappeared, moved, or became Jews; (c) there was no doubt intermarriage between the indigenous residents of that time and the Arabs from Arabia; and (d) many of those who identify themselves in that region today as Arabs, to the extent they are not relatively recent immigrants themselves, are no doubt the product of such intermarriage. And it would not be surprising to learn that many of them are in fact descended from Jews who opted to convert to Islam rather than be martyred by their Islamic conquerors.

It is likewise a myth that only the Jewish population's ranks have been swelled by immigration, while the "Arab" population has not. In fact, both the Jewish population and Arab population include vast numbers of relatively recent immigrants, who arrived during the past 100 to 150 years, and their descendants.

It is also a myth that all of the Jewish immigrants are from Europe, overlooking, e.g., the 3.5 million Jews in Israel who hail from the middle east. See, e.g., around a million who were forced out of other places in the Middle East by Islamic oppressors in the latter half of the 20th century alone. See, e.g. "Final Exodus of the Libyan Jews".

Another myth created recently has it that the Israelis who came from Europe aren't really "Jews" but are "converts" because of likely intermarriage in central Asia and in Europe. While a "racial purity" test is not an appropriate measure of who the Jewish people are, since they are not a race, but a people, the underlying factual premise is simply false. As the medical world and geneticists have known for decades -- the Jewish people have an unusually high level of genetic material in common with each other, despite their huge geographic dispersal.

To try to sort out who among the "Arab" population are indigenous and who are not, and who among the Jewish population are indigenous and who are not, or to try to determine which population is more indigenous than the other, is ludicrous, not constructive, and inhumane. It is a fact that both populations have long standing ties to the area, and that both populations have also been swelled by immigration.

More mythology is heaped upon us in suggesting that Israel "invaded" the occupied territories, ignoring the fact that each of the three major wars against Israel were initiated by the Arab world. On Israel's part, the 1948, 1967, and 1973 wars were purely defensive wars, not wars of "conquest". In 1948 the UN assigned Israel a tiny sliver of land, amidst a giant sea of Arab land, and gave it the right to share Jerusalem with its Arab neighbors. Unwilling to allow the Jews any right to even that small homeland in their ancestral home, the Arabs commenced a genocidal war intended to exterminate the Jews in the State of Israel. They immediately expelled the Jews from their ancestral home of Jerusalem -- which housed their most sacred site, and in which the Jews had resided for more than 3000 years, starting 1500 years before Islam was even invented (the Arabs who committed this "conquest" never termed their occupation of Jerusalem, which lasted from 1948 to 1967, an "occupation", or termed their mistreatment of Jews as "apartheid").

It is also propaganda to label Israel's Jewish nature as "apartheid", while ignoring Israeli law which bears no resemblance to apartheid, and ignoring the actual genocide, cultural genocide, pogroms, and other abuse of Jews by Arabs almost everywhere Jews have lived in the Arab world. If you want to see apartheid, study how Jews have been treated everywhere in the middle east except their home of Israel. (see note 1 below)

The Arabs lost their initial, 1948, war, and commenced several additional wars, which they lost as well. In each and every case the Arabs were the aggressor. With the first war, they gained territory, and with the second and third, they lost territory.

It is a fact that both peoples are "indigenous" and have longstanding ties to the land.

It is also plain that had the Arabs respected the right of the Jews to live in their ancestral homeland in peace there would have been no "occupation".

That is history. Now we have to look to the future.

If we are to move forward, each and every one of the living, breathing human beings who are born, live, and die in the region needs to be treated with dignity, respect, and compassion. Abuse of noncombatants, warring against civilians, abuse of prisoners, using civilians as human shields, war crimes, inhumanity to fellow man.... can have no place in the peace process.

Callous, politically motivated, warlike leadership is the last thing either side needs.

Inhumane behavior by the warring parties must stop, if peace is to be achieved.

1. Israel has a right to exist.

2. The Palestinian Arabs have a right to a state of their own.

3. War crimes, misconduct towards noncombatants, and other inhumanity must stop, and should be punished, or at least exposed through a 'truth and reconciliation" process.

4. Sloganeering, name calling, and rewriting history -- of the type that has been making the rounds on Twitter lately -- make the prospects for peace harder, not easier.

So I call upon all concerned to adopt a fair, balanced, honest, and humane approach to the problem of bringing peace to the Holy Land.

Note 1. Saudi Arabia's airline refuses to allow Jews to fly. This is apartheid.)

(Shortened link for this blog post:



  1. It is very difficult for an outside observer (non-Jew,non-Arab) to understand this conflict. Where should the Palestinians go? Is it possible to find a "fair" solution?
    I find myself (and this is terrible, I admit) not surprised by the Arab brutality. On the other hand, I expect more from Israel, from the Jews. Purposely killing the innocent,the children, I do not understand. Are these actions taken by those who are Jewish in name only? Or non-Jew Israelis? Or do they take their religious nature off when it is time to kill? I do not understand. I am trying to be respectful, but do not understand. Is this how God's chosen people handle the enemy, by killing babies, children? Help me to understand this.

  2. No one is "God's chosen people". We are all just people.

    Hateful acts by one side bring hateful recrimination by the other.

    The Arab combatants should stop targeting civilians, should stop hiding among civilians. And the Israeli Defense Forces should take more care not to harm civilians.

    Then both sides should sit down at the table, without preconditions, and make a deal.

  3. I rejected a comment which rejected my post as "zionist mythology" but was unable to point to (a) any factual error in the post, or (b) any factual support for the comment's assertion.

  4. But... I wasn't being stupid. I was stating history. You asked me a question and I gave you an answer straightforward. You don't see me calling you stupid for having your views and stating what you believe to be history, do you? And you call me a liar about the reasoning for Arab aggression. What, do you think I just made that up without having any "support?" Who is to say that you aren't the one lying? It seems to me that anyone who is in any way critical of Israel is 'stupid' and a 'liar.' From what I gather, Israel tries to keep hush-hush about their war crimes against Palestine. I'm sorry that you can't seem to accept that there is more to the story than what you are being told. I don't believe that you are moderating these comments because you don't like "stupid people," which I certainly am not, but for the fact that you don't want your readers to see that you might not be completely right with your views.

    Read 'The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine' by Dr. Ilan Pappe; it exploits all of the war crimes that Israel has made against Palestine and it exposes the reality behind the occupation. And it was also written by *gasp* an Israeli. If an Israeli is brave enough to write a book about Israel's wrongdoings, something must be right about it.

  5. Dear amber,

    I guess you didn't really read my post very carefully. Please do before you comment on it. To refresh your recollection, I wasn't defending war crimes by anybody. The combatants on both sides have behaved despicably of late. Here is what I actually wrote on that issue when you were failing to pay attention:

    If we are to move forward, each and every one of the living, breathing human beings who are born, live, and die in the region needs to be treated with dignity, respect, and compassion. Abuse of noncombatants, warring against civilians, abuse of prisoners, endangering civilians by using them as human shields, war crimes, inhumanity to fellow man.... can have no place in the peace process.

    Callous, politically motivated, warlike leadership is the last thing either side needs.

  6. I disagree that this has anything to do with theology, or with anyone having to change their religious beliefs.

    The facts are facts.

    And bringing about peace has to do with fundamental laws of human decency, which are universal.

  7. One fundamental problem is that while the Jewish People and their religion are indigenous to Palestine, the State of Israel is not.

    The territory needs to move past spatial understandings of a nation--if two nations are to exist rooted to a single place, they cannot carve up the space; they must share it. Two Nations, one land.

    How about a No-State solution?

    ps. you should stop insisting on the moral equivalencies of each side's war crimes. with the kind of imabalanced power dynamic that exists between Palestinian guerilla fighters and the Israeli Defence Forces, it is a losing arguement in any rational context and the claim delegitimizes other reasonable and important points you are making. as an activist fighting to combat anti-semitism and support the Palestinian solidarity movement at the same time, I would like to tell you that you might not be helping, when you make such claims.

  8. Dear Anonymous:

    1. Somehow in all the other Islamic Arab states those in power didn't have your beneficent attitude towards Jews. See, e.g. this.

    2. I did not, and do not, justify either side's war crimes. But if you want to talk about equivalency, the war crimes of the Palestinians are far greater : they deliberately and systematically target noncombatants including children. The Israelis do not.

  9. Several people have today suggested to me a "one state solution" -- i.e. that instead of Israel, there should be a state in which Arabs and Jews stand on an equal political footing.

    Actually, this is kind of amusing, because they don't suggest sharing Dubai, or Saudi Arabia, or Syria, or Iraq, or Kuwait; rather they suggest sharing the one little sliver of land occupied by Jews.

    And anyone who argues that the "solution" is that the only state in which Jews should be permitted to live in the Holy Land is one in which they have to cede equal political power to the Arabs -- the same people who murdered, evicted, tortured, and persecuted them out of every other state in which they theoretically were "equals" -- is either ignoring history, ignoring the map, or a downright liar.

    The fact is, and the world for a brief moment recognized this fact, that the Jews are entitled to a Jewish homeland. They are entitled to one little place where they know they will not be persecuted because they are Jews.

    To me, this is not a subject that is open for discussion.

    If you don't agree that the Jews are entitled to a homeland in the Holy Land, then we have nothing to discuss.

  10. How about sharing Jersulam equally with other faiths as a living city of Peace?

    Israel might exist as a separate entity should it choose to?

  11. I rejected a comment because it referred to someone who I consider a paid agent of the internet propaganda campaign to delegitimize Israel.

  12. The rejected comment referred to a "one state" solution, which in my view is a scam. Every single middle eastern Islamic state was once "shared" with the Jews, many of whom could trace their presence in those states to long before the creation of Islam.

    Everyone knows what happened to the Jews in those states. Everyone knows about the "democracy and equality" which those states showed to the Jews.

    When those states become secular democracies respecting the rights of all peoples, including minorities, then we can talk about the holy land changing its operating principles from a Jewish state to a secular democracy like the United States.

    But I would not suggest holding your breath.

  13. Bear in mind, by the way, that the holy mosque which Arabs revere in Jerusalem as the 3rd most sacred site in their religion was constructed by desecrating the single most sacred site in the Jewish religion.

  14. I've deleted some comments by mistake.

    Here they are:

    Anonymous said:
    One remembers Eileen Caddy's vision of Jerusalem as one where all faiths mingled in Peace. Seems reasonable the 'Holy Land' of the Jewish, Christian, & Islamic religions should set the example of tolerance and peace on Earth, if those religions are worth their salt...

    Anonymous said:
    Seems the following would be true for other cultures as well?

    'If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian, he can live in peace...

    Treat all men alike. Give them all the
    same law. Give them all an even chance
    to live and grow.

    All men were made by the same Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers.

    The Earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it....

    Let me be a free man, free to travel,
    free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to think and talk and act for myself, and I will obey every law, or submit to the penalty.'

    Heinmot Tooyalaket ( Chief Joseph), Nez Perce Leader

    I responded:
    Yes. Unfortunately such principles have not prevailed in the middle east.

  15. I should also mention that the idea of "sharing Jerusalem equally" is not a new idea. It was implemented in 1948. The Arabs rejected it, as you may recall.

  16. And what of: 'In Israels Declaration of Independence it called upon all sons of the Arab people who dwelled in Israel to play their part in building the State with full & equal citizenship & representation.'

    Should this continue to be ignored, if the linchpin of Peace?

  17. Are you implying because 'sharing Jerusalem equally' was rejected in 1948, that it cannot be part of a peaceful resolution? Forgive me, but I do not recall. Perhaps you can enlighten me?

  18. I've again rejected a comment because it referred to someone who I consider a paid agent of an "intifadah".

    Let's clarify. I am not an expert on middle eastern affairs, or on the Israeli constitution, or anything else. The only thing I'm an expert on is New York and United States Federal law.

    I wrote this post to rebut an obviously orchestrated dishonest propaganda campaign falsely claiming that the Islamic residents of the holy land are "indigenous", and the Jewish residents are not.

    I also chose, at the same time, to rebut the statement by some pro-Israel people, that the Palestinians are not "indigenous", simply because they consider themselves "Arabs", and Arabs only came to the area more than 1500 years after the Jews had settled in it.

    Since no one has refuted any factual statements I have made in the post, it appears that I accomplished what I set out to do.

    The post specifically disclaims any intention of excusing the bad conduct that has been committed by people on both sides, and I decline to do so. I am about the rule of law, and I am about moral and humane behavior towards fellow human beings, and I do not excuse any such conduct by whomever committed.

  19. I am not implying that Jerusalem cannot in some way be shared; I'm saying that the reason it is not presently a shared city is that the Arabs rejected it. Only after they were removed from controlling Jerusalem did they start saying it should be shared.

    So for the Arabs to suggest that it should be a shared city, only after they no longer control it, certainly comes with ill grace, and must be regarded with suspicion.

    I am not expert enough to know whether it can or cannot be shared in some manner, but certainly if it were to happen it would have to have an enormous number of safeguards to protect against the Islamic world reneging.

  20. I rejected one of many anonymous off topic comments.

    This blog post is about dispelling myths, and especially the myths invoked by both sides that they are "indigenous" and the other side is not.

    It does not seek to justify any war crimes or other immoral conduct by either side, and it does not offer a plan for peace, other than to state that there will never be any peace produced by lies, propaganda, and rewriting of history.

  21. And don't argue with me about whether Jews have ever engaged in bad conduct towards the Arabs. Both sides have engaged in lots of bad conduct in the region. I don't justify bad conduct by anybody.

    And anybody who thinks they're entitled to the land because they think their religion entitles them to it is... a jerk.


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(a) No

1. rudeness
2. falsehood
3. deception
4. unfair tactics
5. comment spam
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(b) stay on topic; and

(c) anonymous comments are okay, but sign with a handle so we'll know which "Anonymous" you are.

Thanks for commenting.