Our Indigenous Connection

  • 10 minute read
  • • by Sharon Koifman
  • • August 1, 2022

Why is it important:

We can be the kindest population in the world, we can have the biggest gay pride parades, create life-saving inventions, and go on life-saving missions to other countries, but none of this matters if we can’t explain what Jews are doing in the region in the first place. Unfortunately, our enemies have been successful in comparing Israelis to the White South Africans during apartheid or, even worse, the Nazis. This is the reason why a perfectly good argument that asks where else in the world a nation would accept 3000 indiscriminate missiles without retaliation, doesn’t resonate with so many people. To offer more clarity, pretty much in any battle with Hamas or Islamic Jihad, the terrorist leadership shoots indiscriminately with thousands of rockets, and when Israel responds, they are being criticized for being disproportionate because more Palestinians die in a war than their leadership is pursuing. In any other country, this argument would seem so irrational. A country should have the right to protect itself, but if the listener has been sold the idea that the Israelis are the equivalent of Nazis, then by comparison if Jews in the Ghettos would have been able to shoot thousands of missiles indiscriminately at the Germans, it would have been more than fair and any retaliation would be considered disproportionate. Whether the listeners admit it or not, so much if our arguments are simply neutralized by this misconception that Jews were some kind of European Foreigners coming to invade. This is why it is absolutely crucial to define our indigenous connection before we get to explain anything else.

Punchline

3300 years of continuous active Jewish presence, with about 1300 being the ethnic majority, 200 times praying to Israel per week, more than 22 document attempts to return, and 7 revolts since the Romans Kicked us out of Judah and renamed it Palestine,  clearly define Jews as the indigenous people.

Palestine is just a name the Romans gave to erase Judah from history, making the name Palestine synonymous with Judah and Israel and is part of Jewish History.

Long Answer:

Our indigenous connection to the land is the most critical infrastructure of Israel’s narrative; yet, it is often, surprisingly, neglected by Israel advocates. The Anti-Israel Marketing Machine’s biggest campaign is to claim that the Jew is some hateful, foreign, settler-colonialist, land-thieving, ethnic-cleansing, imperialist, invading, Zionist terrorist who removed the so-called indigenous Palestinian population. Yes, it is a mouthful, and I swear I have seen many haters spewing it all in one breath. It’s pretty amusing to see, if it wasn’t so sad.

It doesn’t matter if we argue that the Arab/Palestinians started the war or that the Jews were treated unethically. It doesn’t matter if we feel that Israel is this wonderful innovative country that supports women’s rights, and gay rights and helps many other countries in need. None of this matters if Israel’s enemies claim Jews don’t belong in our own indigenous land. We would still be the colonizers they accuse us of being. But we are not.

To counter these false accusations, we must understand our history. Unfortunately, our history is not being taught correctly, or worse, not being taught at all, even in some Jewish and Israeli schools.

That’s why it is important to understand the following few points:

1) Continuous Jewish Presence: Jews had a presence in the region for nearly 3300 years, with about 1300 of them actually being the ethnic majority. That’s right, I repeat. Jews had a continuous active presence in that region for thousands of years, whether you called it Israel, Judah, Levant, or Palestine. And they were a majority till the 4th-century c.e.. 1600 years may be a long time ago, and Jews may have become a minority during that time, but that does not mean they didn’t remain an active community in Palestine throughout those years. They had the most prominent rabbis like Maimonides, who visited, and Nachmanides, who stayed and influenced the Jewish world all over. They had the renaissance of the Kabbalah movement in 16th-century Safed. Approximately in the same period, the book that pretty much defined all orthodox rituals, the Shulchan Aruch, was written. And Jews returned to be a majority several times in Jerusalem when they were permitted to return. I encourage you to read Jewish History – The last 1000 years section to understand this in more detail.

And for all of you who are assuming that the Zionism movement was not reasonable because it was about 2000 years after the Romans kicked us out, I need to point out that Zionism was the last attempt after more than 2-dozen documented organized Aliyah and more than 5 revolts in those 2 millennia. Zionism was only the most successful organized Aliyah and most recent. That’s why we called the Zionists’ settlement the New Yishuv in contrast to the many old Yishuvs. Jews continuously tried to populate Israel throughout time, against all odds.

2) Palestine is part of Jewish History:  The name Palestine came into use when the Romans tried to erase the Kingdom of Judah, or Judea, from history by renaming it Syria-Palaestina, after an ancient Greek-descended enemy of the Israelites that were completely extinct by that time. The name change was due to the fierce 3-year revolt by the Bar Kochba, who fought like no other, and his Jewish army. So Palestine was simply a new name for Judah/Israel. Throughout history, most times, when someone referred to Palestinians, they referred to Jews. In 1948, when Palestinian Jews declared Israel to be their new and sovereign state, they renamed themselves Israelis. The Jewish newspaper at the time, which was called The Palestine Post, was renamed The Jerusalem Post. The Palestine Orchestra was later renamed the Jewish Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Anglo-Palestine Bank became the very Jewish Bank Leumi. Even the Mandatory Palestine national football team consisted mostly of Jews. There are many other examples like this. The Palestinian Jews changing their region’s name to Israel is not much different than the Indian Muslims changing the name of their territory to Pakistan. I assume most would agree that this does not take away the indigenous connection of the Pakistanis to their section of the land.

3) The Arab Palestinian Identity: It is clear, at the time of the 1948 war, that most Arabs in Palestine identified only as Arabs, and not as Palestinians. It was not until the 1960s that the Arab League, established Palestinian” as the explicit name of that population. Don’t believe me? The Arab leader, Amin Al Husayni, called his leadership organization the Arab Higher Committee. The army that invaded Israel the day after it declared its independence was the Arab Liberation Army. There was zero mention of Palestinians. This is important because the word Palestinian is a major source of confusion for most people. This is no accident.

By taking on the identifier “Palestinian,” the Arabs created the illusion that they were the indigenous people of a country called Palestine, which never existed. Palestine only ever described the name of the region, like “the Midwest” in the United States. Yet, the illusion it created has been a powerful one that easily confuses the uninformed. Many automatically assume that because the Palestinian Arabs have the same name as the region, pre-1948,  they somehow have a deeper connection to the region, this is absolutely a distortion of the facts of history.

Depending on your listeners and how aggressive you choose to be, you can go deeper into the Palestinian connection to the land—or, more accurately,  lack thereof. The truth is, previous to the early 20th century, Arabs thought of Palestine as part of Syria, and the Arabs of Palestine were mostly considered Syrians. This was clearly shown in the official First Palestine Arab Congress, which, btw, was not called the “Palestinian” congress but the Palestine Arab Congress. Small change, huuuuuge difference. It made the resolutions below:

  • “We consider Palestine nothing but part of Arab Syria, and it has never been separated from it at any stage. We are tied to it by national, religious, linguistic, moral, economic, and geographic bounds.”
  • “Our district Southern Syria or Palestine should be not separated from the Independent Arab Syrian Government and be free from all foreign influence and protection.”

This was an official resolution made by 27 delegates from across the region of Palestine and chaired by the former Arab Mayor of Jerusalem in the early 20th century. In future Congresses, they could no longer call for a connection to Syria because Syria was solidifying its borders under the French, and could not afford to start a conflict with the British. Yet, even without that resolution, they were still open to the idea of reconnecting with Syria in the future.

It is also important to note that the British gave 78% of the territory they called the British mandate of Palestine to the Arabs. Yet somehow, Palestinians never complain about losing 78% of what they say is their region. The territory was renamed Transjordan and, then, Jordan, as it is known, today. So Jews are not the only ones to rename their piece of the region.

4) No Ancient Palestinians:  I don’t like to drive this point, but when modern Palestinians insist on arguing the indigenous game, you must challenge them to clarify if there was any leader, imam, philosopher, caliph, or king in history who called himself a Palestinian. Was there any Palestinian flag, currency, or slogan? Was there ever a revolt, or a story of people fighting for the rights of the Palestinians? The only thing that they can come up with is the ancient Philistines of the Bible. You know, the ones we recognize from the David and Goliath or Samson and Delilah stories? Yet the ancient Philistines were a Greek-descended population declared extinct in 6th-century c.e. by any credible historian. Even if there was a connection, their region, Philistia, at its prime, only consisted of Gaza and 4 other surrounding towns. Over the centuries, the region’s Occupiers were Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Fatimids, Seljuk Turks, Crusaders, Egyptians, Mamluks, and of course, the regional Judeans, Israelites, and Canaanites. There was never a Palestinian people, much less a Palestinian state or nation.

At the end of the day, the goal is not to focus on removing the connection of the Palestinians to the land. Whether you call them Arabs or Palestinians, some of them have roots in the region that go back centuries. Many of them are even Jews and Samaritans who were converted through the centuries. Putting aside that many arrived during the Mandate period from other Arab countries, their presence over time deserves recognition. We simply need to clarify that the Palestinians are certainly no more connected to the land than the Jews. This, of course, is one of the hater’s central debating points, so here’s a tip: If your opponent tries to take advantage of your generosity on this point, remind them that it was Arabs who came to the region as invaders, conquerors, and colonizers, not the Jews. The Jews never went to wars outside their region and did not colonize anyone. We just returned to restore our indigenous homeland. The Term is decolonizing.

One other point that is essential to the false narrative created by the Anti-Israel Marketing Machine is the idea that the conflict involves a “big” “foreign” Israel against a small group of “indigenous” Palestinians. Instead of the reality that it is a tiny Israel against a big group of Arabs who possess 500 times more land than the Jews and nearly a billion more people. Just Jordan, which was originally part of Mandate Palestine, is 4 times the size of Israel. This switcheroo was a brilliant marketing play by the anti-Israel marketing machine, and Israeli activists must counter this false advertising with the truth.

Once you understand the indigenous connection, it’s time to ask this question: would 300 years or 1000 years from now, Native Americans no longer be indigenous to the Americas? Of course not! The Europeans invaded, conquered, and, in many cases, exiled them from their native territories, forcing them to live on reservations. None of this erases the fact that they remain the indigenous people of the Americas. The same is true for Jews. Rome’s exile of Jews from our ancient homeland does not erase our indigenous presence and rights in the Land of Israel. Treating the situation of the Jews differently from other indigenous people is an unfortunate double standard.

But what about the other people who lived in the region while the natives were reclaiming their rights? Do they not count? Of course, they do. Since the first Zionists established themselves in Palestine, Jews have been helping the local Arabs. Educating them, employing them, and improving their standard of living.  The Palestine Mandate acknowledges the religious and civil rights of minorities. And Israel’s democracy has protected the rights of the local Arabs in Israel, despite the continuous conflict. Things may not always be perfect, but Israeli Arabs enjoy the full rights guaranteed to all Israeli citizens. And if an individual feels their rights have been violated, they can bring their case before Israel’s courts, and there are plenty of free lawyers that are funded by instigating NGOs like Adalah.

So the rule is that the more stubborn the person you are trying to influence, the more history you need to understand. The great news is that unless you purposely choose sophisticated haters, which are a rarity, all the information above would be enough to prove the indigenous connection. But hey, something about being Zionists/Jews is that we like to debate the biggest, baddest Nerds around.

You can study that In the 1930s, most of the land was bought from landowners. Of the land that the Jews bought, 52.6% was bought from non-Palestinian landowners, 24.6% from Palestinian landowners, 13.4% from government, churches, and foreign companies, and only 9.4% from fellaheen (farmers). In other words, half of the lands bought by the Jews in the 30s once belonged to foreign owners, and no one seemed to care until the Jews bought it. Another tip: You can show all the Rabbis and prominent Jewish leaders who lived in Israel through the years and all the Jewish accomplishments, not only 3000 years ago but also 300 years ago. c

You can spend a semester or 2, maybe years, studying all that, or luckily for you, we have a great fun summary in our History section. And of course, if you have any other questions, that’s why we built the site. To answer all your questions.

In the end, the opposition might challenge that Israel consists of a bunch of Europeans, so tackle them with another fact:  that about 60% of Israeli refugees came from Arab countries and not Europeans. Not to take away any connection of Ashkenazi Jews, where there is plenty of research showing that the Jews from Europe have clear Middle Eastern DNA.

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