In an op-ed in the New York Times, political scientist Ali Jarbawi offered the following wise words:
“The longer any colonial occupation endures, the greater the settlers’ racism and extremism tends to grow. This is especially true if the occupiers encounter resistance; at that point, the occupied population
becomes an obstacle that must either be forced to submit or removed
through expulsion or murder. ”
His hypothesis is that Israel is a settler-colonial power and that the
Palestinians are an independent indigenous population. I offer an
alternative hypothesis, that Jews are an independent indigenous
people of Palestine, and the current Palestinian political entity is representative of an Arab Islamic settler-colonial empire.
This is a paradigm shift with important implications for understanding the Middle East conflict and the path to peace.
In his paper, “Who is indigenous? Peoplehood and ethnonationalist
approaches to rearticulating indigenous identity”, Jeff J. Corntassel
proposed four criteria, which I summarize.
An indigenous people
1. believe they are ancestrally related and identify themselves, based
on oral and/or written histories, as descendants of original
inhabitants of their ancestral homelands;
2. have their own informal and/or formal political, economic and
social institutions, networks, and continuously evolving cultural
3. speak an indigenous language,
4. distinguish themselves from the dominant society and/or other
cultural groups while maintaining a close relationship with their
ancestral homelands/sacred sites.
The Jews clearly meet these criteria. We believe the Jewish nation was born in Palestine. For centuries, Judaism was its state religion, Hebrew its language, and Jerusalem its capitol. The Jewish nation was conquered and occupied by a series of foreign empires, including the
Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Romans, the Arabs, the Ottoman Turks, and the British. Jews have wandered and settled all over the world, but we have never forgotten our connection to Palestine.
This was recognized by the British as early as 1922 when the British
Colonial office wrote to the Palestine Arab delegation:
“This community, then, with its town and country population, its political, religious and social organisations, its own language, its own customs, its own life, has in fact “national” characteristics. When it is asked what is meant by the development of the Jewish National Home in Palestine, it may be answered that it is not the imposition of a Jewish nationality upon the inhabitants of Palestine as a whole, but the further development of the existing Jewish community; with the assistance of Jews in other parts of the world, in order that it may become a centre in which the Jewish people as a whole may take, on grounds of religion and race, an interest and a pride. But in order that this community should have the best prospect of free development and provide a full opportunity for the Jewish people to display its capacities, it is essential that it should know
that it is in Palestine as of right and not on sufferance. That is the reason why it is necessary that the existence of a Jewish National Home in Palestine should be internationally guaranteed, and that it should be formally recognised to rest upon ancient historic connection.”
The second half of the hypothesis does not deny the existence of
Palestinians. Clearly they are a recognizable, self-defined group. My
hypothesis is that the current political entity of the Palestinians
exists as a manifestation of an Arab-Islamic settler-colonial empire.
In addition to sharing the Arabic language, religion, and culture
brought to Palestine in the Arab invasions, the Palestinians do not
speak of themselves as a distinct entity separate from the large,
regional Arab nation. In 1922, the Palestine Arab Delegation denied
the indigenous status of the Jewish people. “We have shown over and
over again that the supposed historic connection of the Jews with
Palestine rests upon very slender historic data. ” The Palestinians
based their claim on the long-standing Arab colonization of Palestine,
“The Arabs, on the other hand, have been settled on the land for more
than 1,500 years, and are the present owners of the soil. ”
An indigenous people can share their homeland. Jews do not believe that all the Land of Israel must belong to Jewish people. We believe that the Jewish people belong to the land of Israel. It is a settler-colonial empire that cannot allow a single square inch of the land to be sovereign to the indigenous population. The colonialists believe that all the land belongs to them, and any land controlled by the indigenous population is “stolen“.
The founding PLO charter states: “The destiny of the Arab Nation and, indeed, Arab existence itself depend upon the destiny of the Palestinian cause.” The conflict over a nation-state for the indigenous Jewish people is not only a dispute over a piece of land, it is a threat to the legitimacy of the entire Arab-Islamic settler-colonial project. This Arab colonialism must end.
This civil war is not about hatred and revenge, it is about power and
control. Rockets and air strikes, walls and checkpoints, segregated
settlements and incitement, boycotts, sanctions, and divestment, are
not tools for peace, but tools for war. Peace will not come through
negotiated borders, but through tolerance, economic cooperation,
mutual understanding, and unity. Despite the conflict in Gaza, we are
seeing Palestinians learning Hebrew in the West Bank and in Gaza, applying for and receiving Israeli citizenship, and even volunteering to serve in the IDF to protect the country that we share. Peace will mean defeat for Arab Islamic colonialism, but a victory for Palestinians.
The world will recognize that Israel is neither a Western Democracy nor an Islamic Republic, but a multi-ethnic, free, Middle Eastern, Jewish State, and a state for all its citizens. Israel’s constitution as a homeland and a haven for the Jewish people, and a protector for Jewish people and practice, with full civil and human rights for all citizens, will be enshrined in basic law. Israel will not be a puppet for Western or Islamic states. Foreign government aid from every source, U.S., Qatar, Iran, etc., to all parties will be discontinued. The nation of Israel will live, and from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.