Mike Lumish

Israel: The first modern indigenous state

I have been arguing for some time that we need to place the long Arab war against the Jews of the Middle East within the modern western civil rights paradigm.

If the west, or at least the western-left, honors the struggle among people of color for national liberation, or if they support the struggle among women for full and equal rights throughout the world, or if they believe that Gay people should be afforded equality before the law, surely they must accept that the Jewish people also deserve rights to self-determination and self-defense against our persecutors.

Over at Israelycool, Ryan Bellerose, a Native-American Canadian activist has a few words on the matter:

The actual working definition of “indigenous people,” (not the Wikipedia version, nor Merriam Webster, both more suited to plants and animals) for purposes of this essay is that developed by aforementioned anthropologist José R. Martínez-Cobo. With this as my foundation, I will detail why Jews are indigenous to Israel, and why Palestinians are not.
Martinez-Cobo’s research suggests that indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal system.

The Jews of the Middle East are a persecuted indigenous minority.

There are two reasons why they are considered not to be so by most in the west. The first reason has to do with the type of unacknowledged racism that makes up “progressive” political culture. The second has to do with the misunderstanding between indigenous rights and what Bellerose calls “rights of longstanding presence.” The Jewish people are the only people on the planet who can claim indigenous rights within the Land of Israel. The Arabs, as the conquerors of the region thousands of years after the establishment of Israel as the Jewish national home, are not.

Most westerners and Arabs tend to look upon Israelis as “white” and, needless to say, white people are indigenous to Europe, thus, as deceased White House correspondent Helen Thomas would agree, they should return to Poland or Germany or, even, the United States. Of course, by seeing Israel as a white European implant upon Arab soil, both Arabs and western progressives implicitly deny the fact that ancestors of about half of the Israelis never left the Middle East to begin with. Ashkenazi Jews represent the traditional leadership of Israeli society, but non-European Mizrahi Jews are an exceedingly important part of that society and, yet, their presence is ignored by western progressives who claim to stand for indigenous rights. The truth, of course, is that both Ashkenazi and Mizrahi are indigenous to the land of Israel, whereas Arabs, “Palestinian” or otherwise, are not.

Arabs are indigenous to Saudi Arabia.

We are denied indigenous status by white western progressives because progressivism, as a political movement, is the single most racist political movement in the west, today, outside of political Islam. This makes it convenient for the Arab conquerors of the Jewish people to claim indigenous status although they only truly have “rights of longstanding presence.”

The real difference, of course, between the indigenous Jews of the Middle East and other conquered indigenous people, such as Bellerose’s people, is that the Jews of the Middle East were the first of all indigenous peoples to take back their homeland.  Israel is a miracle for any number of reasons. It not only survived the efforts of the vast hostile Arab-Muslim majority to destroy it in its cradle, it has thrived despite such malicious ongoing efforts. From any perspective – scientific, economic, or social – Israel transformed itself into a successful European-style democracy and did so under the kind of intense hostile circumstances that no western European country has had to endure since the end of World War II.

Bellerose concludes:

If conquerors can become indigenous, then the white Europeans who came to my indigenous lands in North America could now claim to be indigenous. The white Europeans who went to Australia and New Zealand could now claim to be indigenous. If we, even once, allow that argument to be made, indigenous rights are suddenly devalued and meaningless. This is somewhat peculiar, as those who are arguing for Palestinian “indigenous rights” are usually those who have little grasp of the history, and no understanding of the truth behind indigenous rights.

The Jewish claim to Jewish land is the claim of a persecuted indigenous people and is, thus, grounded within the kind of liberal ideology, prevalent in the west throughout the twentieth-century, that allegedly stands up for the rights of indigenous people all over the world.

Just as black people struggled for their rights and basic human dignity during the American Civil Rights Movement, so the Jews continue to struggle for our rights and basic human dignity within our 3,500 year old national home. Just as native peoples everywhere seek to free themselves from the negative influence of hostile conquering populations, so the Jews of the Middle East seek to free themselves from the never-ending hostility of their former masters in that part of the world.

The so-called “Palestinian national movement” is not a national movement of an indigenous people. It is a national movement designed specifically to overthrow the indigenous people and replace that people with the very people who conquered them and held them in something akin to servitude (dhimmitude) for thirteen long centuries.

Like indigenous peoples throughout the world, the Jewish people, too, are worthy of self-determination and self-defense.


Michael Lumish is the editor of Israel Thrives.

About the Author
Mike Lumish is a PhD in American history from the Pennsylvania State University and has taught at PSU, San Francisco State University, and the City College of San Francisco. He regularly publishes on the Arab-Israel conflict at the Times of Israel and at his own blog, Israel Thrives ( He has in recent years given conference papers on American cultural and intellectual history at The International Society for the History of Behavioral and Social Sciences in Dublin, Ireland, as well as at the Western Historical Association in Phoenix, Arizona and the American Cultural Association in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lumish is also the founding editor of the scholarly on-line discussion forum H-1960s. He can be contacted at