Sam Eskenasi
Jewish Indigenous Rights Activist

There is no Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

There is no such thing as the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict because current disputes with Palestinian-Arabs cannot, and should not, be viewed in isolation.

Once upon a time, there used to be this thing called the Arab-Israeli conflict. It was called so because the reality is that much of the Arab (and to an extent Muslim) World refuses to accept Israel’s existence. Even those countries that have peace agreements with Israel do so only because at the time the military option would have been political or national suicide, or today because a greater enemy (Iran) has taken precedence. Much of the population still hates Israel and Jews to this day.

Arabs who lived in the British Mandate prior to 1948 definitely got a raw deal, but not because of the Jews. Colonialists in Britain played all sides, and leaders of the Arab World used Israel and the Jews as a bogeyman to distract people from rampant corruption in their countries; something that continues to this day. Those who stayed in what is now modern Israel were granted full citizenship, despite the fact that — especially at the time — there was little to no support or interest from them (or on the Arab Street for that matter) in having a Jewish State in the Middle East to begin with. The fact that Jews are from the Levant made absolutely no difference to them.

Israel is the indigenous homeland of the Jewish people, full stop. Our holy sites are there, our religious laws can only be fully complied with there, our ancestors are buried there and since our expulsion, we have maintained a connection with, and desire to return to our land. It should therefore have been no surprise to anyone to see Jews advocating for the re-establishment of a Jewish state on our indigenous territories. In fact, we are called Jews because we come from Judea in the same way that the Japanese are called Japanese because they come from Japan. The country is called Israel because we are Am Israel, the nation of Israel: an ethno-religious tribal group, not just adherents of a religion.

I live in Toronto, Canada. This entire land belonged to and is undoubtedly sacred to First Nations peoples who may now live hundreds or even thousands of miles away on a reserve — a fancy name for Ghetto. Nobody in their right mind would suggest that because they were evicted in the 1600s that this is not their indigenous home.

It is exactly the same for Jews. When it comes to Palestinians, there is simply no similar comparison. Palestinians self-identify as Arabs and not a distinct people. They have no Palestinian-specific holy or heritage sites in the land and their connection is based in Islam, not indigenous beliefs. Nobody is advocating for Palestinian-Arabs to be mistreated or expelled, however acceptance of their rights does not give license to appropriate Jewish history or use international bodies like the UN to deny any and all Jewish connection to the land and prevent us from worshiping at our holy places.

If we ever want to see an end to this conflict we must be honest and say to Palestinian-Arabs, look, you may have been used as pawns in the past, and that really sucks for you, but this does not give you the right to try to eradicate Israel or steal our history as your own.

About the Author
A long-time Canadian Jewish activist, most recently having worked in the community as media spokesperson on topics relating to Antisemitism, Human Rights in Canada, Israel and the Middle East. Sam lives in the Greater Toronto Area with his family, where he was born and raised.
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