The idea that Arabs are the indigenous people of Palestine has gained increasing traction – but received a curt put-down in the Knesset by no less than Prime Minister Netanyahu last week. The Jews are not only indigenous to Palestine, but the ‘Arab world’, argues Lyn Julius in The Times of Israel.
” We were here before you”. (“And we will be there after you”).
Jamal Zahalka must be regretting uttering those words in the Knesset on
1 August, after being slapped down by no less than Israel’s Prime
Benjamin Netanyahu was not intending to speak, but felt an irresistible urge to step up to the podium to refute Zahalka’s lie. “The first is not true”, he declared, “and the second will not happen.”
Prime minister Netanyahu responds: to see the video clip click here
But it will take more than a curt one-liner to
rebut an increasingly accepted tenet of Arab propaganda and trendy
post-colonialism in our universities and media: the Jews are interlopers
from Europe and the US. They are westerners who came to ‘colonise’ and
’steal land’ from Palestinian people of colour. Even some Jews believe
the myth that the Arabs had been in Palestine since ‘time immemorial’.
After the Six-Day war Israel became a client
state of the US. It came to be seen as an outpost of western
imperialism. Drawing on Marxist terminology, the colonialist myth gained
traction after 1967 when Israel annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan
Heights and ‘conquered’ the West Bank and Gaza. The notion of
‘occupation’ and the use of the word ‘settlers’ reinforce the concept of
Israeli ‘colonisation’ of ‘Arab’ land. From this flows a wrong-headed
analogy with South African apartheid: white Israelis oppressing brown
The colonialism myth supports another myth:
Jews are not a people, deserving of the right to self-determination, but
a religion. They are “Khazar converts” with no specific links to the
Middle East. Anti-Zionists habitually talk of US citizens of the Jewish
faith, Germans of the Jewish faith and even Arabs of the Jewish faith.
The truth is the opposite: Although race should not be confused with peoplehood, studies have proved that Jews from East and West have genetic links with the Middle East.
” We were here before you” equally applies to
the 50 percent of Israel’s Jews who trace their ancestry from Muslim
and Arab lands.
The vast majority of these Jews merely moved
from one corner of the ‘Arab world’ to that Middle Eastern coastal
sliver known as Israel. Until their expulsion 50 years ago,
Jews had been settled in Iraq, for example, since the Babylonians
exiled Jews from Jerusalem in 586 BCE. In the early 20th century,
Baghdad was the most Jewish city in the world, after Salonica and
The Arabs are relative newcomers to the
region; the ‘Arab world’ is a misnomer. By the time the Arabs had
conquered land largely inhabited by Jews and Christians in the 7th
century in the best tradition of imperialism, and had subjugated them as
dhimmis in the tradition of colonialism, the Jews had been
settled there for 1,000 years. People in the West tend to apply a common
misconception to all Jews, borrowing the Christian notion that Jews
have been punished to wander from land to land with no country to call
their own. But not only have Jews always lived in Palestine, there was
continuity of Jewish settlement in the Middle East and North Africa for
more than 2,000 years. If only native inhabitants are entitled to
political rights, the Jews are as indigenous as any people living in the
Middle East can be.