The Difference Between Fact And Opinion

jewish templeI have been inundated recently by people who do not like that I wrote that some arguments are in fact not debatable. I said very clearly that while we can, and should, debate opinions, doing so without determining the facts first is worse than useless, because it results in one person speaking Chinese and the other speaking Greek. How can I beat you at chess when you are playing checkers?

In high school on the debate team we were taught to introduce our definition first, and to find holes in the opponents’ definitions. However, it’s very important to understand that some things are immutable; some things are in fact inarguable. If you said “Water is wet” I would be unable to argue against that. If however you said “Water feels cold,” I could easily argue that. This is what is often lost in such debates. We allow people to introduce opinion as fact and we do not call out when they do this.

I am always open to discuss my opinions. It’s my OPINION that indigenous rights supersede rights of longstanding presence, an opinion based on morals and ethics but still an opinion. It is a FACT that Jewish people are indigenous to the Levant and science, history, and anthropology all prove this. Therefore, I am willing to discuss indigenous status and the rights it generates, but I am not willing to allow people to change the definition to suit themselves.

As a Native Canadian, people often tell me that some of the things I speak about never happened. The massacre at Frog Lake where an Indian agent who was purposefully starving the Cree was killed, is a factual event. Reading the documentation shows that Thomas Quinn was a crook who was filling his own pockets and starving the Cree. Until recently though, that part of the story was never told. It took a careful reading of the history to change that, but the event itself was inarguable. It’s a fact it happened, only the motivations were arguable.

Recently, I was reading an article in the Jerusalem Post. The President of the PA did exactly what I am talking about – he basically said “The Jews are trying to divide (our) holy places in Jerusalem like they divided the Ibrihimi mosque (tomb of the Patriarchs).” He then went on to say “Jerusalem will only be the capital of a palestinian state and we will not allow the settlers to contaminate our holy sites.”

Lets leave aside the fact that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of ISRAEL, and instead look at what he said and more importantly how he said it. First, he laid claim to holy sites that are already claimed by a previous existing people, and he claimed that the actual indigenous people are settlers. To allow either statement to go unchallenged is why we lose these fights so often despite having the truth on our side.

I write often about how colonial peoples subsume indigenous sacred sites, and this is no different. The Tomb of the Patriarchs is a JEWISH site in the ancient capital of Hevron. The archaeology proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jews built it and the religious tradition that it’s where Abraham buried Sarah predates the existence of Arabs in the region by several hundred years. Now you could argue that because the Arabs conquered the region they have the right to subsume indigenous sacred places, but you cannot argue that first and foremost the cave of the Patriarchs is a Jewish sacred site. It is exactly the same in Jerusalem. The Temple Mount is the most sacred site in Judaism, and Judaism predates Islam by several centuries. The Jews built more than one Temple on the Mount, so for someone who is Muslim to claim the Jews have no valid claim to the site flies in the face of indigenous rights. For them to claim it is solely a Muslim holy site is offensive and ridiculous. What is interesting in all of this is that even though those are the two holiest sites in Judaism, the Jewish people have never denied the Muslims access. On the contrary, it’s much more difficult to go to either site if one is a Jew even though those sites are both technically under Jewish control.

I think its incredibly important for us to educate our children, especially indigenous children. They need to understand that language matters, that what we say matters, and that we should not ever allow others to define us or our arguments. This idea that history can be told in “narratives” is false. Narratives are stories, and while we are all the heroes in our own stories, history is much different. History is a series of events, and those events either happen or did not happen. One can spin it how one likes but one cannot rewrite history. One must carefully research history before trying to create stories from it. Otherwise you end up with people like Mahmoud Abbas conveniently ignoring three thousand years of Jewish history in order to push a false “palestinian” history that has no validity. An indigenous person can never be a “settler” on their own ancestral land. That’s an inarguable fact, something I hope you have a better grasp of after reading this.


Ryan Bellerose

A member of the indigenous Metis people, Ryan grew up in the far north of Alberta, Canada with no power nor running water. In his free time, Ryan plays Canadian Rules Football, reads books, does advocacy work for indigenous people and does not live in an Igloo.

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