Why The Arabs Are NOT Indigenous to Israel (But Have Rights of Longstanding Presence)

When I first started talking about indigenous status and how it applied in the Middle East, I never thought it would turn into such a gongshow. My assertions were backed up by science, history, genetics, archaeology – hell ,even the Bible was pretty much entirely on my side (sorry Rabbi). The Torah is explicit when it concerns the importance of the land to the Jewish people. I don’t really use the religious argument because a. I don’t need to and b. it’s not my religion. For me, the science alone is sufficient.

Martinez Cobo made a pretty compelling case as to why his definition was pretty much the benchmark but because it was so dry and academic and overly verbose, I decided to interpret for the average person. I also decided to create my “hand theory”, which makes indigenous status easy enough to understand even for children.

Hold up your left hand. Now imagine that each finger represents an aspect of your indigenous identity. All of the fingers work together with your thumb to make a functioning hand, and all the aspects work together to make a functioning identity. A hand can function when missing a finger, even two or three, and when the thumb is missing it still works but very poorly. Your indigenous identity is very similar in that for each aspect you are missing, your identity becomes much more difficult to manifest authentically. The more functioning “fingers,” the easier it becomes.

Each finger represents an aspect of indigenous identity. I usually go in this order:
Language, Land, Culture, Blood, Spirituality (with spirituality being the thumb).

Every indigenous people manifests their identity with those five aspects. Indigenous status is site-specific, which means we come from a specific land. We speak a specific language that comes from the land we are intertwined with. We carry specific precolonial bloodlines from that land, and while blood quantum is a white man creation designed to enable them to “breed us out,” it is useful insofar as tracing bloodlines. Our culture is specific to the land we come from, with most of its aspects being directly tied to the land. It is not an inclusive thing; in fact it is almost always very different from our neighbors. Our mode and method of interacting with the Creator is also specific to our land, culture and people, with our stories and sacred places all taking place on our ancestral lands.

capture of jerusalemThis does not mean you are not indigenous if you were adopted out or stolen, or forcefully converted to a colonizer’s religion or forced to speak their tongue, but the sad truth is that indigenous status cannot be taken from you, it can only be given away. If you assimilate and adopt the conqueror’s mantle, you would no longer be one of us, you would be seen as the colonizer. You might one day come home but we see you as lost.

Unlike a hand, you can regrow your “identity fingers” (although I have no doubt that pretty soon those wily Israelis will figure out a way to regrow fingers). This is shown by how the Jewish people regained Hebrew, regained control of their ancestral lands after being exiled, and by individual Jews becoming what is known as Baal Teshuva. It’s a literal blueprint for other indigenous peoples who face the same struggle against assimilation. We need to also have cultural and linguistic resurgences, as well as self-determination on our ancestral lands.

All indigenous peoples are ethnoreligious, which means our ethnicity and our mode and method of interacting with the Creator are part and parcel of who we are. If you ask a traditional blackfoot Indian what religion he is, he will tell you “I am Blackfoot.” If you ask a Traditional Cree Indian what religion she is, she will say “I am Cree.” Part of the reason the Europeans struggled to understand us, was because we are ethno religious. It’s also the reason they never understood Jews (it’s also the reason that colonised Jews don’t always understand Jews). Its not simply a religion, it’s an ethno religious tribal identity.

Now here is why I am writing this. I already wrote several articles explaining how Jews meet the criteria I just mentioned, but I didn’t mention the Arabs in my articles because the fact that they are not indigenous was, to me at least, self evident.

You do not become indigenous through conquering indigenous people. You only become indigenous through an ethnogenesis on a specific land. You have to have pre-colonial connection, blood ties, and an actual coherent culture that is specific to your people. Conquering, raping, force converting and subsuming indigenous people doesn’t make you indigenous even if you have some nebulous blood ties.

There are three groups of people with a legitimate claim to being indigenous to Israel who meet all the criteria, and the Palestinian Arabs are not one of them. The Samaritans, The Arameans, and the Jews.

As for the Arabs, there are a few things that show that they are not indigenous.

  1. They are in fact foreign colonizers. They come from the Hejaz or Arabian Peninsula. Yes, it’s nearby, no it’s not the same place.
  2. Their religion, language and culture are all alien to the land of Israel, they are literally indigenous to the Hejaz.
  3. No “Palestinians” are not Philistines, (who were foreign anyway), they are not Edomites or Nabateans (who were part of the Arab ethnogenesis)
  4. They areĀ  not Canaanites who were pretty much subsumed by the Hebrews. Whenever one of them claims that, I always ask “What Canaanite cultural constructs do you manifest? They can never answer.

It is true that many Arabs carry Jewish blood; this would be because prior to the Muslim expansion and Arab conquest, there were many Jewish communities throughout the Middle East, one of the largest being the City of Medina in the Hejaz, one of the first cities conquered by Muhammad. All the men were killed, and the women who lived were forced into marriage and slavery, which obviously would introduce Jewish genetics into the Arab bloodlines. Factor that, as well as forced marriage and rape during the Arab conquest of the 7th Century CE, and you can see why so many Arabs have Jewish blood. Blood alone does not grant you indigenous status, otherwise all colonizers would need to do is force marriage and rape for a single generation and they would then qualify.

To be clear, conquering doesn’t preclude indigenous status, it just doesn’t grant it.

So no, the Arabs are not indigenous. They have rights of longstanding presence, which should be respected, but they are not and do not qualify as indigenous by even the most lax standards.

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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. Ryan was unsure if his real name was "Go get water!" or "Go get wood!" 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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