The real Middle East colonialist settlers

One of the standard arguments of leftists who want to see Israel destroyed, but won’t admit to hating Jews, is that Israelis are colonists, outsiders who came into the land that rightfully belongs to the indigenous population. You probably know the drill, which pushes many of the buttons of the international left: Racism (the Arab Semites are ‘People of Color” while the Jews are “Europeans”); colonialism (The Jews are outsiders); imperialism (the Jews are more successful and richer than their neighbors, so it is unfair); and Marxism (Israel has a flourishing market economy and is now a hi-tech powerhouse, so it must be at the expense of exploited people).

All of this is looking at history through the wrong end of the telescope. Dr. Alex Joffe of the Begin-Sadat Center refutes this bogus narrative. In fairness I can only briefly excerpt, but read the whole thing, if you want to understand the real history.

The idea of Jews as “settler-colonialists” is easily disproved. A wealth of evidence demonstrates that Jews are the indigenous population of the Southern Levant; historical and now genetic documentation places Jews there over 2,000 years ago, and there is indisputable evidence of continual residence of Jews in the region. Data showing the cultural and genetic continuity of local and global Jewish communities is equally ample. The evidence was so copious and so incontrovertible, even to historians of antiquity and writers of religious texts, some of whom were Judeophobes, that disconnecting Jews from the Southern Levant was simply not conceived of. Jews are the indigenous population.

As for imperial support, the Zionist movement began during the Ottoman Empire, which was at best diffident towards Jews and uncomfortable with the idea of Jewish sovereignty. For its part, the British Empire initially offered support in the form of the Balfour Declaration, but during its Mandatory rule (1920-48) support for Zionism vacillated. The construction of infrastructure aided the Yishuv immensely, but political support for Jewish immigration and development, as stipulated by the League of Nations mandate, waxed and waned until, as is well known, it was withdrawn on the eve of World War II. This is hardly “settler-colonialism.”

Ironically, the same cannot be said for the Palestinian Arabs. A recent analysis by Pinhas Inbari reviewed the history of Palestine (derived from the Roman term Palaestina, applied in 135 CE as a punishment to a Jewish revolt). Most notably, he examines the origin traditions of Palestinian tribes, which continue even today to see themselves as immigrants from other countries. Inbari’s review, along with many additional sources of information he did not address, demonstrates that modern Palestinians are, in fact, derived from two primary streams: converts from indigenous pre-modern Jews and Christians who submitted to Islam, and Arab tribes originating across the Middle East who migrated to the Southern Levant between late antiquity and the 1940s. The best documented episodes were the Islamic conquests of the 7th century and its aftermath, and the periods of the late Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate.

Hat tip: Richard Baehr

One of the standard arguments of leftists who want to see Israel destroyed, but won’t admit to hating Jews, is that Israelis are colonists, outsiders who came into the land that rightfully belongs to the indigenous population. You probably know the drill, which pushes many of the buttons of the international left: Racism (the Arab Semites are ‘People of Color” while the Jews are “Europeans”); colonialism (The Jews are outsiders); imperialism (the Jews are more successful and richer than their neighbors, so it is unfair); and Marxism (Israel has a flourishing market economy and is now a hi-tech powerhouse, so it must be at the expense of exploited people).

All of this is looking at history through the wrong end of the telescope. Dr. Alex Joffe of the Begin-Sadat Center refutes this bogus narrative. In fairness I can only briefly excerpt, but read the whole thing, if you want to understand the real history.

The entrance of Caliph Umar (581-644) into Jerusalem, 19th century colored engraving, via Wikipedia

The idea of Jews as “settler-colonialists” is easily disproved. A wealth of evidence demonstrates that Jews are the indigenous population of the Southern Levant; historical and now genetic documentation places Jews there over 2,000 years ago, and there is indisputable evidence of continual residence of Jews in the region. Data showing the cultural and genetic continuity of local and global Jewish communities is equally ample. The evidence was so copious and so incontrovertible, even to historians of antiquity and writers of religious texts, some of whom were Judeophobes, that disconnecting Jews from the Southern Levant was simply not conceived of. Jews are the indigenous population.

As for imperial support, the Zionist movement began during the Ottoman Empire, which was at best diffident towards Jews and uncomfortable with the idea of Jewish sovereignty. For its part, the British Empire initially offered support in the form of the Balfour Declaration, but during its Mandatory rule (1920-48) support for Zionism vacillated. The construction of infrastructure aided the Yishuv immensely, but political support for Jewish immigration and development, as stipulated by the League of Nations mandate, waxed and waned until, as is well known, it was withdrawn on the eve of World War II. This is hardly “settler-colonialism.”

Ironically, the same cannot be said for the Palestinian Arabs. A recent analysis by Pinhas Inbari reviewed the history of Palestine (derived from the Roman term Palaestina, applied in 135 CE as a punishment to a Jewish revolt). Most notably, he examines the origin traditions of Palestinian tribes, which continue even today to see themselves as immigrants from other countries. Inbari’s review, along with many additional sources of information he did not address, demonstrates that modern Palestinians are, in fact, derived from two primary streams: converts from indigenous pre-modern Jews and Christians who submitted to Islam, and Arab tribes originating across the Middle East who migrated to the Southern Levant between late antiquity and the 1940s. The best documented episodes were the Islamic conquests of the 7th century and its aftermath, and the periods of the late Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate.

Hat tip: Richard Baehr

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