Photo Credit: TPEF: Jewish women praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, circa 1911 [License]

Jews – The Indigenous People of Jerusalem and The Land of Israel

What defines an Indigenous People and how is it proved? The Jewish Nation with its roots in the ancient Israelites are the indigenous people of Jerusalem, and the entire Land of Israel. How do we know? This article shares this and a whole lot more!

Photo Credit: TPEF: Jewish women praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, circa 1911 [License]

The Jews: One of the World’s Oldest Indigenous Peoples

Article Courtesy: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

– The Palestinian “Balfour Apology Campaign” to demand the annulment of the Balfour Declaration is part of a consistent policy of denying the rights of the Jews to their national homeland as a people indigenous to the area.

– Yet the Jewish People for more than two millennia has consistently maintained the strongest claim to be the aboriginal people in its ancestral homeland, and their existence and roots are widely documented, acknowledged, and recognized.

– Christianity grew out of Judaism, and the early Christian existence and settlement in the Holy Land were part and parcel of the Jewish existence and settlement there.

– Arab and Palestinian leaders are attempting to establish a mythical, new narrative according to which the “Palestinian People” have existed as a distinct people indigenous to the area for thousands of years, predating the Jewish People.

– Saeb Erekat, the Secretary-General of the PLO, claimed in 2014 that he is a direct descendant of the Canaanite tribes who lived in Israel some 9,000 years ago. Yet according to Erekat’s own Facebook entry, the Erekat clan is from the northwestern Arabian Peninsula and settled in the Palestine area around 1860.

The present, ongoing, and cynical attempt to rewrite and manipulate historic and legal realities would appear to be part of today’s radicalized Arab and Muslim rejection of any non-Muslim historic or legal right to land or any religious heritage apart from Islam.

The purpose of this study is to analyze the character of the Jews as perhaps one of the oldest indigenous peoples who remains a distinct people and to consider the nature and implications of such distinctness in the practical realities of today’s international community.

With the 2017 centenary of the November 2, 1917 Balfour Declaration1 and its acknowledgment of the right of the Jewish people to their national homeland in Palestine, the international community is witnessing a concerted attempt by the Palestinian leadership to cast doubt and undermine the historic and legal basis, veracity, and justification for the indigenous character of the Jewish people and the rights of the Jews in the area.

This attempt to nullify the Balfour Declaration is not new.

The attack on the Balfour Declaration goes back a long time. For example, Nazi collaborator Haj-Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, commemorated the anniversary of Balfour Declaration on November 2, 1943, at a large ceremony which was staged at the Luftwaffe Building in Berlin and attended by the elite of the Nazi leadership. There, the Mufti called for the abrogation of the Balfour Declaration and openly declared his support for the genocide of the Jewish people. His message and contribution to the Nazi propaganda effort2 were transmitted to the Arab world by shortwave radio:

“… That which draws the Germans closer to us and brings us to their side is the fact that Germany has never invaded any Arab or Islamic land, and its long-standing policy of friendship for the Moslems is known. Germany is also fighting against the common enemy which oppressed the Arabs and Moslems in their different lands. It knew the Jews precisely and decided to find a final solution [entgüldige Lösung] for the Jewish danger, [one] which will contain their harm in the world.”

Similarly, Ahmed Shukeiri, a founder of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the author of the Palestinian Covenant (Jerusalem, 1964), completely rejected the Balfour Declaration. Article 20 of the Palestinian Covenant dismisses any possible religious, national or historical claim of the Jews, as follows:

“The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based on them are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism being a divine religion is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own: they are citizens of the states to which they belong.”

Sadly, the renewed Palestinian campaign appears to be receiving support from countries within the international community.

This disturbing wave of denial both of the Jewish right to its homeland, as well as its character as a people indigenous to the area, was clearly not a momentary reaction suited chronologically to the Balfour Declaration centenary. It is part of a consistent and increasingly vocal policy of denying the rights of the Jews as a people entitled to their national homeland.

It involves, among other things refusal by the Palestinian leadership, both in negotiations and public statements as well as in its conduct in international organizations, to acknowledge the fact that Israel is the national state of the Jewish people and that the Jews are a national people with historic and legal rights in the area.

This policy of denial is evident in the Palestinian leadership’s initiating in the United Nations agency for education and culture, UNESCO, resolutions denying Jewish (or any non-Moslem) connection or national and cultural heritage to Jerusalem and its holy sites as well as to the biblical town of Hebron, home to the graves of the forefathers of the Jewish religion.

This culminated in an October 2016 resolution of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee entitled “the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls,” referring to the Temple Mount compound solely by reference to Muslim names, “Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif,” defining it as “a Muslim holy site of worship.”

This policy of denial was also evident in the adoption by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee of a resolution on July 7, 2017, inscribing the old town of Hebron on the World Heritage List as a Palestinian site with no connection to the Jewish people.

In the context of the Balfour Declaration 2017 centenary, the Palestinian leadership launched a “Balfour Apology Campaign.” This included a call to the Arab League by Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority and Chairman of the PLO, at the Arab League’s September 2016 summit meeting in Nouakchott, Mauritania, to institute “an international criminal case for the crime committed against our nation by the UK for issuing the Balfour Declaration.”

The summit meeting was followed-up by a disturbing statement to the UN General Assembly in September 2016 in which Abbas stated:

“100 years have passed since the notorious Balfour Declaration, by which Britain gave, without any right, authority or consent from anyone, the land of Palestine to another people.”

Abbas went on to formally demand an apology from the UK for issuing the Balfour Declaration.

In October 2016, the UK-based “Palestinian Return Center,” a group affiliated with the Hamas terror organization and acknowledged by the UN as an official NGO (non-government organization), hosted a public seminar in the British House of Lords, condemning the Balfour Declaration and reiterating the call for a British apology.

Fake News and Fake History

The attempt to rewrite and to manipulate historic and legal realities would appear to be part of today’s increasingly radicalized Arab and Muslim rejection of any non-Muslim historic or legal right to land or any religious heritage apart from Islam in the area of the Middle East. This is all the more evident according to the more extreme Muslim views of the Jews.

The more extreme version is represented by the political and tactical aims of the “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL or ISIS) advocating a jihadist extension of such a worldview far beyond the Middle East even to Asia and Europe, with the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate.

No less worrying is a parallel tendency in today’s weak and politically-correct Western world which in many ways hesitates to face historic and legal realities.

Hence the importance today in clarifying the historic, religious, and legal basis underlying the indigenous nature of the Jewish people.

The Jewish People

The classical, never-ending question “Who is a Jew?” has figured in Jewish and non-Jewish discourse for thousands of years. It is a basic question involving issues of Jewish identity and self-identification, matrilineal or patrilineal descent. It has cultural, religious, political, genealogical, and personal dimensions. The answer varies according to whether the question is being considered by Jews based on normative religious status or self-identification, or by non-Jews for other reasons. It involves characteristics of ethnicity, religion, history, custom, emotion, and many other aspects.

The internal Israeli issue of “Who is a Jew” has, from the earliest days of Israel’s establishment, involved questions of individual, legal identity. But in the wider, national context, it touches on Israel’s national demographic structure.

However, in the wider, general context of the peoples of the world, the question of who or what are the Jews as a collective and as a People, their inter-relationships, and their historic, political, cultural, and legal status and rights, have rarely been addressed and analyzed.

Can the Jewish People be described as a “unified” collective, with cultural or historical distinctiveness, with historic ties to a particular territory? Or, is it a wider and more diffuse people with some common religious, historic, cultural, and traditional characteristics, but nevertheless geographically dispersed with no clear territorial context?

In light of the long and detailed, and to a large extent, sad history of the Jewish People from virtually the beginnings of time, the answer straddles both these scenarios.

The listing of the thousands of indigenous peoples in the world, as provided by Wikipedia, records Jews as both “an ethnoreligious people in the Middle East” as well as a people that “have largely lived in the Diaspora.”

The purpose of this study is to analyze the character of the Jews as perhaps one of the oldest indigenous peoples who still remain a distinct people and to consider the nature and implications of such distinctness in the practical realities of today’s international community.

Furthermore, the aim is to furnish today’s Jewish leadership – both in the Diaspora and in the State of Israel – with possible tools, in the context of the international realities of today, to realize fully the rights and status inherent in the Jews being acknowledged as an indigenous people.

Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous or aboriginal peoples have, from time immemorial, been a factor – if perhaps a passive and latent factor – in national and international society.

While the natural inclination, when thinking of indigenous or aboriginal peoples, is to look at the Native Americans, the Canadian First Nations, Inuit (“Eskimo”), Australian and New Zealand Aboriginals and Maoris, there are other groups that do not always come to mind, but whose indigenous character is a constant element in today’s world society.

The history of indigenous peoples is sad, to say the least, since their historic roots, traditions, cultures, character, and integrity as peoples have in many cases been debased, repressed, and even degraded by colonialism, slavery, racism, genocide, expulsion, globalization, internationalization, and technology.

As we have seen throughout history, indigenous peoples, whether in the Americas, Southeast Asia, and Europe, have been heavily exploited, marginalized, oppressed, persecuted, abused, expelled and dispersed. Their basic integrity and dignity, historical roots, traditions, cultures, and character as distinct peoples have been suppressed and ignored through a relatively lengthy process of discovery, colonization, followed by decolonization, and then independence and democracy. Their lands, resources, and properties were exploited and to a large extent dissipated.

There exist today perhaps thousands of indigenous and aboriginal peoples, tribes, and nations in virtually every part of the world. These peoples, whose respective presence and cultures have existed throughout history, continue to exist. When permitted over the past few decades, they may retain some of their traditional cultural and religious practices, observances, and even geographical presence throughout the world, despite attempts throughout modern history to remove them and to obliterate their culture.

Canadian historian and former government adviser on aboriginal issues, Alan Hertz, in a 2011 essay on “Aboriginal Rights of the Jewish People,” recalls that the Canadian Indian and Inuit (Eskimo) tribes, commonly and realistically called “First Nations,” are still the aboriginal peoples, even though some of these tribes now number only a few hundred individuals. Their status as “first in time” is not lost because they are now just a fraction of Canada’s population. Aboriginal rights are frequently minority rights.

A no-less ancient people – the Chinese – share with the Jews a long, ancient and well-documented history of culture and civilization. However, while both the Jewish and Chinese peoples certainly enjoy a long and ancient history, the Chinese people never developed as a single, collective indigenous people.

With respect to the 4,000-year history of China, when one compares the Chinese people during the Shang dynasty, which ruled from circa 1700 to circa 1027 BCE, roughly the same period of the earliest Jewish presence in the areas of the Holy Land, it is impossible to refer to one specific Chinese indigenous people.

China expert Sam Becker, a fellow of the Sino-Israel Global Network & Academic Leadership (SIGNAL), and a graduate of Yale and Taiwan universities, observes that in broad terms, historians often describe Chinese civilization as “continuous” from over 4,000 years ago up to the present day. But the area of China was, in fact, a conceptual amalgamation of multiple smaller kingdoms, tribes, cultures, and peoples, in a constant state of flux throughout history.

The last dynasty in China – the Qing Dynasty – ended at the beginning of the 20th century, and before that point, the average “Chinese” considered themselves in terms of their regional and ethnic identities and saw Chinese statehood only as the dynastic organization of the time.

The Jews as an Indigenous People

An obvious, yet rarely considered example of indigenous people by any definition, is the Jewish People, whose history, traditions, and religious and national character have been and continue to be acknowledged by all, whether through the study of the Bible or of the history of civilization.

Like the North American “First Nations,” the early Chinese Han people, and other Asian tribes and peoples, the Jewish People for more than two millennia has consistently maintained the strongest claim to be the aboriginal people in its ancestral homeland despite the fact that as a result of exiles, repression, forced diasporas, Inquisition, and the Holocaust, Jews were but a small percentage of the inhabitants there.

The existence and roots of the Jewish People are widely documented, acknowledged, and recognized. This is evident both in the context of their historic location and settlement in their original tribal areas in the “Holy Land,” including the areas of Judea (origin of the term Jew) and Samaria, and also in the context of their presence in various Jewish dispersions and diasporas caused by periods of exile, persecution, and attempts to obliterate their character as a people (even up to present day).

Jewish peoplehood and its evident linkage to its ancestral homeland predates other religions and reaches back to antiquity.

As borne out by history, Christianity grew out of Judaism, and the early Christian existence and settlement in the Holy Land/Palestine were part and parcel of the Jewish existence and settlement there.

In this context, even the 1937 Report of the British “Palestine Royal Commission” acknowledged that “Christians, moreover, cannot forget that Jesus was a Jew who lived on Jewish soil and founded His Gospel on the basis of Jewish life and thought.”

The Hebrew Bible, the Christian Gospels, and the Muslim Koran all refer to the Jewish People and its connection to the Holy Land. Since antiquity, there has never been a time when Jews were absent from the Holy Land. Even when Jewish numbers dropped to a low point, the Holy Land was still home to rabbis and rabbinic study famous throughout the Jewish world. With around 2,600 years of continuous history, the Jewish People kept a subjective-objective identity that always included significant demographic and cultural links to its native land.

The documented historical record of continuous Jewish presence and existence in the area described as the “Holy Land” or “Palestine,” in addition to the writings in the scriptures which speak for themselves, are borne out in historic writings of early Greek visitors to the area that appeared in parallel with the scriptures.

References to Jewish presence from nearly 20 different sources, dating from the third century BCE to the third century CE, are included in Professor Menachem Stern’s comprehensive anthology of Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism.

“For ancient Greek and Roman pagan authors, Jerusalem definitely was a Jewish city by virtue of the fact that its inhabitants were Jews, it was founded by Jews and the Temple, located in Jerusalem, was the center of the Jewish religion.”

“In these sources, Jerusalem appears in several contexts: foundation narratives, descriptions of and links to the Temple, historical events, usually relating to invasions and captures of the city, physical descriptions, and the derogatory use of the term “Solyma” by Roman writers after its destruction by Titus in 70 CE. It is noteworthy that despite the negative views of Jews and Judaism expressed by authors such as Manetho, Apion, Tacitus and Juvenal, the Jewish identity of Jerusalem is always clear and never a subject of dispute. These ancient texts, therefore, disprove recent attempts by Muslims and others to deny the historic connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem and the location of the Temple in Jerusalem through fabrications and lies.”

“The “father of history,” Herodotus, who visited Egypt under Persian rule in the 450s BCE, wrote extensively about the Egyptians and referred to the “Syrians of Palestine” who were circumcised and were assumed to be the Jews. In fact, it is likely that it was Herodotus who coined the name “Palestine,” namely, the area of the Land of Israel, as his encounter was with the descendants of the Philistines who inhabited the coastal towns of Gaza, Ashdod, and Ashkelon. The Jews inhabited the landlocked region of Jerusalem and its surrounding hills, known as Judea.”

For ancient Greek and Roman pagan writers, Jerusalem was a Jewish city and the site of the Temple, the holy place of the Jews. It was founded in the remote past by ancient Jews, influenced by the theology, laws, and customs established by Moses, as he led a “pariah people” out of Egypt.

The Temple was the religious center of the Jews and Jerusalem. While strongly fortified, it was attacked on several occasions by Greeks and Romans. Although difficult to capture because of its natural circumstances and its fortifications, the Romans invaded it and later destroyed both the city and the Temple.

Canadian historian, researcher, and lawyer Alan Hertz, in his essay “Aboriginal Rights of the Jewish People” (2011) summarizes as follows:

“Of all extant Peoples, the Jewish People has the strongest claim to be aboriginal to the Holy Land, where Judaism, the Hebrew language, and the Jewish People were born (ethnogenesis) around 2,600 years ago. Before then, the Holy Land was home, inter alia, to the immediate ancestors of the Jewish People, including personalities like Kings David and Solomon, famous from the Hebrew Bible. And at that time and still earlier, the Holy Land was also home to other Peoples – like the Phoenicians, Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, and Philistines. But all of those other Peoples have long since vanished from the world. Nobody today is entitled to make new claims on their behalf, including by reason of a supposed genetic descent that is only recently alleged and without basis in history and genome science.”

“Judaism, the Hebrew language, and the Jewish People were already established in the Holy Land for about a thousand years before the 6th-7th century CE ethnogenesis in Arabia of the great Arab People, the birth of which was approximately coeval with the emergence of Islam and classical Arabic.”

“From the initial Muslim conquest of the Holy Land in the first half of the 7th century CE, Jews there suffered persistent discrimination and periodic persecution. However, neither the Arab People nor subsequent invaders succeeded in eradicating the local Jewish population or bringing an end to the links between the Jewish People and its aboriginal homeland.”

Dr. Dore Gold, President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and an acknowledged expert in Middle Eastern studies and international relations, cites a leading commentator on the Koran and one of Islam’s greatest historians, Abu Ja’far Muhammad bin Jarir al-Tabari (839-923 CE), who, in his account of the conquest of Jerusalem by the second caliph, Umar bin al-Khattab, describes him heading toward “the area where the Romans buried the Temple [bayt al-maqdis] at the time of the sons of Israel.”

Umar himself allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem after the Romans and Byzantines kept them away for 500 years. As late as 1950, the Supreme Muslim Council in Jerusalem, once under the control of the notorious Mufti, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, actually published a guidebook that gave the history of the Temple Mount, establishing that “its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.”

In an article criticizing current tendencies among Muslim communities to deny Jewish historic, cultural, and religious ties to the Holy Land in general, and the holy sites in Jerusalem in particular, Turkish journalist Sinem Tezyapar opines:

“Widespread rejection of Jews’ historical, cultural, and religious ties to the Holy Land is one of the most common but facile narratives throughout Islamic majority countries. Despite the fact that this negation of Jews’ rights in the Holy Land masquerades as an Islamic cause or even as an imperative of piety, there is no truth to the rejectionists’ assertions that can be based on Islamic grounds.”

“The region where the Jews currently live is, beyond any doubt, their homeland, the land that their forefathers lived in and were buried in; thus, they must be allowed to live there. What is perhaps not well-known is that from an Islamic point of view, there is no basis whatsoever that prohibits Muslims from recognizing Jews’ presence in the region and accepting them as a state. In fact, the Koran itself provides clarification on this pivotal issue, not only referring to the connections of the Jews with the Holy Land but also to the legitimacy of their presence until the Last Day.”

In this context, Tezyapar cites passages from the Koran:

“Remember Moses said to his people: “O my people! Call in remembrance the favor of Allah unto you, when He produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave you what He had not given to any other among the peoples. O, my people! Enter the Holy Land which Allah hath assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin. (Koran, 5:20-21)”

“We settled the Children of Israel in a beautiful dwelling-place and provided for them sustenance of the best. (Koran, 10:93)”

In a similar vein, Jerusalem analyst and writer Nadav Shragai, basing himself on sources including archeological research by Dr. Gavriel Barkai, Dan Bahat, the writings of Haim Merchavia, and the publication “Three Religions and their Contribution to Jerusalem and the Land of Israel” writes:

“The City of David is the area identified by archaeologists and historians as the location of King David’s capital some 3,000 years ago. David’s son Solomon established the First Temple on the summit of Mount Moriah, where Isaac was bound for sacrifice, a location known today as the Temple Mount.”

“Archaeological excavations in the City of David took place during Ottoman rule, as well as under the ensuing British Mandatory rule, and have continued under Israeli rule as well, unearthing discoveries of Jewish life and artifacts from various ancient periods.”

“Adjacent to the City of David is an area called the King’s Garden, described in the books of Nehemiah and Ecclesiastes, as well as in many other historical sources. Scholars, visitors and pilgrims have attributed the area to King David and Solomon.”

Shragai points to further historic empirical evidence of Jewish settlement in the area about Rachel’s Tomb, located on the northern outskirts of Bethlehem some 460 meters south of Jerusalem’s municipal boundary. The site has been identified for over 1,700 years as the grave of the Jewish matriarch Rachel. The copious literature of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim pilgrims identifies and documents the spot as the place where Rachel was buried.

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