So, you’re Jewish and someone's told you your people are ‘indigenous.’ Be careful what you wish for…
Let me open by saying I have spent countless hours advocating for Israel since 2012 when I held my first Israel Truth Week conference in London, Ontario, Canada in response to the intimidation of Jewish students at Western University while police watched.
I’ve been unofficially named an ‘Honorary Jew’ by Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights (CILR.org), and I’ve had the honour of being asked to light a candle at Canada’s National Holocaust Memorial service in Ottawa as part of the Zachor Coalition.
Mark Vandermaas [wearing glasses; behind and slightly to left (reader’s right) of podium] takes stage as part of Zachor Coalition, National Holocaust Memorial Ceremony in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2012.
My current Israel Truth Week project is training friends of Israel in how to use Israel's land title deed, the 1922 League of Nations Mandate For Palestine to make a devastating moral argument against the 'occupation' blood libel that underlies so much of today's anti-Israel sentiment. (You can take my Liberating Israel program online for free.)
So, this is written as a friend and ally of Jewish people in order to help them understand the dangers of buying into the claim that Jews are ‘indigenous,’ a narrative that has caught on in recent years to a degree that has surprized me given its problematic foundations.
Don’t misunderstand me: Jews have been in their land for thousands of years, long before the Arab conquest, but they are not ‘indigenous’ and it is unhelpful and, I would argue, risky from a counter-propaganda perspective to make that claim — in my opinion.
I thought a couple of role-playing exercises between my favourite fictional students — ‘Yossi’ the Jew, and first year Poly-Sci student ‘Zoey,’ an atheist Gentile — might dramatize the problems of the ‘indigenous’ narrative. ‘Zoey’ is a new student, but has already been exposed to the false ‘occupation’ narrative by Israel-haters on campus:
ROLE PLAY #1 (‘Indigenous’)
- ZOEY: "Israel is occupying and ethnically cleansing Palestinian land!"
- YOSSI: "We are the indigenous people of the land, NOT the Arabs."
- ZOEY: "How can that be true?"
- YOSSI: "The Muslims conquered us long after we were in the land. They are the colonialists, not us!"
- ZOEY: "It’s true Jews were in the land before Mohammed was born, but your own Torah says you destroyed the original inhabitants.* Isn’t that true?"
- YOSSI: "Well, I’m not very religious, so I don’t believe everything that’s in the Torah."
- ZOEY: "So, maybe your Torah was fabricated by people who made up the stories about Israelite conquest of Canaan? What else did your people lie about in that book?"
- YOSSI: "Uh, well…even if it’s true, we were still in the land for a very long time. We have a common culture and customs and history that goes back thousands of years, a culture we have maintained all that time even though many of us were scattered to the world by our enemies. That makes us the NEW indigenous people."
- ZOEY: "Wait a minute…weren’t Abraham and Sarah from Ur in Iraq?* That's over 1,200 kilometers away. How could they be indigenous to Israel? If they’re indigenous to Israel, that means practically everyone in the Middle East is indigenous to that land. Or, are you saying they were born in the so-called Promised Land? If so, then your Torah is wrong about where they were born, too."
- YOSSI: "Well, I wouldn’t want to say the Torah was wrong, but what does it matter? We were there a very long time no matter where Abraham and Sarah came from."
- ZOEY: "But, you wiped out the people who were there before you, and now you’re claiming you are indigenous because you have a common culture and history?
- YOSSI: "No, not at all. Much of the land of the world was conquered by other people over time, and Israel is no different."
- ZOEY: "OK, so you’re saying you’re indigenous because your ancestors conquered people who were there before you? Are you kidding me? That's like white Americans claiming they're indigenous because they killed off native people and drove them off their land. You can't be serious."
OK, so…if you’re a supporter of Israel how would you make this end well for ‘Yossi’?
Contrast the ‘indigenous’ narrative with the ones below based on Israel’s land title deed, the Mandate For Palestine.
An old sales saying goes, 'Amateurs convince. Professionals sort.' This means that a good salesperson should quickly determine who is interested, and not waste time trying to convince prospects who are not qualified and/or will not listen to do business with them.
In Roleplay #2, Yossi 'qualifies' his prospect quickly using an 'If I could...would you...?' closing question, and moves on after it is clear Zoey is not interested in facts:
ROLEPLAY #2 (If I could, would you...)
- ZOEY: Israel is illegally occupying and ethnically cleansing Palestinian land!
- YOSSI: If I could show you a document of international law that proves that you’ve been lied to about Jews stealing land, would you read it?
- ZOEY: No!
- YOSSI: OK, then. Goodbye. If you change your mind, you can read it at www.IsraelTruthWeek.org/#deed. It’s called the Mandate For Palestine.
I use this method myself; I even have it printed on the back of my business card:
In Roleplay #3, Yossi uses his knowledge of Israel's land rights to deploy moral arguments as Zoey tries to evade the reality that her beliefs about 'occupation' are incorrect:
ROLEPLAY #3 (Shouldn't Jews be able to trust the world's promises?)
- ZOEY: Israel is illegally occupying and ethnically-cleansing Palestinian land!
- YOSSI: Zoey, there can be no peace without truth, and the truth is that the Jewish people are owners, not occupiers because they have a land title deed from the world called the Mandate For Palestine that has been deliberately ignored. It recognized our ancient history in the land and it specifically says that the Jewish ‘national home’ includes ALL land west of the Jordan River.
We were supposed to get land on the east side, too, but Article 25 allowed the country assigned to protect our rights to give it away to Arabs as part of the original 2 state solution. Lots of Jews died because the promises in the Mandate weren’t kept during World War II, and now the world wants to risk more Jewish deaths by giving even more of our land away in a new 2 state solution.
Would you like to read our land deed from the world?
- ZOEY: The Mandate For Palestine is too old to be relevant.
- YOSSI: Is the US Constitution too old? Are aboriginal land claims too old? But, really, you just proved my point: Jews can't trust the world’s promises in the original 2 state solution, so why should we trust new promises in a new solution?
- ZOEY: But, what about all the UN resolutions against Israel?
- YOSSI: Again, you’ve proven my point: all those resolutions came after the world restored Jews to their homeland, which means Jews couldn’t trust the world’s promises, could they? Shouldn’t Jews be able to trust the world’s promises? Shouldn’t Britain apologize for all the Jews who died because they illegally kept Jews out of their homeland in violation of their obligation to help us rebuild?
- ZOEY: Britain had no legal right to divide land up. It was a colonialist document.
- YOSSI: Well, it wasn’t Britain that divided the land; it was the Allied Powers who won World War II, and the Mandate For Palestine is the legal instrument from the League of Nations transferring land to the Jewish people who it recognized as the legal owners. In other words, it was the world who divided the land and restored Jews to their home, not Britain. The Allies redrew the entire map of Europe and the Middle East under international law, but you’re only criticizing the borders of the only Jewish state. Why? Do you hate Jews?
- ZOEY: No, I don’t hate Jews, so don’t accuse me of that.
- YOSSI: I hope you don’t hate Jews, but I do think someone with an agenda has been lying to you. The only question that matters is: do you think Jews be able to trust the world’s promises under international law?
- ZOEY: But, what about the Palestinians!
- YOSSI: The world, through the League of Nations, has already recognized the ancient Jewish homeland via its land deed to the Jewish People called the Mandate For Palestine which saves us all from having to rehash ancient history. Arabs were given nearly all the Middle East, including land that was originally recognized as part of the Jewish 'national home' and is now part of Jordan.
- ZOEY: Again…what about the Palestinians!
- YOSSI: That’s a different issue, isn't it. First, we talk about truth of whether Jews are owners or occupiers; then we can find solutions. Can we agree that the world made promises to the Jewish people, and do you agree those promises should have been kept, but weren’t? How can we build any solution on a foundation of lies?
‘INDIGENOUS’ VS. ‘MANDATE FOR PALESTINE’ NARRATIVES:
These role plays illustrate some of the issues associated with promoting a fake ‘indigenous’ narrative, not the least of which is that it casts serious doubt on the Jewish (and Christian) holy book, at least the first three chapters of Genesis, Exodus and Deuteronomy*. As a counter-propaganda tool, this approach is very problematic because it draws attention to the history of Israelite conquest and effectively argues the story of that conquest is a fabrication. The world’s history is one of warring and conquest, so the fact that Israelites conquered the Promised Land is not especially problematic unless…you’re trying to claim Jews are 'indigenous.'
Contrast this with a truth-based land rights argument based on a document that eliminates the need for discussing ancient history because the world already decided this issue. I can train pro-Israel people how to make and defend a moral argument using the Mandate For Palestine in 2 hours or less. I give my trainees basic role playing responses in my training manual which you can download at IsraelTruthWeek.org/#deed.
Genesis, Chapter 11 tell us that Abram (Abraham) was born in Ur of the Chaldeans, in Mesopotamia (today’s Iraq) and that his father took him and his wife Sarei (Sarah) out of his “native land” to Haran in Upper Mesopotomia (today's Turkey) where they stayed until, as cited in chapter 12:1, G-d told him ‘Get out of your country…to a land that I will show you.’
Genesis 12:4-14 tells us that Abraham left Haran and travelled to Canaan where “the Canaanites were then in the land.” There, ‘G-d promises, “To your descendants I will give this land.” But, Abraham travels to Egypt because there is famine in the area. Chapter 13 tells how Abraham and his family left Egypt and finally went to live in Canaan and “the plain of Jordan” where “the Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land.”
Genesis Chapter 17 - G-d makes his covenant with Abraham “to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”
Exodus 23:22-33 - Moses is told by G-d in that he would bring them to the tribes in Canaan and begin the process of slowly destroying them for the Israelites. “Little by little I will drive them out from before you until…you inherit the land. And I will set your bounds from the Red Sea to the sea, Philistia [Mediterranean] and from the desert to the River [Euphrates]. For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land to your hand, and you shall drive them out before me.”
Deuteronomy 7:1-5 - Moses tells his people, “When the Lord your G-d brings you in the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you…you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. […] you shall destroy their alters, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire.”
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ISRAEL'S LAND RIGHTS AND HOW TO USE THEM TO DESTROY THE 'OCCUPATION' NARRATIVE? Take my free Liberating Israel program here. Let's free Israel from the false 'occupation' narrative together! Learn all about the incredible document of international law which recognizes the Jewish 'national home' as including all land west of the Jordan River. When you're done you will know, beyond all doubt, that Jews are owners, not occupiers. Don't let your kids go one more day believing the 'occupation' propaganda.
Copyright 2017-2020: Mark Vandermaas
Times Of Israel: blogs.timesofisrael.com/author/mark-vandermaas/
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This is an edited version of an article originally published .