Israel, Palestine and Ethnicity

February 25, 2014 1:35 pm

Note; Haaretz has premium status for some articles, meaning that, after some time, material may not be available to viewers unless they pay a subscription fee. This is why I may paraphrase a lot so as to respect their material. 

The Israeli national newspaper, Haaretz, has published an article reporting on changes in policy within the Iberian peninsula. After Spain has decided to grant Sephardic Jews (those who descended from the Jews banished from Spain some 600 years ago), citizenship, Portugal is also following suit and drafting a bill. Now, Jews with a proven Sephardic heritage can have citizenship in Spain and will be able to in Portugal.

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There have been reports that many Israelis are keen to use that opportunity. Some think this is the case because of genuine fear that one day, on of Israel’s neighbours might annihilate it. Some might see it as a general way to expand their opportunities and prospects for work. While, in Spain and Portugal, there is speculation that their respective governments are either wanting to correct past mistakes, or wish to encourage people to come and improve their own dire economic situation.

Either way, this event brings up the concept of ethnicity and indigenous peoples when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Israeli Sephardic Jews, who use this opportunity to gain citizenship in either Portugal or Spain, will be embracing a different side to their heritage. While Zionists insist that the homeland of every Jew is within Israel, what is undeniable is that there is some double standard within that form of thinking.

Here in the UK, when I meet someone who is mixed race, I acknowledge the fact that they are black and white. They are mixed race. One side is not given more attention than the other (not that this affects how I treat them as a human being, and nor should it). The Jewish people should be no different – an Ashkenazi Jew is just as much white European as he is Semitic Jewish. An Ethiopian Jew is just as much black African as they are Semitic Jewish (if some accounts of history are correct). So, if some Israeli Jews can say that their indigenous homeland is both in Israel and in Spain or Portugal, then what of the Palestinians?

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The common Israeli-Zionist argument is that Palestinians are simply Arabs. Apparently, they belong in “Arabia”. Historically, that is not strictly true. I could go on about how the concept of race is probably an invention, and is relative as supposed to be objective, but there is something else.

Most Palestinians, including myself, have descended from peasant farmers at one point or another. These peasants are the remnants of empires and peoples that have come and gone throughout Palestine/Israel: Phoenicians Philistines, Canaanites, the Jews themselves, Romans (then Byzantine), Arabs, Ottomans, the British. While Palestinians speak Arabic, they are a large mix of these people that have come and gone.

As one starts to realize that, one also starts to realize that most of the world has had similar stories – even Britain has had that. There aren’t really distinct races, but a large genetic spectrum that we are all on and that is ever changing.

What is funny is that some studies suggest that Palestinians and Israeli Jews in general, share a lot of “genetic material” – however you want to take these studies is up to you, of course.

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Finally, what is important to remember is that no matter where you go in the world, there are foundation myths. One nation may argue that it is more “authentic” than the other, but it is simply nonsense. All nations are man made, and the foundations they have are referred to as “myths” for a reason. So when it comes to the Israeli Palestinian conflict, the use of ethnicity to argue Israel’s case (or Palestine’s if you wish to include that), is null and void.

In the end, we are all people.

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