Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Debunking Israel's "Indigenous Argument" (Revised)

ו' לחודש הרביעי תשע"ה

There are those on the so-called “right,” who have been employing the “indigenous” argument a lot lately. The "indigenous argument" is that Jews have a right to live in Eretz Yisra'el (The Land of Israel), and to have sovereignty over it, because we are indigenous to it.

I would like to refute this argument, but Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi z”l (RaSh”I) already did the job for us almost a thousand years ago, in his commentary on the beginning of the Torah.
אמר רבי יצחק: לא היה צריך להתחיל [את] התורה אלא (שמות יב ב) מהחודש הזה לכם, שהיא מצווה ראשונה שנצטוו [בה] ישראל, ומה טעם פתח בבראשית, משום (תהילים קיא ו) כוח מעשיו הגיד לעמו לתת להם נחלת גויים, שאם יאמרו אומות העולם לישראל לסטים אתם, שכבשתם ארצות שבעה גויים, הם אומרים להם כל הארץ של הקב"ה היא, הוא בראה ונתנה לאשר ישר בעיניו, ברצונו נתנה להם וברצונו נטלה מהם ונתנה לנו:
“Said Rabbi Yitzhak: Shouldn’t the Torah have begun with “From this month, for you…” (Ex. 12:2), which is the first mitzvah which Israel was commanded. So what is the reason that the Torah opens with “In the beginning…?” – Because “He has told the power of His works to His people, to give them the inheritance of nations” (Psalms 111:6). So if the nations of the world would say to Israel, “You are robbers, because you have conquered the lands of the seven [Canaanite] nations!” – they say to them, “The entire world belongs to The Holy One, Blessed Be He. He created it and gave it to whomsoever he saw fit. According to His will, He gave it to them, and according to His will He took it away from them and give it to us.”
The text of the Torah specifically states that not only were we Divinely promised Eretz Yisra'el, but that in order to do this, Eretz Yisra'el had to be Divinely taken away from its previous owners.

יח בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, כָּרַת יְהוָה אֶת-אַבְרָם--בְּרִית לֵאמֹר: לְזַרְעֲךָ, נָתַתִּי אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת, מִנְּהַר מִצְרַיִם, עַד-הַנָּהָר הַגָּדֹל נְהַר-פְּרָת. יט אֶת-הַקֵּינִי, וְאֶת-הַקְּנִזִּי, וְאֵת, הַקַּדְמֹנִי. כ וְאֶת-הַחִתִּי וְאֶת-הַפְּרִזִּי, וְאֶת-הָרְפָאִים. כא וְאֶת-הָאֱמֹרִי, וְאֶת-הַכְּנַעֲנִי, וְאֶת-הַגִּרְגָּשִׁי, וְאֶת-הַיְבוּסִי. (בראשית טו,יח-כא)
In that day the Lord made a covenant with Avram, saying: 'To your seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.' the Kenite, and the Kenizzite, and the Kadmonite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Rephaim, and the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Girgashite, and the Jebusite.' (Gen. 15:18-21)

That’s right. The Canaanites were here before us.

Some would argue that the Jewish People is indigenous based its inheritance from No’ah’s son Shem, through Ever, and his descendant Avraham.

But, neither Shem nor Ever was born within the current borders of Eretz Yisra’el. Nor did either of them ever had control over Eretz Yisra’el. Actually, I have yet to hear that anyone has bothered to make this claim.

Incidentally, Avraham was not born in Eretz Yisra’el either. He never had control over Eretz Yisra’el, nor did his son Yitzhaq, nor did his grandson Ya’aqov, who eventually left, and went down to Egypt, although they were all well-respected while residing here.

Avraham purchased a plot of land in Eretz Yisra’el, now known as Ma’arath HaMakhpelah (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hevron. Ya’aqov purchased the city of Shchem, which the Romans called Neopolis, in bastardized Arabic. King David purchased land as well, Har HaBayith (the Temple Mount).

Of course, it is a misswah (Torah commandment) to redeem Eretz Yisra’el. One may even have a non-Jew prepare a document of sale on Shabbath, a day on which Jews are forbidden to conduct commerce. Such was done with K’far Ivri, now Jerusalem’s northern neighborhood of Neweh Ya’aqov.

Eretz Yisra'el (Joshua, Judges)
(Click to enlarge)
A qinyon (acquisition) for the purchase of Land may be made be on Shabbath, as was done in the acquisition of the Haredi Jerusalem neighborhood of Me’ah She’arim. The home of many opposed to Zionism, many are surprised to hear of Me’ah She’arim’s acquisition,…before the arrival of Mashi’ah. There is no conflict here.

The Land is ours, but at this point, we not going to succeed in completing the conquering and settling of the Eretz Yisra’el, through hasbara (PR), and certainly not through the indigenous argument.

At one point, Arafat ysh”w attempted to claim that his Pseudostinian people were Jebusites, one of the seven nations (Gen. 15:21, Num. 33:50-56), in an attempt to make the same indigenous argument, Jews are trying to make now. But, as soon as he realized that this lie was not working, he quickly changed his tune.

The only, I repeat only, justification for any claims on Eretz Yisra’el by the Jewish People is that The Almighty promised it to us, as recorded in His Holy Torah.

Any beliefs and feelings of non-Jews are irrelevant, and thus so are any efforts to convince them of one thing or another, is also irrelevant, and a waste of time.

Esau (The West) and Yishma'el (Arabs/Muslims) both want Eretz Yisra'el for themselves. They all want a piece. The Vatican, the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches, the Evangelicals and Christian Zionists, the U. S., and one does not need to say, the Arabs, all want a piece (Zech. 12-14). Nothing has changed since Esau and Yishma'el fought each other for control over it, during The Crusades.

They only care about their own interests. They certainly do not give a damn about any argument, indigenous or other otherwise, which conflicts with their interests.

It simply does not matter if Jews are indigenous to the Land of Israel, or not. Some make the claim that certain Bedouin clans and even some of those Arabs identifying themselves as "Palestinians," are also indigenous.

But the ONLY thing that matters that The Almighty promised it to us, the Jewish People, and not to any other people, indigenous or otherwise.


Daled Amos said...

I think the "Indigenous Argument" holds and augments what you write.

I have posted that Jews are indigenous to Eretz Yisrael based on a post I read on Israellycool ("It’s Not An Argument"):

...In fact it’s a fact the Jewish people ARE indigenous to the land of Israel – science in the forms of archaeology, genetics and basic history have all confirmed it.

...You go as far back as you need to to find the cultural genesis, the creation of a language and religion and other signifiers. If these two gentlemen had bothered to do some basic research (that would have taken far less than the half hour they cited earlier) they would find two important facts. 1. Indigenous status has no statute of limitations. 2. Indigenous status is not about being somewhere first, it’s about the genesis of culture and tradition on an ancestral land more than anything else.

This is supported by sources quoted by Wikipedia (Indigenous Peoples):

...those groups especially protected in international or national legislation as having a set of specific rights based on their historical ties to a particular territory, and their cultural or historical distinctiveness from other populations.[1]

The use of the term peoples [as in the Jewish People?] in association with the indigenous is derived from the 19th century anthropological and ethnographic disciplines that Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines as "a body of persons that are united by a common culture, tradition, or sense of kinship, which typically have common language, institutions, and beliefs, and often constitute a politically organized group".[7]

This bond between Jews and the Land of Eretz Yisrael is predicated on the Torah and is illustrated by the unbroken history of Jews on the land and the ties maintained even by those in Galus.

Moshe Schwartz said...

Let us not forget that the indigenous argument isolates the convert and makes him a second class Jew. Let us also not forget that in Judaism "indigenous rights does not secure the land. If that was the case why did we not argue with Hashem "hey, listen you can not put us in exile! we are indigenous!". The only reason we have any right to Israel is because of a CONDITIONAL PROMISE by Hashem. When we as a nation break those conditions and Hashem has enough try to present the indigenous argument to him.

Moshe Schwartz said...

The indigenous argument discriminates against the convert and treats him or her like a second class Jew.
Can you have dual indigenous status?
Can there be other groups today in Israel that are indigenous?
The Bedouins are recognized by Israel and the world as indigenous to Israel.
Why did the indigenous argument not work when Hashem exiled us twice? "Hey Hashem! What are you thinking by exiling us? We are indigenous!"
The only reason we have a right to Israel is because of a CONDITIONAL PROMISE by Hashem and NOT because of an indigenous status!
The indigenous argument is a gateway for other groups including xtianity since xtianity is indigenous to Israel.
I can go on and on.

Daled Amos said...


I understand your argument about converts, but considering the long history of converts in Jewish history such as Onkelos, Shmaya and Avtalyon etc, I don't know that converts have historically been discriminated against to the degree that you suggest.

I don't know if xtianity qualifies in terms of being indigenous, since they are a religion and not a people and have not demonstrated a bond to the extent Jews do. I may be wrong, but my impression is that their tie is more to places.

After all, they did not leave because of being exiled, but because they went out to spread their word.

Yehudi Yerushalmi said...

I hate to nitpick, but the Meforshim say that after the Mabul, Eretz Yisrael including all of the land "MeEver HaNahar" was given to the descendants of Shem. And in fact, Avraham - according to most of the Meforshim - except the Ibn Ezra - was born in Charan.

Shem and Ever - as is known - already had established a Yeshivah in what was later to be Yerushalayim and were it's rulers.

It is only when Avraham "Made Aliyah" in Parshat לֶךְ-לְךָ that the Cna'anim first appeared and started a war with the rest of the descendants of Shem, conquering The Land. That is why Avraham did not want to tarry when he was in Shchem (The war was then in Shchem) as it says in the Passuk:

ו וַיַּעֲבֹר אַבְרָם, בָּאָרֶץ, עַד מְקוֹם שְׁכֶם, עַד אֵלוֹן מוֹרֶה; וְהַכְּנַעֲנִי, אָז בָּאָרֶץ.

See the Meforshim on that Passuk (וְהַכְּנַעֲנִי, אָז בָּאָרֶץ) - that only then they first came into the land.

Only later, when Avraham returned from Egypt, the Cna'anim were joined by the Prizi:

ז וַיְהִי-רִיב, בֵּין רֹעֵי מִקְנֵה-אַבְרָם, וּבֵין, רֹעֵי מִקְנֵה-לוֹט; וְהַכְּנַעֲנִי, וְהַפְּרִזִּי, אָז, יֹשֵׁב בָּאָרֶץ.

(Perhaps it is Ma'ase Avot Siman Lebanim - Only when we started returning did the Arabs start immigrating in greater numbers than us )

Esser Agaroth said...

Yehudi Yerushalmi,

Thanks for your comment.

You wrote (italics):
I hate to nitpick, but the Meforshim say that after the Mabul, Eretz Yisrael including all of the land "MeEver HaNahar" was given to the descendants of Shem. And in fact, Avraham - according to most of the Meforshim - except the Ibn Ezra - was born in Charan.

I don’t believe you’re nitpicking, since you are making points of Torah, and in the spirit of making sure that the Torah is presented accurately. :-)

The “indigenous” arguers have focused on the second map, I posted, minus Reuben and Gad, and not the first, which more closely matches the point you make, Haran being outside of this area.

Nevertheless, the “indigenous” argument leaves out important Torah-based points, including the ones you make, which are IMO the only points which count. It is an argument directed toward goyim and non-Torah knowledgeable/oriented Jews, in quintessential hasbara fashion.

Shem and Ever - as is known - already had established a Yeshivah in what was later to be Yerushalayim and were it's rulers.

You, yourself, point out above that Eretz Yisra’el was given to the descendants of Shem, keyword, being “given,” which is completely in line with the comments I posted from RaSh”I.

HaShem was, always has been, and always will be, in control of the lands changing hands.

My issue with the indigenous argument, is that is ignores this, and my guess is that they are more interested in convincing goyim that Israel is ours, than convincing Jews to take the correct actions in order to make this the reality.

Daled Amos said...

I do not know about _THE_ Indigenous Argument, but the concept of being indigenous is not an issue of precedence but of connection to the land (on any of multiple levels), and in no way excludes the points made based above.

Esser Agaroth said...

It seems to me that if the Canaanites were still here, or better yet, if they were known, and they re-conquered the Land from us, then they would be hailed as the indigenous people, no?

If the Romans were here as long as we had been here, then wouldn't they have a crack at being called indigenous, too? They built cities and infrastructure and temples, and their culture was influential in the area.

Daled Amos said...

Based on the definition of indigenous as a matter of culture and bond to the land:
1. I don't see that 3,000 later a claim by "Canaanites" would uproot the obvious tie to the land. If anything, what tie would your modern-day Canaanite have to the land today?

2. Rome has zero claim or tie to the land -- what they built and their influence on the land is irrelevant. There have no bond with it.

Esser Agaroth said...

1. Why not?

2. In both cases, I gave the condition, if they had been here as long as us.

The only connect the Jewish People have to the Land is because HaShem decided that we had a connection.

Why aren't those arguing that we are indigenous talking about this?

Daled Amos said...

We can argue on the relevance of being "indigenous", but I'm not sure we are defining the term in the same way.

Your theoretical Canaanite would have a stronger claim than a Roman by virtue of his bond to the land through history and culture. But if that Canaanite would suddenly appear today, just what would that tie be after 3,000 years?

As for the Roman, he does not draw his culture from Israel but from Rome. He can build aqueducts there all day long, he is building there but drawing anything from there. A Roman does not think about going there except as a tourist.

Finally, talking the "indigenous argument" is not to desert the Torah and HaShem's bond with Bnei Yisrael. The starting point is still Rashi's peirush on the first pasuk in Bereishis.

However the debate is not a purely theoretical one, but one with very real consequences. I have no problem with psukim to prove out right to Eretz Yisrael -- but at the same time I will use whatever arguments best make the point, dependent on the audience, whether they are Jews or non-Jews, people who deny Israel's right to exist or Jews who defend Israel's right but need help countering the onslaught of anti-Israel demonization.

Esser Agaroth said...

Yehudi Yerushalmi, Yaakov at yaakov7@hotmail.com would like you to contact him.

Jut passing on the message.

Yehudi Yerushalmi said...


Daled Amos said...

As I understand it, indigenous is based on who's first and not merely on how long -- it is based on the historical and cultural tie.

Based on that, Rome just is not in the parsha.

Bli neder, I will contact Yaakov.

Thank you, and Good Shabbos!

Unknown said...

UN and international definition of indigenous lists 5 characteristics, of which, jews satisfy each. Important is the formation of the culture on the land, language and spirituality distinct to the location, distinct socioeconomic form, special connections to the lands and natural resources, and the desire to reproduce the culture. The language is very specific and used in courts determining legal rights among ethnic groups.

Esser Agaroth said...


I have just now revised this post, removing any conclusion as to whether Jews are or are not indigenous to the Land of Israel. I would be interested in what you think now.

It does not matter what the non-Jews think of us, or of Israel.

It certainly does not matter what the United Nations thinks of us.

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