Over the past four months, as Israel has continued to carry out its indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Gaza and settler violence has plagued the West Bank, a debate over the moral justification for the claim to historic Palestine has come back into focus. Nearly every speech referencing the Occupation made by Israeli government officials and their proxies in the West begins with a testimony that the Jews are indigenous to the land and therefore have claim to it indisputably. However, published genetic research and archeology prove that both Arabs and Jews descended from the same inhabitants of the Levant over 3,000 years ago. Based upon this same argument, both groups share equal claim to the region today.
Many present-day Jews are indeed the descendants of the ancient Israelites and few would contest the right of Jews to reside in the Levant. However, the issue lies in the fact that Zionists insist on an exclusive claim to the land for Jews and as a result, created a state that shadows Apartheid South Africa. Zionists' argument of exclusivity hinges on the notion that no other group can lay claim to the land, perpetuated by the myth that pre-1948 Palestine was a 'land without a people for a people without a land.'" While reputable academics on the topic such as Rashid Khalidi and Ilan Pappe have documented Palestinian claims to historic Palestine and Israel’s ethnic cleansing during the Nakba or ‘The Disaster’ in 1948, their research is limited to modern history.
Genetics research and archaeology prove conclusively that Jews and Arabs have significant genetic overlap and are likely descended from the same ancestors. Instead of rejecting ethnocentricity, Western world powers have endorsed it through their recognition of Jewish ethnic independence and exclusive sovereignty over historic Palestine.
Despite the rhetoric from the Israeli government, little to no scientific or archeological evidence has been publicly shared linking modern-day Israelis to the Israelites. Today, the idea of ‘Jewishness’ is defined in social terms as a religious group rather than by a genetic connection to the historic inhabitants of the land. According to the American–Israeli Cooperative Enterprise’s online encyclopaedia, The Jewish Virtual Library, Jews are no longer an ethnic group:
“Is Judaism an ethnicity? In short, not any more. Although Judaism arose out of a single ethnicity in the Middle East, there have always been conversions into and out of the religion. Thus, there are those who may have been ethnically part of the original group who are no longer part of Judaism, and those of other ethnic groups who have converted into Judaism.”
Zionists also dismiss the shared ancestry and genetics of Jews and Arabs. The Israel Central Bureau of Statistics demarcates the Jewish population from the Arab population in Israel in official demographic figures, considering them mutually exclusive. This ignores the fact that many Jews are themselves ethnically Arab and therefore are labelled simply as “Mizrahi” Jews. In manufacturing an ethnocentric definition of Jewishness, the Israeli state has validated its mechanism for segregation in favour specifically of European Ashkenazi Jews. Mizrahi Jewish activist Orly Noy recently described the perception of Ashkenazis regarding Mizrahi citizens' Arab identities: “They need to be more patriotic, to get rid of any trace of Arab-hood in their identity, their language, their cultures, their traditions, their history.”
Nearly every speech referencing the Occupation made by Israeli government officials and their proxies in the West begins with a testimony that the Jews are indigenous to the land and therefore have claim to it indisputably. However, published genetic research and archeology prove that both Arabs and Jews descended from the same inhabitants of the Levant over 3,000 years ago.
If Judaism does constitute a unique ethnicity— at least enough of one to make such a historical claim to a geographic region— then scientific evidence is critical. Allowing socially-constructed groups to assert sole ownership over territory has consistently been viewed unfavourably throughout history. For example, consider the idea that in the year 3024, the descendants of today’s population of London lay claim to land surrounding Emirates Stadium because their ancestors were Arsenal supporters– how would their claims be weighed against the present habitants if they are otherwise genetically homogenous?
In fact, recent genetics studies and archaeological research have proven the existence of other communities in the Levant predating and coinciding with the existence of the Israelites, contradicting the biblical narrative that the Israelites came from Egypt and wiped out the Canaanites. A 2013 study by Dr. Harry Ostrer, a pathology, paediatrics and genetics professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, analysed the population genetics of the Jewish people and arrived at the following conclusion:
The closest genetic neighbours to most Jewish groups were the Palestinians, Israeli Bedouins, and Druze in addition to the Southern Europeans, including Cypriots…Their proximity to one another and to European and Syrian Jews suggested a shared genetic history of related Semitic and non-Semitic Mediterranean ancestors who followed different religious and tribal affiliations. Earlier studies of Israeli Jewish, Palestinian and Druze populations made a similar observation by demonstrating the proximity of these two non-Jewish populations to Ashkenazi and Iraqi Jews. (Ostrer)
A later 2020 study by the Hebrew University and the ancient DNA lab at Harvard University headed by geneticist David Reich echoed this conclusion. The team analysed the genome of 93 people buried in the Levant between approximately 2500 B.C.E. and 1000 B.C.E. The results pointed to modern-day Saudi Arabians, Bedouins and Iranian Jews as having the highest correlation with the Bronze-age Levantine DNA at 90 percent, followed by Palestinians, Jordanians and Syrians, at 80 percent. Moroccan and Ashkenazi Jews were 70 and 60 percent contribution, respectively. (Reich) If a people’s claim to land is dictated by the historical presence of their ancestors, both Jews and Palestinians maintain equal rights to the land based on this research alone.
Politics and ethnocentricity must be rejected in favour of objective truths to build a future for the region where all peoples live with equal rights and protections regardless of their ethnic classification or religion.
Genetics research and archaeology prove conclusively that Jews and Arabs have significant genetic overlap and are likely descended from the same ancestors. Instead of rejecting the perils of ethnocentricity, Western world powers have endorsed it through their recognition of Jewish ethnic independence and exclusive sovereignty over historic Palestine.
If Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government so frequently reach their claims back thousands of years, then what’s to prevent other descendants of ancient Levantines from doing the same? Politics and ethnocentricity must be rejected in favour of objective truths to build a future for the region where all peoples live with equal rights and protections regardless of their ethnic classification or religion. Because at the end of the day, as it turns out, we’re all the same.
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