Foreign Aid as a Form of Neo-Colonialism: Questioning the Integrity of Our Independence on Yom Ha’atzmaut

“We, politely referred to as ‘underdeveloped’, in truth, are colonial, semi-colonial or dependent countries. We are countries whose economies have been distorted by imperialism, which has abnormally developed those branches of industry or agriculture needed to complement its complex economy.”[1] – Ché Guevara

Over 70% of American aid received by Israel must be spent in the United States.[2] US aid to Israel is essentially an American government subsidy to its own arms industry. And similar to the situation in other developing countries, the aid we receive empowers Israel’s ruling class while stagnating our economy, keeping the proletariat impoverished and forcing the country into debt.[3] Israel doesn’t gain any financial benefit from American aid.

And one thing is clear – this is not freedom. Like in much of the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, an influx of Dollars and Euros often allows for easy exploitation masked behind a humanitarian facade. Foreign aid allows western governments to impose conditions on the recipient countries in exchange for the funding, which ultimately only increases the dependency and helplessness of the recipient nation.

In Israel, American aid has allowed foreign diplomats to meddle in Israeli politics and to influence the decisions of our democratically elected leaders. Economic aid has allowed Washington to pressure Israel’s government into banning Jewish construction in the Judea and Samaria, demolishing entire communities, and forcibly expelling all Jews from the Gaza region. It allows the United States to meddle in internal Israeli affairs in ways that ultimately advance their own geo-political (and often cultural) agendas.

Acceptance of American money also creates a problem unique to Israel. While most states that receive foreign aid are usually perceived as vulnerable and dependent, the money Israel receives only seems to strengthen the anti-Semitic notion that all-powerful Jews manipulate American policies or that Israel is a colonialist American proxy in the Middle East. The truth, of course, is that Israel is suffering from the same type of exploitation other developing nations experience as a byproduct of accepting aid. And only an increased awareness among Israelis for of how this money impacts our policies, economy, culture, and society can help us to smash our false image of being some kind of outpost of western civilization in the Middle East.

But foreign aid is not only harmful to Israel’s economy, a source of diplomatic leverage against our political leaders, or fodder for anti-Israel tropes depicting Jews as foreign invaders. By continuously accepting foreign aid we have also created a mental dependency that has imprisoned the thinking of our political leaders and blocked them from remaining loyal to our people’s authentic aspirations.

Most countries first define their interests and then seek out alliances with other nations that share those interests. Israel might be the only country that first defines who it wants an alliance with and then redefines its own national interests according to the agenda of that ally. The fact that so many Israeli leaders have actually attempted to make arguments for how surrendering our most cherished ancestral lands, not only the cradle of Jewish civilization but also the mountains overlooking our densest population centers, would somehow be beneficial to the State of Israel illustrates the depths to which they’ve fallen in their psychological subordination to Uncle Sam.

One of the major objectives of the Zionist revolution, as an expression of Jewish yearnings throughout the generations, has been the restoration of full political independence in our homeland. And while our people has regained a certain degree of independence, Israel is still far from true freedom. Only by confronting the truth about the aid we receive from the United States can we smash the psychological wall between our nation and its ancient dreams, so we can break free from the chains holding our revolution back and achieve the necessary political independence to advance our story forward.

[1] “Cuba: Historical exception or vanguard in the anticolonial struggle?” speech by Che Guevara on 9 April 1961

[2] Jeremy Sharp, U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel, Congressional Research Service, Washington, D.C., March 2012, p. 7.

[3] Zev Golan, A Tour of the Israeli Economy, Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS), Jerusalem, 1998, pp. 3-4.

Response to “Jews are NOT indigenous”

In response to an article by Donny Fuchs in The Jewish Press, titled “Jews are NOT indigenous,” attacking those of us advocating the Jewish people’s indigenous status in the Land of Israel I say:

Jews are indeed indigenous to the Land of Israel. Eretz Yisrael is the place where our people, culture, language, and deep spiritual worldview developed. It’s the cradle of Hebrew civilization. Although I’ve also noticed a recent increase in professional Israel advocates employing an indigenous argument as a tactic for promoting Jewish rights and justifying Israel’s existence (sadly without internalizing what it really means to be indigenous), Jewish indigeneity wasn’t recently invented by these people. For thousands of years, Jews have self-identified as indigenous, referring to Israel as “admat avoteinu” — “the land of our forefathers,” and even non-observant Jews were willing to die fighting the British in order to liberate what they viewed as their ancestral homeland from foreign occupation.

“The Canaanites”

As for the biblical historiographic claim regarding the “Canaanites” (who no longer exist as a self-identified people), it should first be noted that the Ramban explains the journey of Avraham’s family to the Land of Canaan as a return to their own homeland. According to the Ramban, Ur Kasdim had been a foreign country that the family had previously migrated to. And on the verse Fuchs cites at the top of his article — “Avram passed through the land… the Canaanites were then in the land” (Genesis 12:6-7), Rashi states that when Avraham arrived, the Canaanites had been trying to conquer the country, but God desired to give the land to Avraham, in accordance with Noah’s division in which the Land of Israel fell to Avraham’s ancestor Shem and his descendants (our Sages, in both talmudic and midrashic literature, unanimously identify Malkitzedek — the king of Jerusalem in Avraham’s generation — with Shem).

In their attempt to explain the word “אז” (“then” or “at that time”), other commentators, such as Ibn Ezra, also mention that the Canaanites were only in the land at the time when Avraham arrived, but not previously. The fact that our Sages and teachers are even discussing these issues reveals that the concept of indigineity isn’t foreign to our authentic culture or identity. And when Yosef later tells Pharaoh that he had been “stolen from the Land of the Hebrews,” it’s clear that Canaan had been known by this name in ancient Egypt.

Moreover, even if the author’s claim were to be correct, Jews would still easily be considered indigenous. A few days after Fuchs published his article, the Jerusalem Post published the discovery of a 2,500-year-old seal from First Temple period with the Hebrew name “Elihana bat Ga’el.” The fact that this land holds the cultural and traditional genesis of our entire civilization is more than enough to be considered indigenous, irrespective of any previous Canaanites (although a country can have more than one indigenous population). The fact that when young Jews run around the Judean mountains, they relate to the earth under their feet as the same ancient ground walked by their ancestors and ancient national heroes is all that is needed.

“Racist and messianic”

The author claims that the notion of indigeneity is based on “racist, blood-based theories”. Of course, there is nothing racist about qualifying as indigenous. In fact, according to the UN’s definition, one must not even be linked by ancestry in order to be considered indigenous. Therefore, “converts” (an English mistranslation for those who naturalize into our people) are also indigenous by definition, as they join the Tribes of Israel and therefore become part of our collective story.

While Fuchs dismisses the United Nations definition as being foreign to our own culture and rightfully claims that the “Balfour Declarations and U.N. votes are of zero worth for the Torah Jew,” he oddly fails to recognize that it is our own culture that very much recognizes ancestry, lineages, tribalism, communal hierarchy and many other notions foreign to Western democracies, but very much in alignment with indigenous peoples. Do we not attempt to preserve the lineages of the Kohanim (and who does Fuchs think they are descendants of if not the Levite sub-tribe that lived here long ago)? Does Ezra not speak of “the holy seed” of Israel that must be preserved? Ezra’s concept wasn’t race-based (a concept foreign at that time), but a spiritual concept embedded in reality, like all Torah ideals, and in this case through tribal lineages and ancestry.

As for the claim that “some of these indigenous rights activists have alliances and friendships with missionary groups and prominent messianic personalities” — I can’t speak for all Jews who identify as indigenous, but the LAVI movement with which I am associated not only opposes any cooperation or alliances with Christian groups, but also views missionary activity as a form of cultural colonization that we as an indigenous people must resist.

“Divine right only”

In the author’s opinion, the only claim to be advocated is our God-given right to the land. This may be a legitimate outlook, yet I fail to see how Divine inheritance negates our qualification as indigenous. While we do not require an indigenous claim to justify our Divine inheritance, we certainly do classify as such. And the same God who granted us this land also authored history in such a way to provide us with an indigenous claim to it. And I for one believe that we are obligated to use all tools available in advancing our Divine mission. In fact, assuming Fuchs agrees that Israel’s Divine mission requires us to maintain political independence in our land, I’d like to ask if he thinks we better serve our God by putting forward biblical arguments only few can appreciate (most notably the Christian Zionists he fears) or by asserting indigenous rights that communicate our story in a language the outside world can understand?

I also find it interesting that the author does not seem to be as troubled by countless other non-Divine-inheritance-based advocacy claims, such as by those who claim we have a right to be here, “because we need security/because Europe hates us/because we’re technologically developed/because Tel-Aviv has gay parades.” One must question why then does the author only choose to attack those of us who proudly state that we actually belong here, that our people are deeply rooted here, that this is our ancestral homeland and that this is the only country our people have ever called home?

The fear of advocating Jewish indigeneity

Although the article was titled “Jews are NOT indigenous,” a possibly more appropriate title might have been “My FEAR of advocating Jewish indigeneity.” The author’s real concern, which by the very nature of semi-conscious fears — was presented only as a sideline issue to the “stupid” notion that Jews are indigenous, is that identifying as indigenous would open a “dangerous” Pandora’s box.

Of course, Jewish activists haven’t recently opened any box. Some of us have simply stopped ignoring the issue that has been at the center of this conflict for years. As Fuchs seems to acknowledge, Palestinians have been claiming indigeneity for decades. In fact, indigeneity is the base on which all other Palestinian claims are built upon. Palestinian indigeneity isn’t something that might be suddenly acknowledged if Jews advocate our own indigenous status; it is something that almost everyone outside of the pro-Israel choir already take for granted, while our roots here are being denied (and easily so, as we have failed to speak of them for so long). All claims against Jews and Israel are based on the notion that Jews are foreign colonialists with no real historical or cultural connection to this land. Israel advocacy professionals have for years been avoiding the indigenous issue, in hopes that Bar Rafaeli and Tel Aviv beaches would be enough to make our national case.

And so instead of continuing to ignore the issues underpinning the conflict, we have taken the stage and decided to speak up and assert the fact that Eretz Yisrael is first and foremost the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people, irrespective of security issues, not as a tactic against Palestinian claims but as an historic truth central to the story of our people.

You might claim indigeneity to be “un-Jewish” Mr. Fuchs but nothing feels more natural for me than to declare myself a Jew indigenous to the Land of Israel.

(This article originally appeared on Times of Israel)

The Jewish Narrative

(The following is an adaption of a speech presenting the “Jewish Narrative” at the NEW GENERATION NEW CONVERSATION Alternative Peace Conference in Jerusalem)

I could choose to speak about the blood of my brothers being spilled in the streets of Jerusalem. But I won’t. Not because I am silent. I’m not silent about the blood of my brothers; I cry and ache over every single drop spilled. Rather, I choose to transcend, not the pain or the suffering, but the mentality of victimhood and that alone, as a means to reaching the goals of my people. Therefore, I define my goal as not to win your sympathy but to share my people’s side of the story as a step towards finding a solution for both peoples. In order to do so, I ask you to temporarily liberate yourselves from any previously solidified perceptions of identity, of narratives and of the conflict, and momentarily enter my world, in order to understand the story of the people I am part of.

My name is Hila. I live here, in Israel, and the fact that I am native to this land has always been something I have taken for granted. The reason I know myself as native to this land is not because I was born here, although I was, but rather because this is the ancestral homeland of the people I am part of. This is the land in which my people had two kingdoms and centuries of political sovereignty, it is the land of our national origin, our indigenous culture, language, and the only land we have ever called home.

Indeed, it was only due to a series of historic injustices committed against us by Assyrian, Babylonian, and Roman Empires, that our land was ravished and our people dispossessed. And it was only due to the colonization of our land, that our people were forced to preserve our Semitic Hebrew culture in the cold winters of Europe or in other lands foreign to our native way of life.

Both sides of my family – those who returned from Morocco and those who returned from Romania, participated in the process of the in-gathering of the exiles when the fragments of our scattered tribes returned back and reunited on our native soil. But the return to the land was not a simple task. Both sides of my family had to fight their way in.

My mother’s family, a very wealthy family from Morocco, chose to abandon all of their wealth and belongings, golden bracelets and other treasures, and endangered their own safety smuggling their way in through France, all for the hopes of reaching Zion. They were not driven out of Morocco but rather risked their lives and sacrificed their possessions for the opportunity to finally come home. My father’s family returning home to Palestine from Romania were intercepted, captured, and deported to Cyprus by the British occupier upon their arrival on our shores. The two sides of my family each represent clear examples of the Jewish struggle to return home against British imperialists, preventing my people from entering our land.

But our fight was not just the fight of individual Jews to enter the land, but a national fight to liberate it from British occupation. While our ancestors failed in liberating our land from foreign rule, we succeeded. Motivated by the ancient tribal yearnings of an entire nation, and led by the instinctive emotional impulses of an indigenous people, Jewish freedom fighters gave their lives to free our homeland from British rule. They did not fight to occupy a foreign land but to decolonize and liberate their own land from foreign occupation. And so finally the British left, and we declared independence on our land for the first time in nearly two thousand years.

For us, that meant the beginning of a correction of an historic injustice, that for so long not only inflicted upon us much suffering, but stood in the way of us achieving self-determination, that held us back from fulfilling our collective mission and national aspirations.

And so these are the essentials of the story of my people: We lived here as a sovereign people, we lost our sovereignty, scattered, many of us assimilated, but the descendants of those of us who held on to our culture with whatever remnants of strength we were able to dig out from the despair, returned home, fought and bled to liberate our land.

However, in recent years, our narrative has been corrupted. Our story has been completely turned upside down. According to the international community and to other voices across the world, I am somehow a colonialist in my own land.

I am a Jew, I was born in Israel, not on April but on Adar Bet (a leap year on the Hebrew calendar), I maternally descend from the tribe of Levi (my maternal great grandfather, Saba Refael, was a Levite), the males in my family still wrap t’fillin identical to the ancient second Temple t’fillin found in Qumran, like the ones used by our ancestors, and every year I celebrate the Judean revolt for independence in our historic homeland on Hanukkah, which has been for us a national festival for over two thousand years. Even after hearing it for the millionth time, I cringe every time a Jew refers to our beloved Judean soil – soaked with the blood, sweat, and tears of my people for thousands of years – as the “West Bank” and I can literally burst into tears when hearing the unbearable words “a divided Jerusalem.” And yet despite all this, I am regarded by the international community as a white colonial occupier, a western foreign settler… have I missed any other words?

But the reality is that the notion of us being foreign to our land is so strange to us that most Israelis are not even aware that this claim is being raised. And those who are aware of it find it too ridiculous to even address. So we talk about security and Israeli innovation and forget to state the obvious because we assume everybody is on board with us – of course this is our land, we’re Jews and this Judea.

In fact it is noteworthy to mention, that this instinctive indigenous self-identification our people possess so naturally is not only the real reason we were able to force out the British and to liberate so many parts of our homeland in 67, but also why Hamas and other terrorist organizations are so unsuccessful with their tactics. Terrorism, which is an anti-colonial tactic used to drive away real colonialists, doesn’t work on indigenous peoples. In fact, when anti-colonial tactics are used against natives, it generally achieves the very opposite results. When indigenous people feel threatened, feel they are getting pushed off their land, feel themselves under attack, they only fight harder. This can be seen in every part of Israeli society as we speak. Our love for and connection to a sense of belonging here transforms the shadows of threat and fear into a passion for our homeland and an urgency to set out into battle.

Furthermore, the anti-Israeli accusations depicting me and my people as colonialists are not only ridiculous, they are deeply offensive. Nobody has the right to call me a foreigner in the land of my forefathers. Nobody has to redefine my people’s ancient identity for political or theological reasons. Nobody has the right to tell me not to live, breath, walk and if I have to – fight and bleed for Yerushalayim. And I will fight and bleed for Yerushalayim if I have to.

We, of course, know who we are. We know our history and we are collectively as focused on our national missions and aspirations as ever. And so the denial of our narrative does not make us flinch. It does, however, further inflict suffering on both sides and furthers us from our goals, including the goal of peace. Indeed, peace is impossible when the other side refuses to acknowledge at least how we see ourselves.

And so we should clarify to all those that are still in doubt: This is our ancestral homeland. It’s simple. It’s clear. We are its natural inhabitants. We are Semites and not Europeans, Hebrews and not whites, Middle Easterners and not Westerners, we are a people and not a religion. We are indigenous to Judea and to Jerusalem and not to Germany or Sweden. We have a right, an unapologetic right, a proud right, and a just right, to live in all parts of our ancient homeland – especially in places like Hebron, Shkhem and Beit El, places where every grain of dirt tells the story of our people.

We are a nation, and like every nation we are entitled to self-determination in our ancestral homeland. We cannot and will not give up that right.

(This article was originally published in The Times of Israel)

Einstein’s brain function: Jungian Psychology and Decolonizing Prophecy

“Had  this type not existed (the intuitive) there would have been no prophets in Israel” – Carl Jung

[dropcap] H [/dropcap]ow did Einstein’s brain functions influence his discovery of the General Theory of Relativity and what can be learned from it about the true purpose of prophecy?

According to Jungian based Psychology, each human mind possesses eight different mental functions, whose order determines the way through which each person’s reality is uniquely perceived and judged. While there is no unanimity among psychologists over the question of the precise order of Einstein’s brain functions, there seems to be a consensus on one thing – Einstein’s primary perceiving brain function was intuition. In other words, Einstein perceived the world primarily via his intuition.

“It [the theory of relativity] occurred to me by intuition”[1] – Albert Einstein

What is intuition?

While sensing is a perceiving function by which we absorb information and gather data through our conscious senses (seeing, hearing, etc.), intuition is a perceiving function by which we absorb information and gather data through the filters of our unconscious. Since intuition is not a process that occurs through the senses, it does not perceive what tangibly is in the sensory world, but what is beyond the sensory world (and therefore ultimately perceives essence).

During a conversation with another person, for instance, we might be so unconsciously tuned in to inferring hidden meanings from the background processes of that individual’s behavioral dynamics that we are able to “read between the lines”, discern underlying motives, thoughts and emotions, and perhaps even anticipate that person’s next move.

The role or purpose of intuition can therefore be defined as: interpreting present reality based on the intangible data inferred from beneath its surface.

How it works – Noticing Patters and Connecting the Dots

While our conscious mind can process only several bits of information per second, the unconscious mind can process as high as billions (!) per second. In other words, a plethora of information enters our mind by the second, yet only a fraction enters our awareness. Intuition is a process that takes place in that vast sea of infinite data flowing behind our conscious mind.

One of intuition’s primary processes is that of “connecting the dots”: unconsciously picking up on hidden patterns from seemingly disparate arenas, identifying common threads between them, and finally assembling the pieces of the puzzle together into a “big picture” (that often ultimately reveals meaning).

Understanding this may help us better appreciate Einstein’s perceiving function, for without it, his incredible intellect alone could probably not have soared as high as it did. Perceiving how the seemingly disparate and intangible elements known as time and space are inherently interconnected or interwoven into what has become known as the “fabric of space-time”, the ability to synthesize the seemingly paradoxical and grasp its abstractedness with enough clarity that it can be mathematically expressed, are all the works of intuition. Einstein was able to peer behind the scenes of tangible reality and reveal the essence found in our current existence.

“All great achievements of science must start from intuitive knowledge”[2] – Albert Einstein

The “mystical” quality

Intuition’s primary purpose is not foretelling the future, but rather interpreting the present. However, as we unconsciously pick up on hidden patterns, whether in the world around us or inside of our own psyches, we are sometimes consequentially able to “foresee” future outcomes, or at least have a sense of how things are going to play out. This, by the way, is not a supernatural phenomenon, but a byproduct of a fine attunement with the behind the scenes patterns of reality.

Decolonizing Prophecy

In most cultures, prophecy is associated synonymously with the future. However, the majority of ancient Hebrew prophecies did not deal with foretelling the future, as this was never their purpose. Much like intuition, prophecy was actually about revealing the real meaning behind current events. Its role, therefore, might be defined as exposing the correct internal interpretation (rather than people’s subjective view) of present reality.

For example, in the days of King Jeroboam, the Northern Kingdom of Israel enjoyed diplomatic and economic success. The people of the kingdom saw this prosperity as a sign that of their society being “on the right track”. If there is good fortune to the land and its people, then logic, common sense, and even the tenets of their faith (that God gives prosperity to those who are righteous) all viewed national success as a sign of their virtue. Yet, the prophet Amos was not impressed nor blinded by the “facts on the ground”. Amos was able to peer behind the scenes into what was taking place beneath the surface, and see the rotten moral foundation hidden just behind superficial acts of virtue. [3]

The real reason for dismissing the prophets

Although mainly concentrated on interpreting the present, Amos was also able to foresee that if proper changes were not instituted, a calamity would befall the kingdom, eventually leading to its destruction. However, the people of Samaria (Israel’s capital) dismissed Amos’s words, as his interpretations seemed out of touch with reality and inconsistent with the “facts on the ground.” The Israelite “political analysists” of those days were likely to determine that no danger is apparent from the neighboring civilizations, Egypt and Mesopotamia. Yet, as Amos was able to transcend the immediate context of existence and ultimately identify the underlying principles at the base of reality – not only of his own immediate circle but also his entire nation – he could clearly see what others were oblivious to.

We often assume that our people didn’t listen to the prophets despite and because of their evil intent. The truth is that the people didn’t listen because it was very difficult to accept the words of the prophets, as they seemed to contradict every aspect of sensory life. All evidence – facts, logic, and even the rationale of Biblical-based theologies – led the masses to the conclusion that the prophet was wrong. The interpretation of reality by the majority of Europe’s Jews pre-World War II as being an age of cultural integration, might serve as an example of this paradox. Had a prophet were to warn them of the tragedy that was before them, he would have been dismissed as being “out of touch with reality.”

In context of today’s conflict

Just as with the case of intution, the prophets were able to perceive that which is beyond the sensory world, but could not logically reason their interpretations, whereas the people’s interpretation of reality “made sense”, yet they were ultimately deceived by their limited perspective. In fact, history demonstrates that more often than not, the masses perceived reality inaccurately, or at least incompletely.

Taken within the context of the various struggles facing the Jewish people today, we can assume that while all sides of the political spectrum are convinced their perception of the complexities of our reality possess maximum clarity, as history indicates, they are all likely reading the current story of our people in incomplete paragraphs, or perhaps even skipping entire chapters. Had we the inner gaze of the prophets, what our senses and logic make us view as the “obvious” interpretation of today’s reality would most likely be shattered. Imagine our ability to forward a solution to the conflict had we access to the behind the scenes matrix of our world. Yet we are stuck as being only capable of perceiving our current reality through our limited perceptions.

Prophecy is not an extremely intense intuitive process, it is essentially divine revelation. However, as we peel off the layers of superficial perceptions we’ve adopted from foreign cultures over the centuries, we become able to disassociate prophecy’s paramount goal from the world of fortunetelling and bring it back into its authentic Hebrew definition as the chief interpreter of reality. Haaretz journalists might scrutinize the conflict to bits, Israeli leftist and rightist politicians may claim superiority of vision and Palestinian diplomats may rummage for more proof of the erroneousness of the Jewish narrative, but it is only by taking the words of the prophets back into the soul of our people that we will be able to transcend our subjective perceptions and acquire a holistic multi-dimensional understanding of our current reality. We might be surprised.

[1] Cited in Shinichi Suzuki, 1969. “Nurtured by Love. A New Approach to Education”, p.90.

[2] Cited in Paul Schilpp, 1979, Albert Einstein: Autobiographical Notes

[3] An in-depth analysis of this chapter and the purpose of prophecy can be found is Rabbi Yuval Cherlow’s book “יראה ללבב”

This article was originally published as a blog post at the Times of Israel.

Jews Check the “Other” Box

The age old “struggle” many Jews undergo when marking their ethnicity on application forms is actually one of major significance. But prior to understanding the ramifications of clarifying our identity before the eyes of the world, we must first clarify it to ourselves:

Semites and not white

Jewish origins, identity and history are clearly separate from those of the “white people world”. Our ancient Israelite Kings and heroes, unique ethos and Middle Eastern culture form a distinct Semitic identity, one that our ancestors proudly held on to even though it was so often the source of the discrimination they suffered in Western countries over the last two millennia. Jews seeing themselves as “white people” is a clear expression of a break with our authentic historical self-definitions and represents the intense colonization Jewish identity has undergone in the last couple centuries.

The Western world’s insistence upon classifying Jews as “white” negates the fact that for thousands of years we have self-identified as a tribe of people distinct from the European nations. And truth be told, the idea that if you look a certain way, gain certain privileges or make a certain amount of money, this somehow automatically classifies you as “white” for all intents and purposes (regardless of whether or not this coincides with your authentic identity) is actually a form of cultural imperialism. A truly progressive society should respect the differences among peoples and acknowledge that the real goal must be unity through diversity and thus no one should be required to sell out his identity in order to be socially accepted.

Middle Eastern and not Western

With our origins in Judea, Jewish culture being authentically Middle Eastern and the Hebrew language being a Semitic tongue indigenous to the Levant, the Jewish people are clearly not a Western people. While Israel may be more technologically developed or more democratic than other countries in the region, neither of these components is essential enough to redefine our people’s collective identity for over three millennia. We are clearly neither a byproduct nor a branch of the Western world, but rather our own unique Semitic civilization.

A people and not a religion

Throughout history Jews had always self-identified as members of a distinct tribe with an identity, culture and historical narrative separate from those of the world around them. Only as the result of the Enlightenment movement and the desire of individual Jews to integrate into European society, whatever the cost, did those Jews living in the West begin self-identifying as “white people with a Jewish religion.” When Jews today self-identify as such, what they are essentially saying (even if it’s not what they personally feel) is that they are not really part of the Jewish people but part of America or the European nations, along with their culture, historical narrative and identity, with the only thing distinguishing them from their non-Jewish neighbors being some trivial religious differences.

Why it matters

Many of the major problems Israel faces today are actually a butterfly effect to the dissolution of Jewish identity and its break with our authentic historical self-definitions. White people don’t have a right to a country in the Middle East. The only way the world can accept the presence of a Jewish state in our historic homeland is if Jews are an indigenous people who actually belong in the region. Start-ups and being the first to help in Haiti do not legitimize our presence here. Being indigenous does. And while Jews ARE an indigenous people trying to assert our rights to live in our ancestral lands, we are simultaneously branding ourselves as white. Unfortunately we fail to realize that the more Jewish identity assimilates into Western definitions and surrenders itself to Western social constructs, the further we are reinforcing the anti-Israel accusations depicting Zionists as European colonialists. If we declare ourselves to be white, we have no right to complain when others portray us as invaders. Instead of complaining, we must clarify who we are and that the source of our legitimacy for an independent Israel stands on firm historic and indigenous rights, rather than a need for a shelter-state created in some random swampland for “European” refugees.

Jews are Semites and not whites, Hebrews and not Westerners, Middle Easterners and not Europeans, a people and not a religion. We are indigenous to Judea and to Jerusalem and not to Russia or Kiev. We are the “Other” on application forms that still lack a “Semitic/Middle Eastern” box.

The time has come to both embrace and assert our unique identities rather than falsifying who we are in a counterproductive pursuit for Western approval. It is time to shake off phony perceptions of ourselves and let the world know that Jews are a proud Semitic people indigenous to the Land of Israel.

Check “Other____________.”

This post was originally published here.