Over the years I have written about the topic of ‘Indigenous Rights’ more times than I would have liked. Personally, I prefer root canal than writing about this obnoxious subject.
In the beginning I tackled the subject at the behest of a colleague who correctly foresaw the dangers of Jews subscribing to this new-age concept. As I have shown in the past, the ideas behind the notion of “indigenous rights” are offensive and contrary to Torah sensibilities. And there are too many Jewish parrots on the scene today, using this term in the pursuit of Israeli advocacy. It does not help Israel.
You can find those earlier articles here, here, and here. (I also wrote several articles addressing peripheral issues related to the topic.) For the most part, those articles were sufficient (in my opinion) to expose the silliness of indigenous rights. And yet sometimes one must step in the mire once again because the wagon is entrenched in the mud.
The trigger for this latest article was an incident from several months back, where the absurdity of indigenous ideology was on full display. (Incidentally, I am penning this article on “Columbus Day”.) Additionally, it also happens to be the week we begin the yearly cycle of Torah reading starting with Genesis. The first verse says it all:
In the beginning God created heaven and earth. (JPS as cited on Machon Mamre)
As the great biblical and Talmudic commentator Rashi notes, embedded within this first biblical verse is the answer to the anti-Semites of the world who would accuse us of stealing land from the Canaanites. We are given the only retort we need to give. Hashem gave it to us.
You will note that Rashi did NOT say:
- We are indigenous and this is our indigenous homeland
- We are the only surviving indigenous inhabitants
- We have the most blood quantum
- we are the closest to the Canaanites.”
Our sole answer is that G-d gave it to us.
The term “indigenous rights” is not only problematic-it is obnoxious. It belongs in the pseudoscience dustbin along with phrases like CIS-gender, the patriarchy, toxic masculinity, and “systemic racism”. It belongs with the maddening new slew of “PC Pronouns” designed by the mentally and morally feeble who suddenly discovered 100 genders in 2020. These and similar “woke” word salads mean nothing and only serve to divide people on the things that matter least.
When we speak of indigenous rights, we have yet another example of traditional values clashing with liberal mores. The theory of indigenous rights belongs in the same category with phrenology and eugenics. It is multicultural racism personified and it is antithetical to Torah.
I noted that the trigger for my latest article was a tweet that triggered. (It was in fact a tweet from a Twit who managed to upset a lot of people.) It started on July 7, 2020, with a tweet from Rabbi Andy Kahn, a reform rabbi from Temple Emanuel in New York. He triggered many Jews on social media when he tweeted out that Jews are not “indigenous” to Israel. In his own words:
“Let me say this as plainly as possible: Jews are not an indigenous people. It is appropriative (sic) to make use of this word when referring to our relationship to the land of Israel, and it undermines the difficult work being done to fix the ongoing oppression of indigenous peoples.”
He was immediately excoriated by an army of neurotics who treated him as if he were the reincarnation of Spinoza. The commonality is that much like Spinoza, this reform rabbi is a heretic. The difference is that it was not his general heresies which offended their Jewish sensibilities.
They were bothered that he rejected the notion of Jewish indigeneity to Israel, which has become a kind of modern-day Baal for many Jews. The response of many religious, politically conservative minded Jews was particularly amusing since they lambasted the rabbi for ‘his ‘leftist anti-Israel beliefs’. As they saw it, his refusal to apply the term indigenous to Jews was indicative of his leftist self-hatred.
What absurdity. Indigenous rights epitomize liberalism, a belief system which fixates on absurd notions of race, ethnicity, and even of “blood”. It is a pillar of the multicultural, race-obsessed left. There is nothing remotely conservative or traditional about the imagined concept of indigenous rights. It is about as conservative as a belief in “gender fluidity” and “abortion on demand”.
This rabbi is surely a self-hating leftist, but on one point he was correct. Jews are not indigenous to Israel. Yet neither are other people. The concept of indigenous rights, (regardless of which one of the ever-changing, arbitrarily applied interpretations one applies) is a creation of liberal sociology. Jewish advocates often speak about the U.N.’s “definition” of the term which shows how little they know. For purely political reasons and the nightmare it would create, the UN has no officially recognized definition.
Instead, the UN refers to a checklist to identity characteristics of indigenous people. Jews love to cherry pick what criteria they like from the list and what they do not. Simpletons on the Hasbara scene have created systems to explain indigenous rights.
I’ve borrowed the motif and created a-checklist of my own that I call “The Five Pillar Model To Explain the Magical Belief In Indigenous Ideation”: These are five characteristics necessary for belief in what many argue is an irrational theory. Not all the criteria are requirements, but at least one is necessary for one to subscribe to the theory. There is considerable overlap between terms. The following criteria are necessary: Magical Thinking, Ignorance, Racism, Belligerence, non-intellectualism. For ease of use, we can call it MIRBN.
- Magical Thinking– Advocates for indigenous rights are not rationalists interested in testable theories or consistency. They are usually highly emotional people with a need to adopt an amorphous system of beliefs to give meaning to their lives. This vague poorly defined theory appeals to people who harbor a mystical, magical, belief system grounded in Lalaland thinking rather than concrete realities. Arguments are usually new age musings about “feeling indigenous” and less about reality. It is mysticism personified. The only thing more cringy and cloying than the contrived slogans are the people who utter them. “You are the land and the land is you.”
- Ignorance-to subscribe to the theory is to deny history, science, biology, archeology, reality. From a historical perspective conquest and migration has always been the story of human history. Many people deemed indigenous conquered other people long ago.
For a Jew or other faith member who believes in the Divinity of The Old Testament, it requires denial of fundamental religious truths and our only true Jewish claim to the land. We conquered the Canaanites, and I make no apologies for that. We did a poor job but archeological destruction layers at Hatzor and other locations confirm that at least on some days we followed G-d’s will.
*Ironically, by their own standards Americans whose descendants displaced native Americans can logically claim indigeneity to the United States, based upon UN criteria. The recognition of indigenous as understood by liberals can easily be applied to many people in America, certainly among distinct groups of people who retain a unique identity. In truth, groups with far less history or contributions have applied it to themselves, including people of mixed heritage whose religion, culture, and contribution are more European than native populations they amalgamated with.
Can conquerors become indigenous? One non-Jewish “advocate” has flip-flopped on this issue for many years to the point that his positions are no longer taken seriously. Several years back he argued that conquest precludes one from ever become indigenous. After being taught non-Jewish and Jewish history (with many examples of supposed indigenous people conquering other indigenous people) by his detractors, he subsequently altered his view and claimed that conquerors can become indigenous, but added that conquest alone doesn’t make one indigenous.
Even one with the IQ of a cucumber understands that “indigenous” people have slaughtered and conquered each other since the day man picked up a rock and bashed his neighbor’s skull in to appropriate his land. And every conqueror on earth has embraced “the conqueror’s mantle”, including the Maori and the Lakota.
In any event, ignorance of basic history and selective use of history is endemic to activists of this sort, regardless of which side of the aisle they are coming from.
- Racism- There is an unsettling fixation with ethnicity and blood quantum among indigenous rights activists. It is thoroughly un-Jewish. Neither of these terms have anything to do with Torah. Blood quantum is the language of bigots, regardless if it is applied by white Europeans or “red” Indians. Our claim to Israel is solely based upon a Divine promise. There is no such thing as Jewish ethnicity.
“Jewish” genetics (real or imagined) do not have any bearing on whether one is Jewish. It is the maternal link alone, or halachic conversion that decides if one is Jewish. Dark Jews who celebrate their skins color are as offensive as one who would celebrate his white skin. Light skinned Jews who go off how “Jews are not white” are playing the same self-loathing racist game as light skinned leftist Jews who decry their white privilege. Neither of them understands Judaism where skin color is about as relevant as the color of your hair.
- Belligerence– Vocal advocates of the argument for Jewish indigenous rights are notoriously belligerent. They frequently react with insult in the form of slander and defamation rather than debate. One need only read the many comments on social media from those who cannot respond with an intellectual counterpoint. This is well documented. I want to exclude groups like LAVI who in my opinion are wrong about indigenous rights, but who have nevertheless remained civil over the years.
- Non-intellectual- Indigenous rights activists are not intellectuals. The whole theory is based upon moral relativism, untestable theories, and subjectivity. It is not science. Its leftist pseudo-science. Indigenous ideation is the stuff of a woke culture, which denies the life of a baby in the womb but believes in hundreds of genders. It is disseminated by those who lack the tools of intellectual methodology or refuse to use them. I am not saying they are stupid. They simply refuse to use the scientific method. And they often step into the murk of racial tribalism by resorting to a motif which includes blood quantum as a criteria.
Conclusion: The reform rabbi is a self-loathing fraud but Jews arguing for indigeneity are swimming in the very same muddy waters of liberalism. Ironic that people who excoriate and whine about white European colonialism, are expressing the beliefs of a byproduct of European colonialism. Indigenous rights activists are a western liberal backlash to imagined and perceived sins. The answer for them is to teach Marxist beliefs to the natives, and to play the game of tribalism.
Despite absurd claims of shared kinship, we Jews have no shared bond with American Indians or any native people of the world, save for the unifying feature among all societies of having engaged in conquests at different points in history. The only difference is that the One True God commanded us to do so. (Their claims of a similar Divine mandate are of zero interest to me.)
Neither do supposed indigenous people have kinship with one another, since long before Europeans set eyes on foreign soils, warring tribes slaughtered one another. When Europeans arrived, the tribes often united with them to wage war with one another.
There have been tribes that were wiped out entirely by other tribes. I am not aware of one Native American tribe that was exterminated by those who came from Europe. This is not to say that they did not do terrible things to them. Yet barbarism was an equal opportunist. From a perspective of values and contributions, we Jews have nothing in common with the Maori who butchered and exterminated the pacifist Mariori, or the Lakota who stole land from the Cheyenne and then called the newly conquered lands their sacred places. Again, the only similarity is that the Torah records our mandate to destroy the 7 Nations.
Nor did we both experience a Holocaust. The lie of a Native American genocide is a popular one. Many Indians were killed due to European incursion and subsequent clashes, but they were dying off from disease long before most Europeans even arrived in America. They were not equipped for the Old-World germs. As an aside, the oft-mentioned myth that colonizers deliberately infected Indians with small-pox blankets has zero basis in history.
In Judaism, shedding blood is never ideal. Yet the destruction of the thoroughly corrupted in society is sometimes necessary, as we see in the mandate to destroy Amalek. Authentic Abrahamic ideals are far from those of primitive, pagan societies who tortured, butchered, and sometimes ate one another.
Some Thoughts to Ponder
- Why are colonizers of a darker hue given a pass for atrocities against other dark-skinned people? All people engaged in conquest of areas. Why the selective moral outrage?
- Does skin color give one a pass? What about non-white Empires throughout the ages who trampled upon the earth and caused devastation?
- Didn’t the Egyptians, Assyrians Babylonians, and Mongols do it as well as any European Empire? What about the Ottomans?
The New Discovery! “Jewish Indigenous Rights!
It is hilarious to see aging Jewish baby boomers suddenly whine about indigenous rights today. Until about eight years ago they never even heard the term, unless it happened on campus in their youth, when they likely would have mocked it as a typical expression of 1960’s campus radicalism. Strange that they needed to grow old to become woke.
One fool recently commented on the “rabbi’s” article that ‘’everyone has always known that Jews are indigenous’. Nonsense. For the bulk of their lives, they had no such concept of this leftist theory popularized by a UN sociologist. It was only after social media became a prime vehicle for Hasbara that the idea took root. It is ironic that many hasbarites are anti UN (correctly so!) yet they celebrate the made-up theory of a UN scholar. And then arbitrarily apply it!
The theory of indigenous rights is often perpetuated by neurotic Jews who suffer from a complex related to their perceived “whiteness”. Many are ashamed of being “Ashkenazi”, and some even go as far to denigrate their own heritage as less authentic, or to mock Ashkenazi Jews in general. This tendency to throw it back with equal ugliness is sometimes seen among activists in Sephardi/Mizrachi circles who react with the mirror reaction of the worst discrimination they suffered over the years from segments of European elitists.
In the past, Hasbara (much to their detriment) used uneducated non-jewish tokens to give credibility to this flawed and unJewish ideation, often from those people who do not even represent their own people or have any credibility with other non-Jewish indigenous groups. On many occasions, these people have become discredited.
On some occasions, evangelical messianic native-Americans have connected with Jews, which only adds fuel to an already dangerous fire. As my colleague predicted years ago evangelicals will use the motif to apply indigenous rights to imagined lost tribe people, or by arguing for spiritual indigenous ideation as an added layer to replacement/restoration theology.
It is interesting to note that as of 2020 there are still no serious intellectual voices on the mainstream scene capable of making a cogent argument in defense of indigenous beliefs. Some of the most boisterous proponents cannot even reconcile their own histories of contradictory statements and beliefs.
Rare are the voices that do not resort to childish name-calling, slander, or libel as a scripted response to fair questions. There is not one academic or even polemical work on the scene which makes an impressive case to explain a made-up theory. If I am wrong and there is such a work, send me the book and I will honestly review it.
Jews have historical connections to the land which predate any contemporary people on earth. Of that there is no doubt, but our sole claim to the land is solely that it was given to us by G-d.
The very first Rashi in the book of Genesis makes this clear. It is a devastating hammer to the idea of indigenous rights. G-d made the world and He can give it to whom He deems fit.
Blood quantum and cultural genesis have nothing to do with our right. We are not an ethnographic-tribal people. Ethnicity in Judaism is about as important as the difference between people who are blessed with good arches and those who suffer from the limitations of flat feet. Ethnicity does not decide if one is Jewish.
Indigenous rights require one to wallow in the mire of stupidity, ignorance, and an ideation contrary to Torah values. Our ancestors never spoke of indigenous rights. There was never such a concept. Native people never had such a notion, since their claims were like those made by all people throughout history. Claims of Divine right.
Above all they understood conquest, sometimes as victor and sometimes as victim. They took what they wanted from other indigenous people, who seized it from previous inhabitants. And when they ultimately failed in the US it was only because they lacked the power.
If Jews insist on playing these stupid games, they will reap the painful rewards of these games. No one is impressed by indigenous claims except for leftists and foolish Jews who think it will give them street credential with progressives. It will not.
A Can of Worms
One reason politicians in Israel are reticent to engage in this arena is that indigenous rights would immediately be sought by Druze, Bedouins, Samaritans, not to mention a resurgence of “Palestinians” seeking to have this label legally applied. They have tried it before with imagined connections to ancient long destroyed pagans. Israel would be wise to avoid this trap. It will be to our own detriment.
Our patriarch Abraham came from UR. God promised that his descendants would inherit Canaan from the indigenous Canaanites. We became a nation outside of Israel, and our identity was strengthened and developed through two thousand years of exile because of Torah.
Of course, our full actualization can only occur in Israel with the return of the Davidic monarchy and the rebuilding of our Temple. But only because God declares it to be so. And not because of some modern absurd notion that was concocted in the bowels of liberal sociology, by Godless and silly men with post-colonial complexes.