Photo Credit: Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90
Israeli soldiers raiding a village near Tulkarm in search of the Barkan terrorist, October 20, 2018.

*Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in a new series of articles from Jewish Press Online contributor, Alex Grobman, PhD  

In an attempt to delegitimize the modern state of Israel, Israel’s enemies seek to deny that Jews have any historical or religious connection to the land of Israel, accuse them of being a colonial state, and that they are not even a people or a religious community, because they do not have a common language, history or ancestry. This is an effort to deny them the right to self-determination, a strategy that involves usurping Jewish traditions, beliefs and historical accounts to invent the past existence of a Palestinian Arab nation and state.


One of the most relentless fabrications, which is why this conflict remains intractable, is that Israel stole Palestinian Arab land, and is thus an occupier of Arab land. Palestinian Arab activist Mazin Qumsiyeh, a professor at Bethlehem University, goes even further in accusing Israel of stealing “most of the land and now control[ing] some 93 percent of the land of Palestine. Before the British invasion and the Balfour Declaration, native and Zionist Jews collectively owned only 2 percent of Palestine.” [1]

The Arab success in framing the Palestinian Arab/Israeli conflict by making Israel the aggressor, has forced Israel to counter the fabrications, defend her actions and even justify her own raison d’être. The problem with this relentless torrent of fabrications is they are repeated in the Palestinian Arab media, in communications of human rights organizations, in the academy, academic and scholarly journals, popular and opinion magazines, newspapers, in social media, and at the UN. This enables Israel’s enemies to portray Jews as interlopers, colonialists and usurpers of Arab lands. Exposing this myth and is a crucial to understanding why peace has eluded the Israelis and Palestinian Arabs.

In this series of essays, we will examine whether Jews are a people, a colonial state, and whether they have a religious and historical connection as well as a legal right to the land of Israel. We will then examine and analyze Arab claims that Israel seized their land. With this perspective, we can better understand how the Arabs have sought to undermine Israel’s right to exist.

Are the Jews a People?

Accusing Jews of not being a people or at least just a little more than a religious community because they do not possess a common language, history or ancestry, is an effort to deny them the right of self-determination and a state of their own.

“The fundamental basis of the principle of national self-determination is the recognition of the right of the group of persons concerned to define for themselves what they are and to decide upon their own fate; it is the denial of the right of others to decide for them and on their behalf” asserted Nathan Feinberg, international jurist and one of Israel’s representatives on the International Court of Arbitration in the Hague. [2]

“It is commonly accepted today,” noted Professor George Scelle, international jurist and member of the UN International Law Commission, “that every collective, united by links of conscious solidarity—of which the members thereof, themselves, are the judges—should be regarded as a people…” With regard to Jews, Scelle, wrote “What characterizes a nation is certainly not race—for there is no longer a pure race; it is a combination of manifestations of conscience solidarity—some of an historical nature, others of an intellectual, religious, social or even emotional nature—which together result in the creation of a collective desire for common life, an organization of solidarity and a permanent relationship…it is this psychological element which constitutes the very essence of nationality.” There “can be no doubt” that all the Jewish communities are “one nation or one people.” [3]

The situation of the Jews is “exceptional,” he noted, due to their dispersion. Though they “lack some of the elements of solidarity” found in other peoples—especially solidarity developed “by living in close geographical proximity.” Still, “their traditions, customs, the persecutions they endured, their religious practices and mystic aspirations are so firmly integrated —certainly more so than in the case of other peoples—for this very reason that they have not assimilated with the political groups in whose midst they have lived or settled.” Paul Fauchille, the French jurist, held the same opinion about the Jews. In discussions about the Balfour Declaration and other Allied and Associated Powers, he stated “The Great War of 1914-1919 brought with it official recognition of the nationhood of yet another persecuted people: namely the Jewish people.” [4]

Jurist Ernest Frankenstein said the recipient of the National Home was not the Jews in Palestine, but the Jewish people, who were newly recognized. Although not actually possessing or residing in Palestine, every Jew throughout the world had the right, but not the obligation to turn toward Palestine. “Every Jew[was]a potential inhabitant of Palestine,” he said. [5]

Aside from many jurists, historians and scholars who “unequivocally endorsed” the existence of the Jewish people, there are international institutions that added their affirmation. On July 24, 1922, the Council of the League of Nations expressly recognized the existence of the Jewish people, its historical link to Palestine and its right to reestablish its ancestral home there. The British Mandate acknowledged the Zionist Organization’s Jewish Agency as the representative of the Jewish people in all issues regarding the reestablishment of the national home. [6]

The judges from the US, France, Britain and the Soviet Union who presided at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany between November 20, 1945 and 1 October 1, 1946, explicitly acknowledged that “atrocities against the Jewish people were committed.” On practically every page of the Nuremberg Trial proceedings, mention is made of the murder of “the Jews” throughout Europe as members of the Jewish people “in the ethnic sense, not the religious sense,” because during the Holocaust even Jews converted to other religions were murdered as Jews along with those who had not left the fold. [7]

The preamble to the 1952 agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany and Israel acknowledged that “unspeakable criminal acts were perpetrated against the Jewish people during the National-Socialist regime of terror.” [8]

The final report of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) on September 3, 1947 stated, “By providing, as one of the main obligations of the Mandatory Power the facilitation of Jewish immigration, it [the League of Nations Mandate] conferred upon the Jews an opportunity, through large-scale immigration, to create eventually a Jewish State with a Jewish majority. Both the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate involved international commitments to the Jewish people as a whole….” [9]

When Winston Churchill was British Secretary of State for the Colonies, he mentioned the term Jewish people when explaining the attitude of the British Government toward the Jewish National Home in a Command Paper in June 1922. “When it is asked what is meant by the development of the Jewish National Home in Palestine, it may be answered that it is not the imposition of a Jewish nationality upon the inhabitants of Palestine as a whole, but the further development of the existing Jewish community, with the assistance of Jews in other parts of the world, in order that it may become a centre in which the Jewish people as a whole may take, on grounds of religion and race, an interest and a pride. But in order that this community should have the best prospect of free development and provide a full opportunity for the Jewish people to display its capacities, it is essential that it should know that it is in Palestine as of right and not on sufferance. That is the reason why it is necessary that the existence of a Jewish National Home in Palestine should be internationally guaranteed, and that it should be formally recognized to rest upon ancient historic connection.” [10]

Feinberg pointed out that in every era, Jews have migrated to Palestine and the existence of the Messianic movements, beginning in the 13th century. The land of Israel played a critical role as a center of spiritual yearning for the Jews, but also of continual aliyot (immigration to the land of Israel) from the diaspora throughout the world. Thousands of Jews settled in Palestine during the six centuries preceding the advent of political Zionism—in order to hasten the Messiah through human initiative—mainly by going on aliyah. They viewed the changing world around them as the conditions the sages described would herald the Messianic Era. [11]

The messianic yearning which generated these waves of immigration, and the belief in the centrality of the land of Israel were an integral part of Jewish tradition. The history of aliya from the 13th thirteenth to the 19th centuries demonstrates the intensity of the Jewish people’s connection to its ancestral homeland, a link that continued into the late 19th and 20th centuries, when modern Zionism emerged. [12]

In a speech in Parliament on November 17, 1919, Lord Arthur Balfour, who held no ill will toward the Arabs, believed that the Jewish claim to Palestine was more compelling: “Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.” [13]

On May 11, 1949 the UN General Assembly voted to admit Israel as a member state, making her the 59th member of the United Nations.


[1] Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, “Palestinians do have options for change and resistance,” Ma’an News Agency (August 10, 2013); Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, Sharing The Land Of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle (‎London: Pluto Press, 2004); Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and Empowerment (London: Pluto Press, 2011);Hussein Abu Hussein and Fiona McKay, Access Denied: Palestinian Access to Land in Israel (New York: Zed Books, 2003); Alexander Safian, “Can Arabs Buy Land in Israel?” Middle East Quarterly (December 1997).

[2] Nathan Feinberg, The Arab-Israel Conflict in International Law (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press of The Hebrew University, 1970), 21.

[3] Feinberg, op.cit.23-24).

[4] Ibid; Allen Z. Hertz, “Aboriginal rights of the Jewish People,” The Times of Israel (February 18, 2014).

[5] Isaiah Friedman, British Pan-Arab Policy, 1915-1922: A Critical Appraisal (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers,2010), 201.

[6] Ibid. 23.

[7] Ibid. 24-25.

[8] Ibid 25-26.

[9] United Nations, Report of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (1947), UN Doc. A/364, paras. 145–153);

[10] “Jewish National Home in Palestine: Hearings Before the Committee on Foreign Affairs 78th Congress Session 2 February 8,9, 15 and 16, 1944.

[11] Arie Morgenstern, Hastening Redemption: Messianism and the Resettlement of the Land of Israel (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.), v-vi, 4, 47-49; Arie Morgenstern “Dispersion and the Longing for Zion, 1240-1840,” Azure (Winter 5762 / 2002), no. 12.

[12] Morgenstern, Hastening Redemption: Messianism and the Resettlement of the Land of Israel, op.cit. 57-61, 66-74, 99-103, 132,206.

[13] Friedman, op.cit. 201.


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Dr. Alex Grobman is the senior resident scholar at the John C. Danforth Society and a member of the Council of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. He has an MA and PhD in contemporary Jewish history from The Hebrew university of Jerusalem. He lives in Jerusalem.