This piece was written by CAMERA Fellow Daniel Narvy and first published in the New University on May 13th. Daniel Narvy is a junior majoring in Political Science and a frequent writer for NewUniversity.org. For more of his writings, click here.
Israel has been a focal point on campus for the past two weeks. The past two weeks have painted two visions of Israel, two different perspectives on the Middle East, and two very different interpretations on the Israeli-Arab conflict. I think this issue on campus boils down to a very simple question: do the Jewish people have a right to a state in their ancestral homeland? One very bigoted side says no, and the other side says the Jewish people have the right to self-determination, the same way any other people have the right to self-determination.
Last week on campus, the MSU sponsored an event which they call “Anti-Zionism Week.” What is anti-Zionism? At its very simplest definition, Zionism is the national liberation movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland, the land of Israel. Basically, it is the belief that the Jewish people have a right to their own nation-state like every other peoplehood. It is the movement for the Jews to regain sovereignty over their indigenous homeland, the homeland they have maintained a continuous presence in for 3300 years.
Anti-Zionism is going against this movement, using a double standard to deprive the Jews of a homeland. As Martin Luther King Jr. once famously said, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You are talking anti-Semitism.” Why do many want to deprive the Jewish nation of a homeland?
I think this question can be traced back to the origins of the words “Jew” and “Palestinian.” Where does the word Jew come from? It is fundamental to note that the Jewish people are a nation who happen to have the common religion of Judaism. A Jew is not a Jew because he practices Judaism, rather, he is a Jew because his ancestors are Jewish. The origin of the word Jew (ye-hu-dee in Hebrew) comes from the Judea (Ye-hu-dah). Where exactly is Judea/Yehuda? The hills south of Jerusalem, part of the West Bank of the Jordan River, one of the areas anti-Israel activists are trying to claim never had a Jewish presence. Only one period in the past 3000 years have the Jews not lived in Judea; the period from 1949-1967 when the land was illegally occupied by the Jordanians and Jews were removed from the area.
Where does the word Palestinian come from? The Jews had sovereignty over the borders of modern day Israel from 1000-586 B.C.E with the first Jewish kingdom. The second Jewish Kingdom was 538-63 B.C.E. Upon the destruction of the Jewish Kingdom by the Romans in the year 70 A.D, the Romans named Judea “Palaestina” to erase the Jewish connection to the land. Palaestina was named after the ancient Philistines, the enemy of the Jewish nation thousands of years ago. The Philistines are an extinct nation and have zero connection to the modern Palestinian people.
Now, this is not the rhetoric told at UC Irvine, so let me use a modern linguistic example to illustrate my point. There is a city in Hebrew called Shchem, and in Arabic it is called Nabulus. Israelis refer to it as Shchem because that was the original name used in the Jewish Bible, and has been used for over 3500 years. Palestinians call the city Nabulus. The Jewish origin traces back to the Bible, whereas the Arabic origin traces back to the Roman conquest of Israel. The Romans renamed the city after the famous city of Naples. In Arabic, the “p” sound is a “b”, thus Naples evolved into Nabulus.
Another great example in the question of who is indigenous is the evidence left around the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount, a fundamental place in the 3 Abrahamic religions, was built by the Jews. Two Temples, Jewish holy sites, were build there by the Jews. Only after the second Jewish exile by the Romans did Christian holy sites start appearing, and well after that did Islamic holy sites exist. This is not a religious proof for the Jews, rather, it is a historic fact at the most basic level that the Jews were in Israel long before other nations.
Getting back to the original question, do the Jewish people have a right to their homeland? I would argue the following points: the Jewish people have maintained a continuous presence in their indigenous homeland of Israel for over 3300 years. The Jews revived a dead language, wear some of the same cultural clothing, and celebrate the same holidays. Walking down the streets of Israel, I could see Jewish history from every period for well over the past 3000 years. The Jews are indigenous, are an organic and authentic part of the Middle East, and the re-creation of the Jewish state of Israel in 1948 was not an act of colonization or imperialism, but rather the rightful owners of the area returning home.