Mutual Recognition of Historic Connection

The Name Eretz-Ard is a reference to the idea that one of the central themes of this proposal and the group that created it was the idea that we are a group of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs who recognize each other as fellow ‘children of the land’, ‘Benei Haaretz’ in Hebrew and ‘Ibna Il-Ard’ in Arabic.

The Israel/Palestine conflict is one of the unique situations in the world. It is the only conflict we can think of where both sides accuse each other of colonialism and at the same time both claim to be the Native population of the land. The Jewish Israeli people claim to be the descendants of the original Judahite and Israelite inhabitants of the land and the Palestinian Arabs also claim to be the descendants of the original inhabitants of the land.

Compare that situation with a case such as New Zealand. In New Zealand, the original native Maori people correctly believed themselves to be the first human population on the Islands and to be of Polynesian origin. The descendants of the British and Dutch colonists correctly identified themselves as such and recognized that they had come from Europe and that the Maori had arrived there first. In New Zealand, there was no conflict of narrative, and ultimately the two peoples were able to form a country together and find a way to live together in dignity and equality even after centuries of colonialism and conflict.

In the Israel-Palestine case not only do both sides think that they are the true natives, but even worse they think that the other side is lying themselves about being native to the land as a sort of excuse to steal the rights to the land. Not only do they each think that the other side is lying about having origins in the land, but they are also denying the origins of the other side to discredit the other side’s claim. In effect, both sides believe the others to be untrustworthy about a very personal subject, their sense of identity.

With this conflict of narrative, it is completely impossible to find peace in any form, as there is no room for trust when you each think that the other side is lying about something so personal. This is why we in the Eretz-Ard group team think that the issue of narrative is one of the central aspects to resolving the conflict to progress. We suggest that the key is to find a common narrative that tells the story of how both the Jewish and Palestinian people are Native to the land of Israel-Palestine. With this principle firmly in place, not only do we think that we could achieve peace here, but to achieve it in ways that most thinkers in this subject would say are impossible.

A Brief History of Israel-Palestine

Numerous archeological and historical sources attest to the presence of the ancestors of both the Israeli Jewish and the Palestinian Arab people in the land of Israel-Palestine for over 2000 years. Israel-Palestine is the birthplace of Judaism, and Christianity and contains the second-oldest Islamic mosque according to tradition. Both the Israeli Jewish people and the Palestinian Arab people have been shown to have a genetic link to each other and the ancient populations in Israel-Palestine from thousands of years ago.

According to the traditional narrative of the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the Jewish and Arab people are the descendants of two brothers, Isaac and Ishmael, the two eldest sons of the patriarch Abraham. These brothers were said to have been born in Israel-Palestine in the city of Hebron approximately 3700 years ago.

The two Hebrew Kingdoms of Israel and Judah existed in the Iron Age Israel-Palestine, during the first half of the first millennium BCE, in the northern parts of Israel-Palestine, including the West Bank, Jerusalem area, northern coastal plain, and Galilee regions. The Capital of Judah was in Jerusalem and the Capital of Israel was in Samaria near today’s Nablus. Both Samaritans and Jews claim descent from the people of Israel and Judah and both have a tradition that at one point both Kingdoms were united under the leadership of Kings David and Solomon who ruled from Jerusalem. 

The oldest confirmed Hebrew inscription goes back to the 10th century BCE found near the Elah Valley in Israel. The oldest mention of the people of Israel is from the Merneptah Stele from 1250 BCE, where then King Merneptah of Egypt boasted of having defeated the Israelites in Canaan. On the same Merneptah Stele is also the first mention of the Philistines from where the name Palestine comes from. The Tel Dan Stele, which dates to the 9th century BCE, shows a historical “House of David”, the name of the traditional royal family of Judah who ruled a kingdom just to the south of the Kingdom of Israel in the 9th century BCE. The Nimrud Tablet, dated to 733 BCE, is the earliest known record of the name “Judah” from where the name of the Jewish people comes. 

The Philistines were originally people from the Greek Aegean who migrated during the 12th Century BCE into the southern coast plain of Israel-Palestine including the region of today’s Gaza Strip as well as the surrounding area. They mixed with the pre-existing local Canaanite cultures to form the unique Philistine culture. Their only known writings were in the language of the Phonecians which is a part of the Canaanite family of languages and is related to and mutually intelligible with Ancient Hebrew. Their largest city was the city of Gat, today’s archeological site of Tell es-Safi which was one of the largest cities in Israel-Palestine during the Iron Age and was later inhabited by Palestinian Arabs up until the war of 1948.

Fig. 35

The Southern Levant, including the Kingdoms of Israel, Judah, and the Philistine City States in the 9th Century BCE. 

The oldest Arabic inscription in the world is found in the deserts of what is now Southern Jordan. The Bayir inscription, as it is called, has been dated to the first half of the first millennium BCE (500-1000 BCE). The earliest mention of the Arab people is the Kurkh Monoliths, the second of which was made in the year 852 BCE and describes King Shalmaneser the Third of Assyria’s battle with a coalition of kingdoms in the Levant which included, among others, King Ahab of Israel and King Gindibu of the Arabs. 

The Qedarites were a large Arab tribal confederation that formed starting in what is now Southern Jordan in the 9th-7th centuries BCE. By the 6th Century, they had expanded into the south of Israel-Palestine, including the Negev desert and Gaza regions. At its height in the 5th Century BCE, it had become a powerful Kingdom stretching from the deserts of modern Western Iraq and northwest Saudi Arabia through modern Jordan to Southern Israel-Palestine and the Sinai Peninsula. It was later absorbed into the Nabatean Arab Kingdom which also had similar boundaries. 

According to both Jewish and Islamic tradition, Nabat and Qedar were the two eldest sons of Ishmael and according to Islamic tradition, the Prophet Muhammad was a descendant of Qedar. As well, many Palestinian Arabs traditionally claim descent from both Nabat and Qedar. 

Fig. 36

The Arab Kingdom of Qedar in the 5th Century BCE

However, even though there is overwhelming evidence for the deep historical connections that both people have with the land and the idea that people on both sides would believe in a common heritage as mutual descendants of Abraham or even of the Ancient Israelites would certainly seem to ease the tension in Israel-Palestine. In the modern history of the conflict, so often both groups only acknowledge their historic connection to the land and try to negate the connection of the other for political reasons.  

The reason that we believe that this recognition is so critical is that both the Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Arab people fundamentally believe themselves to be natives of the land of Israel-Palestine. This belief is so foundational to their sense of self-identity that they often see the denial of this idea as a denial of their very existence.  

Since the foundation of peace is trust and both sides would see anyone who would deny their connection to the land as untrustworthy, any denial of this historic connection will be met with serious hostility. Conversely, we have found that with groups of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, once people from the two sides give this recognition, with this simple act often we can see immediate trust and even admiration start to develop. 

In the context of the three-stage reconciliation progression described in our section on Reconciliation, this concept of Mutual Recognition of Historic Connection moves the two people from the stage of the Cold War to starting to develop a ‘knowledge-based trust’ of one another by accepting how each group legitimately sees themselves as native to the land. This concept also allows some level of leapfrogging over the first two stages and right up to aspects of Warm Peace by creating a type of ‘identity-based trust’. By fitting each other into one’s existing narrative as a ‘Native of the Land’ the other group becomes seen with a greater level of trust and legitimacy. 

What is Indigenous?

Indigenous Peoples: living descendants of pre-invasion inhabitants of lands now dominated by others. They are culturally distinct groups that find themselves engulfed by other settler societies born of forces of empire and conquest“. 

James Anaya, former Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

“Indigenous communities, peoples, and nations are those that, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing in those territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop, and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, following their cultural patterns, social institutions, and legal systems”

Mr. José R. Martínez-Cobo, Special Rapporteur on Discrimination against Indigenous Populations

Are both peoples indigenous? We say yes

Are they: “living descendants of pre-invasion inhabitants of lands now dominated by others?”

Yes, both the Jewish and Palestinian people have roots in the region going back thousands of years

Are they: “culturally distinct groups that find themselves engulfed by other settler societies born of forces of empire and conquest?”

Yes, both groups suffered domination and persecution by outside powers for many centuries, including significant events of ethnic cleansing

Why is it important?

  • There are competing claims that Palestinian Arabs and Jews are indigenous to historic Palestine/the Land of Israel. The argument entered the Israeli–Palestinian conflict in the 1990s, with Palestinians claiming Indigenous status as a pre-existing population displaced by Jewish settlement, and currently constituting a minority in the State of Israel.
  • Israeli Jews have in turn claimed indigeneity based on historic ties to the region and disputed the authenticity of Palestinian claims.
  • In 2007, the Negev Bedouins were officially recognized as Indigenous peoples of Israel by the United Nations.
  • This has been criticized both by scholars associated with the Israeli state, who dispute the Bedouin’s claim to indigeneity, and those on the Palestinian side who argue that recognizing just one group of Palestinians as indigenous risks undermining others’ claims and “fetishizing” nomadic cultures.
  • The argument that each side uses that they are the real indigenous population and the other is not, is a weaponization and politicization of the concept of indigenous used in a propaganda conflict to delegitimize the claim of the other side.
  • Doing this gives each side a false sense of confidence in their side of the conflict that is detrimental to actually resolving it
  • Each side says “My side has been here since time immemorial and we have seen many empires come and go, and we are still here, that this conflict is just one more in a series of episodes where foreigners are trying to take our land and we will prevail now just like we prevailed in the past”

To break this cycle the solution to the conflict must be based on the principle of Mutual Recognition of Historic Connection

Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The 2007 Declaration is structured as a United Nations resolution, with 23 clauses and 46 articles. In most articles, an aspiration for how the State should promote and protect the rights of indigenous people is included:

  • Rights of self-determination of indigenous individuals and peoples 
  • Rights of indigenous individuals and people to protect their culture through practices, languages, education, media, and religion, including control of their intellectual property 
  • Rights of indigenous peoples to their type of governance and economic development 
  • Right to Health
  • Right to protection of subgroups ex. elderly, women, and children 
  • Rights to Land ownership, including reparation, or return of land
  • Right to Preserve their natural environment

What is Mutual Recognition of Historic Connection in the Context of Israel-Palestine?

  • In the spirit of the brotherhood and sisterhood of the children of Abraham, as well as in recognition of the historic connection between the Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Arab people and the land of Israel-Palestine, the Israeli Jewish people, and the Palestinian Arab people will formally recognize the deep and eternal historic, cultural and religious connection that they both share with the land of Israel-Palestine.
  • The Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Arab people will recognize the fact of Israelite, Jewish, Palestinian, and Arab history in the land and commit to an accurate portrayal of this history in their educational and other formal institutions.
  •  The Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Arab people will recognize the connection of both people to all the sacred religious, cultural, and historic sites throughout Israel-Palestine and respect access to all of these sites for both religious and educational purposes for both people.
  • The Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Arab people will recognize that both peoples have deep roots in the land and have both at various points in history been subjected to domination and persecution due to forces of imperialism and conquest. 
  • The Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Arab people will recognize that both people have a right to live in the land and practice self-determination, preserve their culture and heritage in connection to the land, and practice self-governance in the context of their traditional culture following the principles found in the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007)

To learn more about the history of the Jews and Arabs in the Southern Levant and how they both have a Historic Connection the the region check out our slide presentation on the subject.

For academic sources for the above presentation please click here

Presentation on the History and Genetics of the Jews and Arabs of the Southern Levant