Center for World Indigenous Studies
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Indigenous Israelis and Palestinians

Published: September 27, 2014, Author: Rÿser Rudolph C.

Locked in a seemingly endless embrace of self-destruction we find the cousin-nations of Palestine and Israel “driven by memory, trauma, and political identity and existential issues” observed Aaron David Miller of the Woodrow Wilson Center.

While each of these nations challenges the cultural and political legitimacy of the other serious scholarship informs us that both the Palestinians and the Israelis are indigenous to the territories that was once known as Canaan. The Palestinians are indigenous peoples and the Israelis are indigenous peoples. When one strips away all of the United Nations, British, American, Iranian, Saudi, Egyptian and Syrian dubious political-speak, in the end we must recognize that the original peoples of Canaan from as far back in time as more than 3,200 years are of the same family–they are cousins: Fourth World naitons. They are both indigenous peoples and they both have the original right to the lands on which they stand. As with the histories of so many of the world’s more than 6000 indigenous nations the Palestinians and the Israelis have suffered from the self-interested meddling and external interventions by the Egyptians, Romans, European crusaders, and the Ottoman Empire as well as the British, Americans and the European Union to name a few. It would seem now exhaustion best describes all concerned after repeated battles that the time has arrived for the Palestinians and the Israelis to recognize the indigenous origins of each other. In this simple decision may be the beginnings of a peace solution to the modern conflict.

Martin Edwin Andersen writes a very sensible observation in his essay Pyrrhic victories and glass houses: the Palestinians, the Jewish State of Israel, and the Wobbly Ceasefire: “Settling, once and for all the question about who is ‘indigenous’ to the lands of Israel and the Occupied Territories would help put the two-state option currently on life support on much firmer ground.  The seemingly unending twin problems posed by Hamas and by illegal Israeli settlers are firmly rooted in erroneous assumptions that one people or the other, but not both, are indigenous to the Holy Land.” Well, it is true that contemporary political and a-historical discourse tends to ignore the importance of the indigenous character of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples. It is perhaps in the recently published World Conference on Indigenous Peoples Outcome Document (22 September Resolution A/69/l.1) pledging states to respect indigenous rights receiving “resounding support” that rests new ideas and possibilities for bringing piece to Canaan. Before examining the World Conference implications for Israel and Palestine let’s pause for a moment to examine the familial relationship between these two indigenous nations.

Spanish immunologist Antonio Arnaiz-Villena, et al offer in their article reporting genetic confirmation of the familial relationship between Palestinians and Israelis incontrovertible evidence that we are watching a family feud between indigenous peoples. (See: The Origin of Palestinians and their Genetic Relatedness with other Mediterranean Populations in Human Immunology 62, 889-900 (2001) American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics, Elsevier Science, Inc.) Given this evidence these indigenous nations have much to learn from each other and this is no less true in the practice of diplomacy.

Strip away for the moment the question of statehood for Palestinians or Israelis. This is a red herring that obstructs the view necessary to consider realistic options. First and foremost these are nations without need for state or other nations’ recognition. Each nation simply exists as an existential reality. The central question is do the Palestinians and the Israelis have an original right to occupy and use the lands along that strip on the eastern Mediterranean? Given Arnaiz-Villeria and his colleagues’ genetic and historical evidence say the answer is yes–both have that right. Since boundaries were traced around the lands of Canaan by European powers it would help if the original territorial descriptions were better known even at the expense of Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Syria–for purposes of our discussion. Since the genetic distance between Palestinians and Ashkenazi Jews is so small as to be microscopic (1.61 for the Ashkenazi Jews while San in the Kalahari is 10.55 for example). Amaiz-Villeria et al conclusions point clearly to a common ancient Canaanite origin of Palestinians and Israelis.

My dear friend and colleague Bernard Nietschmann (1942-2000) said to me in 1982 with no particular surprise, “… the Israelis and Palestinians are cousins…they are in the same family so there must be a Fourth World solution to their struggles with each other.” We were working in those days on understanding how best to explain Fourth World Theory and Fourth World Geopolitics to a world that barely understood that there were indigenous peoples in the world. We agreed that lessons for the Palestinians and Israelis  to solve their fight over land and place must be drawn from Fourth World nations’ experiences. Indeed, we repeatedly noticed that when Fourth World nations applied tried and true diplomatic lessons based on pre-state interventions they found solutions to their troubles with minimal violence; if any violence at all. The Haudenosaune Great Law and the experiences of the Mayan city-states before their breakdown offer, so we reasoned, strong and tested diplomatic knowledge and practices that will suit the conflict better than the state-centric solutions offered by the United Nations and the various intervening outside states (read: Britain, United States, European Union, etc.)

In my article The WCIP and Political Equality between Nations and States in Intercontinental Cry I call attention to the Haudenosaune principles of diplomacy between nations:

In my Oneida Grandfathers’ (Corandawana (1670 – 1729) and Sattellihu (1710 – 1774)) days of diplomacy the Haudenosaunee intellectual tradition affirmed that nations must maintain a balance between their own needs and the capacity of nature to reproduce abundance to ensure life for the seven generations. Haudenosaunee diplomatic thinking reflects this idea. Based in the Great Law the Haudenosaunee, Abenaki, Lenape, Shawnee, Wyandot and Anishinabek among many other nations observed three basic principles of diplomacy: Gáiwoh (righteousness), Skénon (health), and Gashasdénshaa (power). These are applied in direct dialogue and negotiations.The first principle of Gáiwoh when practiced properly requires that human beings in society and between nations be just and their relations must be balanced and just. The second principle of Skénon requires a soundness of mind and body and the establishment of peace (becoming one heart, one heart, one body and becoming one people). Finally, the third principle of Gashasdénshaa affirms the centrality of law and custom backed by such force as is found to be necessary to ensure that Gáiwoh prevails. This is the highest and most practical form of diplomacy and means to bring about political equality.

These principles of diplomacy can be offered to the Palestinians and the Israelis as a sound means to achieve political equality based in their indigenous origins. The Special Rapporteur to the UN Submcommission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, Martinez-Cobo provides a working description of indigenous nations:

“those which, 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 … 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, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal systems.”

Such a description works fairly well to help understand the 1.3 billion indigenous people who make up the 6000 Fourth World nations among whom we find the Palestinians and the Israelis.

The World Conference on Indigenous Peoples Outcome Document when read in context of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the body of international law offers an opening to resolve the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. This is particularly obvious when the state system steps back, stops meddling and attempting to mold Palestine and Israel into the form of the already failed state system. This possibility arises with the commitment in the Outcome Document of all (except one state–Canada) 193 UN Member states to accept the principle that indigenous nations must have the right of free, prior and informed consent to prevent states from imposing their will on indigenous nations. This is essentially a formula for political equality between Fourth World nations and between nations and states–an formula for democratic dialogue and negotiations.

In summary, Fourth World nations including the Palestinians and the Israelis must first recognize the indigenous origins of each other, consider applying the three principles of diplomacy from the Haudenosaunee Great Law (Gáiwoh (righteousness), Skénon (health), and Gashasdénshaa (power)) and  consider that their drive for statehood is an obstacle to their achievement of a common goal and must be set aside for a later discussion. Political equality and coexistence between indigenous nations must first be established.

Chief George Manuel Memorial Indigenous Library

The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.

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