“There are many parallels to draw between the experience of Black Americans and Palestinians living under oppressive conditions. Both communities experience systematic inequality” write Haaretz.
Is that so?
According to the CIA.gov world Facebook (1), Gaza 2019 GDP per capita was $6,220. Yes, Israel’s GDP is $43,589 and that’s looks like a hell of an inequality of income. But comparing Gaza to Israel, at least in regard of economic inequality, make no sense. Black American GDP per capita is $ 23,000 (2), and Mexico is only $ 9,863. Would you find the comparison acceptable? Of course not, it doesn’t make any sense. Nor is the comparison between Gaza and Israel. Gaza is as far from Israel than Mexico is from Afro-Americans in term of infrastructure, socio-economics, education, culture and work environment.
To compare inequality, we must compare how two different groups are doing in the same environment – Blacks in America to White in America, not to Blacks in Mauritania, and Arabs in Gaza to Arabs in Egypt or Jordan, not to Jews or Arabs in Israel or New York. Egyptian Arabs GDP is $11,763. Jordan’s $4,405. At $6,220, Palestinians from Gaza fall in the middle: no inequality here.
Are Native Americans comparable to Native in Palestine, ie the Bedouins, in the sense that Jews stole the land of the Bedouins the same way American stole Indian land?
Let’s take a closer look.
Pro-Palestinian activists and BLM claim that there is a similarity between the situation faced by the American Indians over a century ago as a result of American colonization of their land and the situation which exists today in the state of Israel as a result of Israeli occupation of what was formerly Palestinian territory.
They tell us that when you have a massive immigration of one population into a region occupied by another population, such as happened with European immigration into North America and the later American migration westward, you are going to have a massive relocation and disenfranchisement of the indigenous peoples of that region.
What we need to look at first is the international recognized definition of indigenous people, also called native.
According to the UN definition (3) Indigenous peoples are “inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures…They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live,” and “Indigenous peoples have sought recognition of their identities, way of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources…”
Indigenes are descendants of the people who were first in a particular territory. They have lived on the land “from time immemorial”‚Äî thousands, and even tens of thousands of years. The Australian aborigines, for example, have lived in their territory for anywhere between 40,000 and 60,000 years while Native Americans claim a history of thousands of years.
North America’s Indian are arguably Indigenous populations. They were removed from their traditional hunting and gathering territories that they‚Äôve known, literally for thousands of years prior to the introduction of private property, as if they had no right to be there in the first place.
Native Americans were once peoples who occupied vast territories throughout what is today the U.S. and Canada. Not anymore. They now are among the poorest people.
Native Palestinians are the Bedouins. Like the Indians, they are a minority. Like the Indians, they are the poorest. And like the Indians, they are “inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures” and they have “retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live”.
That is where the comparison stops. This is where the similarities end, at a fundamental point: the land.
In some areas, when the colonists arrived from Europe, they did steal some Native American land, though it is murky in other areas.
This is why Palestinian situation is not similar to that of the “First Nation”, the original inhabitants of America.
In Israel, explained Havatzelet Yahel, Ruth Kark, and Seth J. Frantzman in an academic piece published in 2012 (4), “the indigenousness claim has been raised over the past few years by the country’s Bedouin citizens, a formerly nomadic, Arabic-speaking group centered in the southern arid part of the country, the Negev. They argue that Israel denies their basic indigenous rights such as maintaining their traditions and owning their own lands.”
The Bedouin of Israel’s Negev claim that Israel is like other colonialist regimes: they stole their land, dominated their territory, refused to admit their lengthy presence in their native land, and denied their rights.
Their argument doesn’t hold waters:
- To begin with, the Bedouin are by no means the only people who can claim to be “first people” in Palestine. Jewish presence in the land predates Arab presence there by millennia.
- Moreover, countless other groups have lived in Palestine way before them, since antiquity (Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Idumeans, Samaritans, Nabateans, Romans, Christians, Ottomans…)
- The Jews are the only nation that can claim an uninterrupted presence on the Palestinian land. It started from biblical times to date.
- Three millennia ago, a kingdom of Israel was established in the landmass from the Negev in the south to the Golan Heights in the north, making the Jews the real Native people, not the Bedouins.
- Then, regarding territories, what characterizes the Bedouin is their relationship to the tribe, rather than to a specific place or territory (5).
- And regarding to their “lengthy presence”, most of them arrived during the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, from the deserts of Arabia, Transjordan, Sinai, and Egypt (6) in the wake of Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt and Palestine in 1798-99 and subsequent Egyptian rule under Muhammad Ali and his son Ibrahim Pasha (r. 1831-41).
- Ottoman tax registers demonstrate that the tribes which lived in the Negev in 1596-97 are not those residing there today: they cannot claim, as the native Indian do, to have live in Palestine from immemorial times (7). I mean, unless they have a memory problem. The Jews can.
- Even Clinton Bailey, a scholar of Bedouin culture, could not find any evidence in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries of the continuity or existence of Bedouin tribes, which later lived in the Negev in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (8).
- The Bedouins themselves stole the land from other people. Their foothold in the Negev was achieved through armed intertribal struggles as well as raids on established Arab settlements that caused the latter’s to run away or die (9).
And regarding to their more recent claim for land ownership, The Ottoman law – that still apply since it wasn’t canceled by Israeli law after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, have decreed that the lands they claim were never allocated for private use, and that they are of the category of mewat (defined by the Ottoman land law as the area of waste land that lies beyond the carry of the human voice when uttered from the nearest habitation). For the Ottoman law, it is public land and cannot be assigned as privately owned.
Their claim of ownership over the land are nothing more than conspiracy theories. Because a bunch of White people and a bunch of Jews traveled from Europe, the first one to America, the other group to Palestine ; because both the Native Indian and the Bedouins are a minority ; and the two groups maintains their old tradition, separate and different from the majority, and because they both are very poor, doesn’t allow to project and equate their condition more than the tribes in the Andaman Islands off the coast of India.
(5) Clinton Bailey, Ha-Beduim (Sede-Boqer: Midreshet Sede-Boqer, 1969), pp. 1, 6.
(6) Moshe Sharon, “Ha-Beduim Be-Eretz Yisrael Bameot Ha-Shmone Esre Ve-Ha-Tsha-Esre,” M.A. thesis, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1964, pp. 21-4.
(7) Wolf-Dieter H√ºtteroth and Kamal Abdulfattah, Historical Geography of Palestine, Transjordan and Southern Syria in the Late 16th Century (Erlangen: Palm and Enke, 1977), p. 3.
(8) Clinton Bailey, “Dating the Arrival of the Bedouin Tribes in Sinai and the Negev,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 28 (1980): 21-4; idem, “The Negev in the 19th Century,” Asian and African Studies, 14 (1980): 42, 45.
(9) Sharon, “Ha-Beduim Be-Eretz Yisrael,” p. 49; Joseph Ben-David, “Od Al Ha-Konflict Ha-Karkai bein Beduei Ha-Negev Levain Ha-Medina,” Karka 44 (1998): 64; Emanuel Marx, Ha-Hevra Ha-Beduit Ba-Negev (Tel Aviv: Reshafim, 1974), p. 15; Emanuel Marx, Bedouin of the Negev (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1967), p. 7.