|By A.D. Freudenheim||
21 April 2002
Recently, several people have forwarded the same e-mail to me. Titled "FACTS ON THE ISRAELI CONFLICT TODAY....", this e-mail then contained the following introduction:
Although the author is unidentified beyond the generalized description above, it seems that someone got the idea that by announcing to the world a series of "facts" about Israeli history and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they could provide some implicit justification for Israel's recent (and presumably, also its historical) actions against Palestinians as legitimate forms of self-defense. The e-mail assumes that readers are ignorant of the relevant "facts," and attempts to appeal directly to our sense of fairness and justice. It claims to portray an earnest aspect of Israeli history that, as it says, is "not slanted," and is for Jews and non-Jews alike.
In discussing this e-mail with one of the people who sent it to me, the suggestion was made that an analogy could be drawn between the establishment of the United States and its effect on Native Americans, and the situation that exists between the Israelis and Palestinians. A ludicrous idea? Perhaps; the analogy is clearly not perfect. But viewed from the perspective of conflict resolution, the analogy seems quite relevant: trying to resolve long-standing, complicated, and emotional disagreements between communities of people by "objectively" presenting the "facts" is naive, at best. "Facts" may be implicitly objective, but that does not mean that any attempt to use facts in settling an argument is similarly unbiased.
To make the point, I have taken the 20 original Israeli-Palestinian facts in the e-mail I received and included them here, with 20 new facts about the conflict that exists between Native Americans and non-native settlers. My facts all stem from one simple, known fact: Christopher Columbus arrived here in 1492, beginning the period of European settlement and those settlements' subsequent impact on Native American communities. Not every point equates the same parties - sometimes the Native Americans resemble the Palestinians as much as the Israelis - and I am not an expert in Native American history, so surely someone more knowledgeable than I could add more heft to these arguments. Nonetheless, readers: you decide how relevant they are - or how objective and unbiased was the original e-mail. (Any errors - grammatical or factual - in the original e-mail remain the responsibility of the original author.)
1. Nationhood and Jerusalem. Israel became a nation in 1312 B.C.E., two thousand years before the rise of Islam.
Nationhood and Washington, D.C. The Native American tribes had communities, towns, and in some places (such as Central and South America) even cities - thousands of years before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Some scholars estimate that Native Americans have existed here for more than 25,000 years.
2. Arab refugees in Israel began identifying themselves as part of a Palestinian people in 1967, two decades after the establishment of the modern State of Israel.
Native Americans began calling themselves "Native Americans" only in the last-half of the 20th century - more than 450 years after the arrival of Columbus, and more than 175 years after the formal establishment of the United States of America. Even now, despite this term, they often refer to themselves by the names of their original tribes.
3. Since the Jewish conquest in 1272 B.C.E. the Jews have had dominion over the land for one thousand years with a continuous presence in the land for the past 3,300 years.
Native Americans had dominion over the lands of North and South America for thousands of years before the arrival of Spanish and other European settlers, and have maintained a presence in the land ever since.
4. The only Arab dominion since the conquest in 635 C.E. lasted no more than 22 years.
It took nearly 400
years for European settlers to fully establish dominion over
Native American lands and people from their initial arrival in
Native Americans rejected the imposition of European control over their lives, including the establishment of, or subsequent recognition for, a "capital" established in Washington, D.C.
6. Jerusalem is mentioned over 700 times in Tanach, the Jewish Holy Scriptures. Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran.
Although North America, and the political entity called the United States of America, has been referred to as "the promised land" by legions of Christian settlers, this seems to contradict the Tanach, which is also referred to by Christians - under the name "the Old Testament" - as part of their religious traditions. No entity on the North American continent, including the capital of the United States, Washington, D.C., is mentioned by name in the Christian bible, despite claims by many that the United States is a Christian country. Nor did Native Americans believe in Jesus Christ prior to the arrival of Spanish settlers in 1492.
7. King David founded the city of Jerusalem. Mohammed never came to Jerusalem.
Although arriving Europeans expected Native Americans to respect their authority, and the authority of their political and religious leaders, Native Americans never set sail for Europe or attempted to establish dominion over European communities.
8. Jews pray facing Jerusalem. Muslims pray with their backs toward Jerusalem.
Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in 1492, Native Americans could pray any way they wanted. With the Spanish came (often) forced conversion to Christianity. Most Native American religions involved worship of the earth, the source of food and provisions; Christianity does not.
9. Arab and Jewish Refugees: In 1948 the Arab refugees were encouraged to leave Israel by Arab leaders promising to purge the land of Jews. Sixty-eight percent left without ever seeing an Israeli soldier.
Native American Refugees. Many Native Americans fled the advancing European settlers, and ultimately were forced into reservations, ostensibly to "protect" them from Europeans. Native Americans often submitted to the reservation movement at the behest of their leaders.
10. The Jewish refugees were forced to flee from Arab lands due to Arab brutality, persecution and pogroms.
The Native Americans were forced to flee from their homes by the brutality, persecution, and disease inflicted by the arriving Europeans. Many of the arriving Europeans - and others, subsequently - were themselves fleeing persecution and discrimination at the hands of others.
11. The number of Arab refugees who left Israel in 1948 is estimated to be around 630,000. The number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands is estimated to be the same.
The number of refugees arriving in North America is many times larger than the original population of Native Americans - and most Native Americans had few long-term safe-havens from the arriving European settlers.
12. Arab refugees were INTENTIONALLY not absorbed or integrated into the Arab lands to which they fled, despite the vast Arab territory. Out of the 100,000,000 refugees since World War II, theirs is the only refugee group in the world that has never been absorbed or integrated into their own peoples' lands. Jewish refugees were completely absorbed into Israel, a country no larger than the state of New Jersey.
Although the native peoples of North America were of all different tribes, conquering Europeans paid little attention to the differences between them, forcing them into one ethnically- and religiously-indistinct group: Indians, later Native Americans. Seen as inferior, they were not allowed to fully integrate into the European communities that would ultimately surround and overtake them.
13. The Arab - Israeli Conflict: The Arabs are represented by eight separate nations, not including the Palestinians. There is only one Jewish nation. The Arab nations initiated all five wars and lost. Israel defended itself each time and won.
There were six major Native American cultural areas within North America, encompassing dozens of tribes; they had lived on this land for thousands of years. The Europeans who arrived here beginning in 1492 all had homes - back across the Atlantic, in Spain, Italy, England, and elsewhere. The Native Americans did not ask for war, but were forced to fight for their lives, against an enemy they had neither sought out nor provoked.
14. The P.L.O.'s Charter still calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. Israel has given the Palestinians most of the West Bank land, autonomy under the Palestinian Authority, and has supplied them.
Native American tribes made treaties with the United States government, and were forced to submit to legislation such as the Dawes Act of 1887 and the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934; these laws ostensibly granted Native Americans more rights and more control over their lands, but ultimately facilitated the degradation of tribal landholdings and thus weakened the strengths of the tribes themselves.
15. Under Jordanian rule, Jewish holy sites were desecrated and the Jews were denied access to places of worship. Under Israeli rule, all Muslim and Christian sites have been preserved and made accessible to people of all faiths.
Under the rule of the Native Americans, tribes managed their own lands and holy sites. Under the government of the United States of America, as well as under earlier colonial regimes, Native Americans were herded into new lands and reservations that may - or, frequently, may not - have been near or on their holy tribal lands. White settlers could worship anywhere they wanted; Native Americans were restricted to specific areas.
16. The U.N. Record on Israel and the Arabs: of the 175 Security Council resolutions passed before 1990, 97 were directed against Israel.
There was no United Nations at the time that the Native Americans were fighting European settlers. No external powers took an interest in helping Native Americans.
17. Of the 690 General Assembly resolutions voted on or before 1990, 429 were directed against Israel.
18. The U.N was silent while 58 Jerusalem Synagogues were destroyed by the Jordanians.
19. The U.N. was silent while the Jordanians systematically desecrated the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.
20. The U.N. was silent while the Jordanians enforced an apartheid-like policy of preventing Jews from visiting the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.
These are incredible times. We have to ask what our role should be. What will we tell our grandchildren we did when there was a turning point in Jewish destiny, an opportunity to make a difference? ....recognize and disseminate the facts?
And what will we tell our grandchildren of the troubled Native American peoples, and our 500-year history of oppression and destruction of their way of life?
Copyright 2002, by A.D. Freudenheim.
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