J Street says Jews not indigenous to Israel

It would seem to be a fairly basic principle for a pro-Israel organization to accept: that the Jewish people is an indigenous nation to the Land of Israel.


Not so for J Street and several other self-defined “liberal Zionist” organizations.


At the World Zionist Congress last week, a proposal entitled “Recognition of the Jewish People as Indigenous to the Land of Israel” was proposed by LAVI, a relatively small but active group of newcomers to the World Zionist Organization’s legislative body that ran in the elections to the congress last year as part of the Alliance for New Zionist Vision (ANZV).


While it seemed to be stating the obvious, the authors of the bill emphasized that expressing the principle of Jewish indigenous status in such clear terms was necessary to “answer… the core anti-Israel accusation that Jews are foreign colonialists in the country and instead affirms that the Jewish people have indigenous rights to live in their ancestral home.”


But instead of receiving the unanimous support one might expect, the proposal faced dogged and determined opposition from J Street and other liberal factions – much to the incredulity of its supporters.


Making the opposition all the more bizarre was the fact that the bill clearly expressed that it “does not negate the indigenous status of any other people.”


The bill declared that “the Jewish people is a Semitic people, indigenous to the Land of Israel and seeking international recognition of its indigenous status,” and gained strong support from right-wing and religious-Zionist factions – although LAVI say they seek to transcend the “linear” political divide and do not define themselves as either left- or right-wing.


The proposal argued that “Israel’s contrived Western identity” was not only handing ammunition to its enemies to falsely label Zionism as a “colonialist” project, but that it was also placing an artificial barrier preventing peace between Israel and its other “Semitic” neighbors.


“Despite LAVI’s insistence that Israel relating to itself as indigenous to the Middle East would improve conditions for peace and ‘Semitic Unity,’ the resolution was aggressively opposed by a number of factions defining themselves as ‘liberal Zionists,’ including Hatikva (J Street, New Israel Fund, Americans for Peace Now, Ameinu, Habonim Dror, Hashomer Hatzair, Partners for Progressive Israel, etc.), ARZA (the Reform movement) and MERCAZ (the Conservative movement),” ANZV said in a statement.


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