An open letter to Deb Haaland: Jewish Voice for Peace demonizes Indigenous people

Pictured: Representative Deb Haaland (D-NM-01).(Photo: haaland.house.gov)

Samara Brill Alpern

Is one of the first Native American congresswomen in history supporting an organization that denies Jewish Indigeneity to Israel asks Samara Brill Alpern

This is an open letter to Rep. Deb Haaland, one of the first Native American women elected to congress.

On June 7th, 2019 the Albuquerque Journal printed a letter by Jewish Voice for Peace activist Ms. Iris Keltz. In her letter addressing antisemitism, Ms. Keltz writes that she “represented Albuquerque’s 1st Congressional District for Deb Haaland as part of a national Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) delegation to Congress on April 2.” This assertion by Ms. Keltz is alarming because JVP not only purveys antisemitism, but also perverts Indigenous history in the Middle East.

It is one of the darkest years for Jews in decades. We witnessed the most lethal massacre of Jews in American history at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill. Fifty-nine Jewish gravesites were desecrated in Foxboro Massachusetts in March. “Gas the Jews” was scrawled over the Chickasaw Nation headquarters Oklahoma City, also in March. In April, in San Diego, a shooter entered the Poway synagogue and murdered one congregationalist and shot three others, including a child and a rabbi. New York has seen an incredible 82 percent increase in anti-Jewish hate crime in 2019. In Canada and Europe the statistics are worse.

As Ms. Keltz acknowledges, antisemitism is indeed real, but it is herself and her organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, that is the threat. The 2018 Global Anti-Semitism Report found that a full 70 percent of antisemitic attacks were linked to anti-Israel attitudes, and Jewish Voice for Peace is one the chief promoters of those hateful beliefs.

Jewish Voice for Peace is a misnomer. The organization is neither Jewish, nor for peace. Jewish Voice for Peace has Jewish members, but it also has many non-Jewish members, and the organization’s largest donors are not Jews, but non-Jewish foundations that are anti-Israel. Like the Jews that supported Hitler, the handful of Jews that support Jewish Voice for Peace are reviled by the wider Jewish community, and with good reason.

Jewish Voice for Peace lauds terrorists that murder Jews. In 2017 they welcomed convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh as the featured speaker at their National Membership Meeting. Odeh was convicted by Israel for a 1969 bombing in Jerusalem that killed two and injured nine.

Jewish Voice for Peace supports Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), a movement which advocates for a total academic, cultural, and economic boycott of Israel, a sliver of land smaller than Vermont that is home just 9 million people. This sliver of land is home to half the world’s Jewry.

The modern Boycott, Divestment and Sanction is a rebranding of an Arab boycott of Jews that began long before Israel even existed. The boycott began informally in 1922, and in 1945, as the world learned of the Holocaust, the Arab League officially adopted the policy of boycotting of Jews. The boycott was renamed “Boycott, Divestment and Sanction” in 2001. This May, the German parliament condemned the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement as antisemitic with a majority vote.

Jewish Voice for Peace is one of the top promoters of lies about Jews and the Jewish state. Jewish Voice for Peace claims Israel is an apartheid state, when in reality, Israel is the only state in the Middle East where minorities have the right to vote. Jewish Voice for Peace scapegoats the Jewish state for police abuses in the United States, when in reality, the United States alone bears the responsibility for the brutality and failures of the American justice system. Jewish Voice for Peace calls the Jews “settler colonialists” for living in the land of Israel, when in reality, it is the Jews who are Indigenous to Israel, and the Arabs who are the imperialists.

Ms. Keltz illustrates Jewish Voice for Peace’s deceitful revision of Jewish history when she writes, “Tlaib reminded us that Jesus was a Palestinian rabbi who believed in human rights and equality. Justice is the cornerstone of Judaism, so we had no problem with that sentiment.”

Jesus was a Jew from Judea, the aboriginal homeland of the Jewish people. One hundred years after they crucified Jesus, the Romans renamed the land “Palestina,” for the exact same reason Ms. Keltz uses the term today, to expunge Jewish history. If Jesus were alive today, he could not live in the land of his birth. Judea under Arab rule is judenrein.

That Jews are Indigenous to Israel is indisputable. The story of the Jewish people is known to the whole world. Abraham, Rachel, Joseph, Moses — whether you believe the Torah to be the word of G-d or not, there is no doubt that these are our stories. This is Jewish tribal history. It is a history that was never forgotten, not under imperial subjugation by the Babylonians nor the Persians, not under the Hellenists, the Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, Mamluks, Ottomans, or the British. Though Jews never completely left Israel, most were forced into exile. But even over 2,000 years in the diaspora, we never forgot our connection to our ancestral homeland. In exile we prayed, as observant Jews do today, to Jerusalem every day. Facing expulsions, massacres, and genocides, we maintained our language, our matrilineal blood ties, our dietary practices, our beliefs. 

King Solomon established the First Temple in the tenth century BCE, 1,500 years before Muhammed was born. Muslim conquerors would build the al-Aqsa mosque on top of the Jewish temple, just as Hernan Cortes built his castle on top of the great palace Tlahuica. Such is imperialism.

In the Middle East, Jews, like the Kurds and Yazidi, are the Indigenous people. In the Middle East, Arabic is like English and Hebrew is Keresan. Judea is Katishtya, the West Bank is San Felipe.

Dividing the Israelites from Israel is like dividing the Dine from Dinetah. 

Therefore, Ms. Keltz’ affirmation that she represented Albuquerque’s Congressional District for Deb Haaland as part of a national Jewish Voice for Peace delegation to Congress is extremely troubling.

Is Rep. Haaland one of the many non-Jewish members of Jewish Voice for Peace, celebrating Jew murdering terrorists and boycotting half the world’s Jewish population? Is one of the first Native American congresswomen in history supporting an organization that denies Jewish indigeneity to Israel? 

I hope that Rep. Haaland will view Middle Eastern politics with an eye towards solidarity with the Indigenous people there. But it is urgent that, at the very least, she condemn Jewish Voice for Peace, a hate group dedicated to nothing but demonizing Indigenous people in the Middle East. 

Am Yisrael Chai. 

Samara Alpern is a freelance writer from El Paso, Texas. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2007 and currently lives in Jalisco, Mexico.

Comments (33)
davichon
davichon

Talk about erasing a people! The word 'Palestinian' is never mentioned in this piece, except in a quote from Jewish Voice for Peace. And both 'Arab' and 'Muslim' are mentioned only so the author can brand both as imperialist. Disgraceful. Worse, I think, is to write in this publication as if concept 'indigenous' existed only to support a schoolyard jeer about whose mother is really legitimate. I myself am a product of two different Jewish cultures, one of which -- Sephardic-- derives from a time when Muslim-ruled Spain (Al-Andalus) was the height of world civilization, with more going on between Muslim, Jewish, and Christian scholars, philosophers, and artists than possibly any time before or after. As for the present, whose economy and borders are controlled by Israel and Egypt, has been described as "the world's largest open-air prison". Palestinians are given some nominal freedoms, but even their children are subject to arbitrary arrest, humiliation of the parents, and otherindignities and deprivations of an occupied people. You don't have to endorse every word that I have written to see that Samara Alpern's piece is founded on ethnic and religioud hatred.I am a grandpa and a proud supporter of JVP. I have also observed first-hand the tensions and dialog that have gone on in that organization, to deal with the diversity of Jewish identities (Black, Arab, LGBTQ, ... it's a long list!) I am asking that Indian Country Times publish a full-length reply solicited from JVP. Not simply so an organization may defend it's right to criticize Israel and it's oppression of Palestinians, but so that no one confuses the idea of "idigeneity' this article spews out, with any kind of respect for human life, religion, Pachama (Mother Earth), history... or its readers.

17 Replies

Melvin Cowznofski
Melvin Cowznofski

Palestinians were only introduced to the world as an ethnic identity in the 1960s. And there is a reason Gaza's borders are controlled by Egypt and Israel - terrorism, especially against Israelis. Thousands of rocket attacks, terror tunnels, border riots, and incendiary balloons are what Israel regularly receives from Gaza. Imagine how prosperous Gaza would be if Gazans spent time and money on creating a just society rather than trying to annihilate Israel.

Recall that Gazans destroyed the greenhouses left by Israel when they removed all Jews from Gaza in the interest of peace. It could have been the beginning of a thriving economy. Even so, your "open air prison" claim doesn't hold water. It never has. http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2019/07/an-ice-cream-shop-in-gaza-great-looking.html

And here is a Hamas propaganda video showing Gaza's good side: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1241918155871774

Speaking of Hamas, their leaders have become quite wealthy by stealing foreign aid money that is supposed to go to the people of Gaza. Meanwhile, they hold the people of Gaza as hostages, to be used as pawns and human shields in their petty war against Israel. And Hamas leaders get very angry if Gazans question their policies. https://www.npr.org/2019/03/19/704893555/in-gaza-hamas-cracks-down-on-palestinians-protesting-newly-imposed-taxes

Gaza is not occupied, and there could be peace tomorrow if Hamas and the Palestinians would agree to live in peace with a Jewish nation.

In short, all of the Palestinians' problems have been created by Palestinians. In blaming Israel for the Palestinians' self-inflicted misery, JVP doesn't criticize Israel at all. They demonize Israel, just as they always have, just as others have demonized Jews for thousands of years.

Samara Buendia
Samara Buendia

Recognizing Jewish history is not religious ethnic hatred any more than recognizing your own family history is hatred. A fundamental point of this piece is that Jews are indigenous and Palestinians are not. That is not a schoolyard jeer. That is a fact of critical importance supported by mountains of archeological evidence. The IP conflict is between the indigenous Jews and the Arab Empire. The reason the borders of Palestine are so tightly controlled is because of terrorism-- that is why not just Israel but also Egypt has blockaded Gaza. While you are right that the Jewish nation is incredibly racially diverse, there are no "Arab Jews." Much of the hostility harbored by Arabs against Jews is because the indigenous Jewish population refused to assimilate and consider themselves Arabs. We are Jews and we are indigenous to Judea. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97O0z2fBJsU&list=PLsITuo_2OyIjfMfk5Igak3gTNOdsZ7l_W&index=73&t=0s

Shadowstands
Shadowstands

Sadly, she is all too correct.

Ilakarka
Ilakarka

The antisemitism of BDS and JVP is proved by the fact that their subjectivity is blinded in front of the cruaulty of inhabits of GAZA : burn animals alive, destroy forest and raptors... When we see them in Standing rock talking about "protection of nature" it's a big opportunistic hypocritical.. When subjectivity reveals antisemitic reactions .........................!!

Honmana
Honmana

Wow, that was incoherent. But hey, that comment, as well as this opinion piece has had the exact opposite effect intended. I have been on the fence for some time about the BDS movement, but now I think, hey if it worked for S Africa, why not for this? Opportunistic hypocritical? Were you at Standing Rock? Is this how you try to gain allies for your own issues, by flamethrower insults at other people? People there were trying to protect their water, and downstream users, also. But you equate that with antisemitic, well, whatever? When you talk incoherently about the cruaulty (sic) of inhabits (sic) of GAZA, you only are pointing out your own hypocrisy. Those insults might be better directed at a President who defended people who marched chanting antisemitic remarks, but then he also oddly supports your cause at times, so you won't direct them at someone who actually deserves it. Leave us out of your issues.

davichon
davichon

Thank you. Your thread and the comments of caniscandida say so much that I, an "outsider" (not-indigenous US-here or basically anywhere) know little about. I also have been heartened by the alliances between native water-protectors and organizations like 350.org. This has been going on for years, and I think essential for the future of all creatures, human and otherwise. And although i don't love military discourse, I know enough about Standing Rock and what happened to folks camped there, to know that it was a battle in a very long war.

davichon
davichon

Jewish history, whether Bible-based or not, is an extremely tangled web. Zionist mythology, sadly, is not. It begins with "A land without a people, for a people without a land". (Sound familiar?) For other low-points of this racialist pseudo-history, see Samara's post, especially the outrageous There are No Arab Jews. However any individual chooses to self-identify, that choice is made within the tangled history. I have spoken with a few such people, who are collaborators with JVP in defense of Palestinians (a mere artifact, see Melvin above for fact-as-tenedentious-artifact). Anyone can find counter-examples, because the history is complex, and different folks make different choices.But once you become part of the myth-machine, you only see what supports it. You only blow bubbles.

Back in the U.S.A. we have seen in recent years the deflation of the non-dominant-sexuality-is-sin mythology. And the beginning of the end -- I hope -- of the one that says "I and my (European) ancestors worked hard for everything they have, so please don't try to tell me about genocide, racism, treaty-breaking, imperialist banking and resource-extraction -- or any other leftist guilt-trip".

davichon
davichon

You must have been reading Mad Magazine superficially. Otherwise you would notice how close parts of your posts, and similar ones, come to self-satire. But we need Mad's sensibility now more than ever -- to publish, for example, a really "mad" version of the Presidents tweets.

Ilakarka
Ilakarka

You did not read my message. When I am talking about Standing rock, it' s about "falestinians "who wanted to do "co-struggle" with native , while as they have destroyed beautiful diversity in israel with their fire rockets .. Arab muslim do not give a sheat of nature and of first nations !! they are just so opportunistic !

Ilakarka
Ilakarka

I never talk about racism and genocide , it's you who wrote those words..! Wrong sionist is writtten in many pray. The hypocritical behaviour of JVP or BDS is disguting, they can only convince the same haters than them... There is nothing worse than being deaf and blind about the pretended innnoncence of arabs.. No, Jewish are no more guilty than any other people...

Gall
Gall

They are 8200 trolls. Disregard.

Selimor
Selimor

Le négationnisme dans toute la splendeur de son horreur. No further comment needed.

Selimor
Selimor

Nice to meet you. I'm descended from the Moors of Al Andalus on my father's side and partly on my mother's side (who also has Ottoman/Slavic ancestors). I did not know about JVP so I'll look it up on the net. By the way, did you notice how 1492 proved fatal for both the Al Andalus civilisation and the Amerindian cultures and nations? The great Inca civilisation was destroyed at about the same time as Al Andalus by the European plunderers who claimed to stand for truth and enlightenment.

Selimor
Selimor

All you need is a brain. But do you really have the use for one?

Ilakarka
Ilakarka

in front of your arrogance, I answer the "same arrogance" : you are a mix of ignorance and bigotry (descent of Almohades may be).. You even do not desserve to be read ....

Selimor
Selimor

A big yawn on top of a heap o' shrugs.......

arthurhynes
arthurhynes

I find this article offensive and am disturbed to see it in this publication unless there is a letter from JVP to represent their point of view. I strongly support JVP and Palestinian rights, that are never mentioned here. Zionist propaganda always cries about crimes and prejudice related to Jews, which are real, but never for Palestinians. It overlooks the violence and prejudice against many other minorities. And one more thing- to talk about violence of Palestinians against Israel and not about the exponentially greater violence of Israel against Palestinians is ludicrous. The state of Israel does not equal the Jewish religion or culture. It is the policies of Israel that are violent. Israel has violated 32 UN resolutions- more than any other country.*

*"How many UN resolutions has Israel ignored? Israel leads the list. Since 1968, Israel has violated 32 resolutions that included condemnation or criticism of the governments' policies and actions. Turkey is in second place, with 24 violations since 1974, and Morocco is third with 17 resolutions it ignored."

No. 1-6
RiverWind
RiverWind

The Jewish people are the indigenous people of Judea. With over 3000 years of historical and archaeological evidence to back up that claim. Everyone is indigenous to somewhere yet the Jews are denied their indigenous right to their ancient homeland? Revisionist history and propaganda must stop targeting First Nations. It is a cancer that is slowly spreading. We have more in common with the Judeans, period.

Honmana
Honmana

As a registered NA tribal member, I have debated for days on whether to say anything here. I do not want to seem to set myself up as a spokesman for my tribe, they communicate through their own approved communication methods, and my opinions are nothing but that, my own opinions. But, I am angry. This opinion piece was written by someone who obviously has a shallow knowledge of NA history, including intertribal disputes over land. And who I think is using that shallow knowledge to try to shame a NA congresswoman, and by extension, all NA's by suggesting that if we do not denounce someone who she, and by extension, those who she identifies with, find antithetical to their own interests, then we are hypocrites, as indigenous people. It takes a lot of nerve for someone who is living on stolen land, and doesn't back up their rhetoric by self-deporting to their own ancestral lands, to try to shame other indigenous people into supporting her peoples cause. e.g.,what about the "right of return" for all NA's (all non-indigenous people leaving America and letting NA's take back their own ancestral lands, instead of having to share with people who took that land over the centuries?). One example she used showed me she has no understanding of the complex history of land disputes among tribes, and I don't want to go into that and re-open old wounds for my tribe, or another's. But she makes the same mistake that many outsiders do, thinking we are a monolithic people, and should all think the same way. When I was a child, in the 60's, one of the first movies I remember seeing on our old black and white little tv, was Exodus. I felt so bad for the Jewish people. As a child, I didn't yet understand the issues of a people who had been holocausted in Europe, and just wanted their ancestral lands back to establish a base for their peoples, and to protect themselves from that ever happening again. And I believed that for many years. And I was a racist, I think for years, believing that Palestinians were savage Arabs who just wanted to destroy those people, using terrorism. I thought as a child, believing the ideas brought on by the guilt of white people who thought that the Jewish problem could be solved by giving them back their ancestral lands that they claimed, while putting NA's on reservations, and trying to wipe out their languages (which saved America during WWI and WWII), and their cultures. I would challenge this person to post links to any opinion pieces over the years which she wrote to admonish a Jewish American owner of a professional football team to abandon the racist name of a team, and also to a Jewish American congressman who voted against VAWA because of the NA provisions in it, to be able to prosecute outsiders who came onto NA lands and murdered and raped NA women, because he, in my opinion, didn't think that we brown people were good enough to sit in judgement in our tribal courts of outsiders who committed crimes in our lands. This person has solidified the opinion I have developed over decades, that the enemy of my enemy, is not necessarily my friend. Don't try to weaponize your shallow and puerile knowledge of our NA history to portray us as hypocrites if we do not side with you in your fights with your neighbors in the Middle East. Leave us out of it. She did not provide any information about Deb Haaland accepting money or publicly siding with that group. And if she did, so what? Israel has accepted tons of taxpayer money over the years from the U.S. and evangelicals to support their state, while NA's suffered the most under sequestration than any other group in the U.S. AIPEC. I want to see us quit giving that money to Israel, and redirect it to NA's. I don't advocate for the destruction of Israel, I wish them luck, but we have supported them enough, and I want to see that money used to fulfill contract costs, economic development for tribes, and protection of NA homelands. I don't think Israel is our friend, anyone else remember Jonathan Pollard? My support ends where our interests diverge. Fight your own fights and don't try to engage us as allies when our own people are left in want.

caniscandida
caniscandida

I strongly support Jewish Voice for Peace, in its mission to achieve justice for Palestinians and to achieve the learning of just ways by the people of Israel; I am glad that Representative Deb Haaland also supports Jewish Voice for Peace; I do not recognize any anti-semitism in the statements and actions of Jewish Voice for Peace; and I am very disappointed by this letter by Samara Brill Alpern.

On the matter of the alleged "indigeneity" of the Jewish people (or of the Israelite people of which the Jews are the sole extant part) in the land between the Jordan valley and the eastern Mediterranean historically known as Palestine: OK, so yes, Jews lived there for many centuries in antiquity. But it should be noted that they lived there alongside other people. It should also be noted that according to their Scriptures (the Book of Genesis in particular), they acknowledge themselves to be descendants of Abraham, who himself was from Mesopotamia (the city of Ur), who was directed by the God of Israel to move with his extended family to what was then called the land of Canaan, and who needed to negotiate among the people who already lived there for his place there. This is not at all the sort of "indigeneity" that we mean when we say that Native Americans are indigenous to the Americans. And it is rhetorical and mischievous on the part of any right-wing Jew or defender of right-wing policies in Israel to argue that on the grounds of protecting indigenous rights everywhere, Native Americans ought to be supportive of the harsh anti-Palestinian practices and de facto imperialist and apartheid measures of the Israeli government and many Israeli ciizens.

Moreover the circumstances in which Jews moved to Palestine in the early 20th century and made for themselves a country there by 1948 are not at all comparable to any proposal of Native Americans to win back rightful sovereignty over territory in North America. For the many centuries when Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire, Jews lived there alongside other peoples. The peoples of the Levant (the countries of the eastern shore of the Mediterranean) were mostly descendants of the inhabitants of those regions in the last centuries of the Roman Empire many centuries earlier; we may refer to them as "Arabs" because most of them adopted Arabic, the language of their 7th-century conquerors, as their own, and took Arab names, and converted to Islam -- not failing to remember that a large minority were Christians, and of these many retained connexions with the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. These are people whose families had been living there for many long centuries, maybe millennia, when starting in the late 1940s they were uprooted and cast out of their homes and turned into a population of refugees. It makes no sense whatsoever to say that people were turned into refugees for the sake of an assertion of "indigenous rights." And it is a most wicked and unworthy argument to demand that Native Americans join assertive self-righteous Zionists on the basis of a false argument about common indigeneity.

Gall
Gall

The Ashkenazi and Khazarian Jews who invaded Palestine are not Indigenous! They like Columbus were invading a land that they believed was "a land with no people for a people with no land". Seem familiar?

JARdA
JARdA

I'd like to see the sons of Isaac and the sons of Ishmael do DNA tests. Keep them busy with figuring out how they are related and what they have in common, and keep their religion out of it. A "democracy" like Israel, certainly shouldn't have a person's religion stamped their your passport. Separation of church and state; why can't we just respect each other's belief's (assuming not hurting anyone) and not impose them on each other.


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