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[Nettime-bold] The Importance of Being Earnest
Sascha D. Freudenheim on Tue, 23 Apr 2002 15:29:01 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest -
By A.D. Freudenheim
Posted with permission of the author

Recently, several people forwarded the same e-mail to me.  Titled
“FACTS ON THE ISRAELI CONFLICT TODAY....”, this e-mail then contained
the following introduction:

"Here are overlooked facts in the current Middle East situation.
These were compiled by a Christian university professor.  HERE’S THE

"Takes just 1.5 minutes to read!!!! It makes sense and it’s not
slanted. Jew and non-Jew – it doesn’t matter."

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 responses 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.  (Note: 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 1492.

5. For over 3,300 years, Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital.
Jerusalem has never been the capital of any Arab or Muslim entity.
Even when the Jordanians occupied Jerusalem, they never sought to
make it their capital, and Arab leaders did not come to visit.

Native Americans rejected the imposition of European control over
their lives, including the establishment of, or subsequent
recognition for, a “capital” established in Washington, DC.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

See above.

18. The U.N was silent while 58 Jerusalem Synagogues were destroyed
by the Jordanians.

See above.

19. The U.N. was silent while the Jordanians systematically
desecrated the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.

See above.

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.

See above.

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?

Sascha D. Freudenheim
Doubt is humanity's best friend.
Check out this week's column: Overcoming...

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