SIR – Just as free speech is not a blank cheque (Letters, August 15th, 2020), neither is history a blank slate on which we can write our own version of events, I have little interest in whether or where rugby is played in the Middle East, but I cannot let Bob Storey’s ahistorical description of Zionism and the foundation of Israel stand unchallenged.
The International Labour Organisation, in one of the first attempts to define indigenous people, stated that ‘Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories, or parts of them.’
This definition was adopted by the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations. Under this definition, and by any reasonable analysis, the Jewish people are indigenous to Israel, the land where their faith, language and culture were formed, and where there has been an Jewish community in existence since pre-Christian times.
Modern Jews, wherever they live in the world, can trace their DNA to ancient Levantine populations – as indeed, can some modern Palestinians, despite the fact that Muslim Arabs colonised the region in the 7th century CE.
Zionism is an indigenous rights movement that asks only for Jews be allowed to return to at least a part of their ancient homeland. It does not require the displacement or erasure of Palestinian Arabs, whose existence Zionism acknowledged from the outset.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is indeed a clash between two peoples with claims to the same land. Israel has accepted numerous proposals for sharing, only to be met with rejection by Arab leaders who cannot bear the existence of a modern Jewish state and insist they must have all the land ‘from the river to the sea.’ Only when this maximalist approach is rejected and the Arab world accepts that Israel is here to stay will there be a realistic chance of peace and justice in the land of ancient Israel.