Last night I went to a support Israel rally at the Plaza des Nations, the spot with the chair. Unlike the side-events inside organized by the UN Watch and Anne Bayefsky’s Eye on the UN/Hudson Institute, which have each escalated the rhetoric of demonization, this rally is a paragon of “positive messaging”. The message control is tight-no home made signs here. Nothing about Muslim terrorists. It’s all about wanting peace and democracy (versus, you know, them.) But I’m almost grateful. Nobody tries to whip up the crowd, a la Dershowitz, by declaring Palestinians Nazis and terrorists.
Everyone is crowded at the front, but when you stand in the back of the plaza, which isn’t that big, the place looks empty. I actually suddenly share a sense of communal anxiety for the Jews in the crowd (well, at least half the crowd, the others are Christians, it turns out). It’s a metaphor for living in Europe. There really aren’t that many of us left and it is easy to feel threatened and tiny, so we project bigger and scarier. My Jewish friend who lives here has been telling me about the anti-Jewish comments she has heard from the white Swiss- the Jews control this, we do that.
I get there just as former Canadian attorney general Irwin Cotler is speaking. He has been ubiquitous at the conference. I am rather astounded by what he is saying. Jews are aboriginal people. This is the first time I’ve heard this formulation, though it makes sense to try it at a conference where indigenous people are pressing for their rights. But I’m not sure the people in the crowd really go for it. Here is what he has written about the topic:
For Israel, rooted in the Jewish people, as an Abrahamic people, is a prototypical First Nation or aboriginal people, just as the Jewish religion is a prototypical aboriginal religion, the first of the Abrahamic religions.IN A WORD, the Jewish people is the only people that still inhabits the same land, embraces the same religion, studies the same Torah, hearkens to the same prophets, speaks the same aboriginal language – Hebrew – and bears the same aboriginal name, Israel, as it did 3,500 years ago.
Israel, then, is the aboriginal homeland of the Jewish people across space and time. It is not just a homeland for the Jewish people, a place of refuge, asylum and protection. It is the homeland of the Jewish people, wherever and whenever it may be; and its birth certificate originates in its inception as a First Nation, and not simply, however important, in its United Nations international birth certificate.
The State of Israel, then, as a political and juridical entity, overlaps with the “aboriginal Jewish homeland”; it is, in international legal terms, a successor state to the biblical, or aboriginal, Jewish kingdoms. But that aboriginal homeland is also claimed by another people, the Palestinian/Arab people, who see it as their place and patrimony.