Canadian Mennonite Magazine Column Accuses Israel Of Being A “Settler-Colonial” State

June 18, 2023

According to its website, the taxpayer-funded Canadian Mennonite magazine’s “Guiding Values” include accuracy, fairness, as well as balance. And while those are noble values to adhere to, based on a recent column in the magazine, doing so is another story entirely.

A recent first-person commentary penned by columnist Randy Haluza-DeLay entitled: “Not talking politics in the Holy Land,”  which appeared in its June 15 edition, was rife with gross oversimplifications and factual errors.

Discussing his recent visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Haluza-DeLay argued that the tourism industry there seeks to censor some topics, stating that “The story of the Indigenous people of the Holy Land before the return of Jews in the past century is concealed.”

With a single sentence, Haluza-DeLay has turned three thousand years of history entirely on its head. Referring to the unnamed “Indigenous people” who were living in the land of Israel before the “return of the Jews in the past century,” Haluza-DeLay clearly demarcates two groups: those who were in the holy land, and the Jews, who apparently just showed up sometime in the last century.

In what is more than a hint of irony, Haluza-DeLay is doing exactly what he accused his tour operators of doing: erasing the history of a group of people.

The Jewish People did not simply arrive in Israel in the last century, supplanting the “indigenous people.” They have a three-thousand-year history of uninterrupted presence in their land. The Jews were living in their land during the time of the Babylonians, Syrian-Greeks, and many other civilizations, and were only not still sovereign because two thousand years ago, the Roman Empire exiled a large percentage – but not all – of the Jews from the Roman province of Judea, the land from which Jews were given their name.

As pointed out by the United Nations, an indigenous people is typically understood as possessing any number of critical criteria, including historical continuity with pre-colonial society, a distinct language, culture or beliefs, a strong link to the land in question, and so on.

There can be no doubt that the Jewish People, based on these widely-accepted criteria, are indigenous to the land of Israel, and describing Jewish history in such crude reductionist terms as Haluza-DeLay has done, is both factually inaccurate, and inconsistent with the magazine’s guiding values.

In his column, Haluza-DeLay made other statements which, while often accepted as true by members of the news media, are not accurate.

He wrote that Israeli communities under construction in Judea and Samaria (often called the “West Bank” by the news media) are “illegal according to international law.”

While this allegation is often made in media circles, it’s not backed up by the facts. While the Palestinian leadership claims these communities are illegal by international law, alleging that the land in question is theirs, in reality, there has never before been any sovereign nation-state of Palestine which can make any claim to the land.

Israel gained control of Judea & Samaria in 1967, following Jordan’s ill-fated and unsuccessful entry into the Six Day War. Jordan seized control of the land in 1948 during Israel’s War of Independence, including eastern Jerusalem, and it systematically destroyed hundreds of ancient Jewish sites. But the land was never part of Jordan itself, and most certainly, following the 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, any claims by Jordan would be nullified as a result, according to international law professor Dr. Eugene Kontorovich.

But Israel’s legal claims to Judea and Samaria rest not on the paucity of Palestinian legal basis, but on extensive modern international rights, including a mandate from the international community for the Jewish People to reconstitute their ancient homeland.

Haluza-DeLay ends his column by lamenting the “virulent history of antisemitism that has put Jews in danger for the entirety of the Christian era,” before adding in a crucial “but,” where he accuses Israel of “follow[ing] a settler-colonial path: to take over a land and make it their own…”

Haluza-DeLay’s recognition of historical antisemitism is laudable, but incomplete. Jews faced brutal persecution in historic Christendom based largely on antisemitic propaganda, including allegations of Jews murdering innocent Christian babies, Desecration of the Host, and so on.

Acknowledging antisemitism, without recognizing that Jews suffered because of the spread of anti-Jewish lies, and then perpetuating contemporary falsehoods against the Jewish People by negating their continuous history in their homeland, is doing more than making a factual mistake: it is making a profound moral error as well.

UPDATE: On June 29, 2023, the Canadian Mennonite posted several reader’s comments in support of the author on their website, as well as including an editor’s note mentioning that they received letters from HonestReporting Canada and our subscribers in response to Randy Haluza-DeLay’s June 16 column.

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