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

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

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 (6)
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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.


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.