I am Black and my mother’s lineage comes from southern Israel. Yes, there are still indigenous Northeast Africans in Syria, Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Iraq.

I will never understand the obsession African-American men and women, known as the Hebrew Israelites, can have for the ancient Israelites. There is nothing special to claim there. I do believe that this obsession is deeply rooted in self-hatred. Many among these Hebrew Israelites hate their blackness, their Negroid features and by claiming the ancient Israelites, they probably want to fantasize about another form of blackness. They not only deny that the ancient Israelites were African, but they also believe that they probably looked more like Nipsey Hussle (RIP brother) or the Ethiopian Jews, hence a tolerable blackness. A Caucasoid-esque, beautiful blackness, according to white colonizers.

A moment in Jerusalem with legendary guide Ali Jeddah and his daughter, September 2019

No. This is a lie. Again. I confirm this. The indigenous black groups now spread throughout Israel, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Irak are… BLACK. They may have a different phenotype which totally differs from that of the Bantu but the faces are extremely varied, and few are actually light skin or look like the Habeshas. People in Jericho, Hebron or Eilat are Black and nothing less. Black Iranians are also present in the south of the country and the sisters Malika and Khadija Haqq are here to represent it. They are not lying, like many Black American women think, they are really IRANIAN.

Iranian sisters and mother Malika and Khadija Haqq along with their mom
A rare photo of mine from 2019, pre-Corona times with two Iranian men in Paris in front of their cultural stand. I try to connect with my Persian heritage as much as I can. Though I respect my ancestors from there, the culture is very different from what I have always been exposed to in my life.

I will always wonder why so many black people want to focus on this region of the world. Why would they want to be Canaanites so bad? What is so good about belonging to this lineage? Is it cool not knowing where you come from? Is it funny being surrounded by daily racist colonial authorities, being invisible, split between two lands where no one wants you, wants to be you, wants to respect you? How is that cool?

Ever since I tried to reconnect with this heritage of mine, I had no other choice but to face my own inner struggles. Though I know I descend from theYemeni Arabs from the Swahili Coast from my mother’s other grandmother, I wish sometimes that I would be fully Arab. Being a part of the Levant as a black individual is not only a shock but a source of panic. In this case, if you have roots in Israel, Palestine, Jordan or Syria, be ready to face people’s lack of comprehension. You will either be considered to be that “unfathomable” human being no one understands where they come from, or will be accused of lying. Though I was never called a liar, I always faced the disillusion of people, their lack of interest for my heritage when I desired to confide in them. This sadness I kept in my heart has been written down in so many books of mine and was my main motivation in producing my own history books. It was more than important for me to educate people. It’s not their fault if they don’t know or understand. Not at all. But it’s up to them to either respect or tarnish. And I am definitely not here for any form of disrespect.

Cover for my latest history book I dedicate to my ancestors

My identity has never been fixed and it has often hurt me. First of all, I never knew how to really cope with my mother’s family history. There was never any form of transmission from her, because her own mother was never given anything. Historical trauma has destroyed my mother’s lineage. It is very complicated for me to tell you that, and I feel ashamed, that my mother’s lineage only counts four generations. Yes,. I am ashamed. While others know where to fit in, my mother’s foremothers were broken and separated.

Where and how am I supposed to define my own blackness then when it doesn’t make any sense? I am made of several black African races which were not supposed to mix with one another if slavery and domination had not come into play. How am I even supposed to explain to others what I am made of when toxic black people around me are racist Bantu Congolese who like to crush and destroy all the people who do not look like them? My blackness comes from the Arab world, East Africa, a little from the Bantu and a little from West Africa. Where do I fit in when nothing has ever been shared to you? How are you supposed to carry anything when the people who came before you were so ashamed not to fit into the Congolese scheme that they lied about their heritage, denied it in order to aspire to be accepted by the majority? I come from a lineage of lies and individuals with issues of self-hatred, also crushed by the brutality of history.

On my mother’s side, one grandmother was the daughter of Swahili Arabs. On that side, I have roots in Tanzania (Dar el Salaam) and the Great Lakes, among the Blacks but my heritage also comprises roots in Yemen, Iran, among the Baluchi people from Afghanistan, distant Tamil Indian and Chinese. This side of the family migrated from East Africa into the Congo around the 1920s, through Zambia. They went up to Elisabethville (Lumumbashi) and separated. One branch went further north and settled in Kasai where my maternal grandfather was born. My other great-grandmother, my direct ancestor and the oldest entity from the maternal lineage had Sicilian, Syrian and Black Canaanite heritage (modern day Israel and Palestine, I still call CANAAN). My Levantine racial background is also both black and white. My Syrian blood is white and the whiteness goes back to the Balkans, around the Serbian region. Indeed, many invaders from Bulgaria, Romania, the Balkans came down to the Levant to settle and colonise the area.

My mother’s lineage is Black African from southern Israel but our clan comes from Egypt, Aswan. Yet, I do have roots in Nablus among the Black Palestinians whom I call Canaanites.

It is extremely difficult for people to understand that, with or without Israel or Palestine, this land is still my land, our land, it is still the extension of Northeast Africa and I belong to this Black African people who are a testament to the past racist Israeli, Arab and European historians and religious figures want to whitewash. Therefore, my whiteness comes from the Mediterannean area yes, but mostly from the White Central Asian Turkic peoples who invaded the region. Yes. Worst. This land belonged to other black groups before the Israelites and not all of the people who live there today are descendants of ancient Jews at all. They are also the testament of other ethnics whose customs disappeared over the years due to the invasions. The Levant has so been the land of fantasy of crazy religious people that the rationality when it comes to its existence is not even there anymore.

Going back to the region of Canaan was a trauma to me. There, I saw how my people were imprisoned on their own land.I was exposed to the lack of understanding of the Israeli guards who constantly considered me to be an Ethiopian Jewess, which I am not. I not only felt alone, but I never felt any connection to the culture neither. Tel Aviv is more of a Greek, North African and Turkish culture which has nothing to do with the Black African Israeli culture of the south preserved by the Bedouins. There, you have the darbuka, the drums and you feel more groove. I also went to Palestine where I have dealt with a lot of disdain and racism from the White Arab Palestinians. The White Israeli Jews did not understand me always but they knew they were new colonizers of the region and they understood that other populations had been living there before 1947, so they believed me and were down with listening to me. Yet, it hurt me to fathom how invisible the Blacks in Jerusalem or in the south are to the eyes of the State. Many Israeli Whites do not even know that a small community of Black Jerusalemites exist in Via Dolorosa. Upon this reality, I went back to my home country and did not go out for a month. I fell into a depression and almost wanted to reject this filiation of mine. Being a black person from Israel and Palestine is a trauma other Black Arabs can not understand. Black Yemenis were the first, and though despised, not one single White Saudi would deny that Arabs are black. On the contrary, in the Levant, the region was not only whitewashed but Blacks are nonexistent, all the while being there.

During my trip to Jerusalem with my adopted family, Nisreen on the left and her queen, her mother. We remained close ever since. Proud Canaanite family

When you are Black in the region, no one will care about you at all. Upon not really knowing where you should fit in, the Israeli state will eventually have no other choice but to put you into the category of “Palestinians”. Among these so-called modern Palestinians, you will realise, upon doing your own research, that their roots are not even in Palestine for many. Indeed, thousand will tell you that their ancestors came from Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Morocco or even Greece to settle in the area a few generations ago. Black people have zero possibility to express themselves and talk about their heritage, why? Because no one knows who we are and where we come from. Are we the sons of original black Jews? Of other groups of the region such as Black Phoenicians, Amorites, or else? The invasions crushed us bit by bit and we wander here like ghosts without knowing exactly what we were. For this reason, it is easier for many to claim an Arab heritage. Indeed, in the region, Arab is the term used to describe a black person. If not, they would call us “slaves”.

My biggest issue I faced as I wrote the books were to replace the Levant in the concept of Africa and blackness. Upon writing I knew I had to crush the false colonial narrative which claimed that only Bantu and West Africans were the original face of pure blackness. That was the first problem. Then I had no other choice but not to sleep at night until I had put these false slavery explanations to rest. Indeed, Eurocentric historians and scientists justify our presence in the region through the Ottoman slavery so as to exclude us from a land which was always ours from the beginning. All this violence made me angry but also damaged me morally as I also begun slowly to indulge in another form of depression. Having to fight to take your dignity back is horrific. On the Israeli side, Blacks are invisible but on the Arab side, they are less than dogs.

My great-grandmother’s older sister

My Black Israeli heritage gives me the rage to wake up everyday to work on my topics and projects, it is true. My biggest revenge is through my books and the lines I write down. The creation of a scientific review which could open up doors to other black Arab scholars and Black Israelis was more than important to me for we do need a place to gather and write about our own issues no matter what.

Now I could say that the trauma is still here and the scars, I will have to live with them for the rest of my life. But I also am extremely in favor of the success of my community and all the Black Arabs in the Levant and the Peninsula as well. I wish we could prosper even more, have a better vision of the future and not be afraid to reach these damn stars which are predestined to us.

The pain is still there but the rage has become even more efficient. I have learned that in life you should not beg people for anything but just come out and take the things which belong to you. Nobody can dictate how I see myself and how I define my own blackness and/or heritage. I love and embrace all the things that makes me, but I also now know, as I am entering my thirties, where I come from too. And my ancestors deserve respect.

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  1. I found this post to be very enlightening. I feel deep down I always knew that these regions must have had Native people on the lands before the arrival of other non-black settlers, but you would never know looking at all the media both from within and outside the region. It’s quite sad really. As for the Black American ‘Hebrew Israelites’ I agree that this obsession with ancient Israel is at least in part rooted in self-loathing, but I also believe the narrative is used to as a way make sense of the generational trauma they carry. There are such believers in the UK as well.


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