When I was a kid we were allowed on occasions to dress up in costumes taken from other cultures. At other times we'd wear everyday clothes that came from other cultures: a sombrero, because it was a great way to keep in the shade, or moccasins in the summer, or use words, phrases and actions that came from other places or times. In other words – back when I was a kid they hadn't invented "cultural appropriation" yet. Instead we were allowed to take anything from any culture, since all humanity was one big family, and imitating someone was a high sign of respect. Since then copying something from another culture has supposedly become an alleged crime against humanity, somehow.

Yet there is a real crime of "cultural appropriation": when you take something from another culture not only without crediting that people, the source of what you're taking, but even worse: you deny that people was ever the source and instead falsely claim that it came from you. Imagine an American in Moscow claiming that Americans built the Kremlin or a Russian in Washington D.C. claiming that Russians built the White House. Those would be instantly recognized as ridiculous claims, and if the person claiming that would insist – that insistence would be cultural appropriation and altogether inappropriate. Even worse – imagine looking at a people in their homeland and claiming that those people never existed!

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An acquaintance of mine, Dave, doesn't like the fact that I explain to him that the "Palestinian people" are a Soviet-era propaganda invention, since there never was an Arabic-speaking, Islamic people indigenous to the Land of Israel, the Holy Land. A while ago he wrote on his internet page what he thought was the ultimate proof of an ancient Palestinian people indigenous to this land, a people other than the Jews. His proof was based on the existence of agricultural terraces built into the sides of the hills, near the Arab village Battir. Those terraces indeed go back at least 2,000 years, supposedly proving the claim that there is an ancient Palestinian people. After all – if the terraces are 2,000 years old, and they're near an Arab village – that must mean that Arabs built the terraces, since Battir is obviously an Arab name to an obviously Arab village.


But here's the thing: let's say, for example, you were an Englishman 250 years ago living near the Golden Temple in the Punjab, India: would you seriously claim that it was English built and proves an English presence in India from long ago? Of course not! If Arabic-speaking Muslims live near the pyramids – that doesn't mean that the builders of the pyramids were Arabs or Muslims. And why is that? Because long before the imperialist invaders, whether they were English speakers or Arabic speakers, invaded those countries, other people had already built those structures.

In Israel: Yerushalayim (what the foreigners call Jerusalem) was made into a holy capital city for the Jews long before Christianity or Islam. The Western Wall of the Temple Mount was built long before the Muslims used to throw their garbage near it (which was one of their lovable customs, representing all their cute customs to disregard and disrespect other people's holy places).
The agricultural terraces at Battir are indeed the work of the ancient indigenous people, but those people are called Jews. Battir is the Arabic distortion of the original name of the village – Beitar. Between the years 132 and 135 it was the stronghold of the Jewish rebel leader against the Roman Empire – Shimon Bar Kochba. Beitar is described in the Talmud (long before the birth of Islam) as a densely populated, rich agricultural land with a very strong fortress. It fell on the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av, the same day as the destruction of the First and Second Temples. The ancient mound – called by some of the Arab locals "the Jewish ruin" – is still there, as are the terraces built by the Jews who lived there 2,000 years ago.

The Roman coins celebrating the victory against the indigenous people in the 1st century (the Great Revolt, 66-73) read: "Judea Capta" –the Jews, the indigenous people. Anything else is… cultural appropriation.
 
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