Identity Politics and Aramean Peoplehood

The Aramean flag

During the 20th century was the Aramean people torn apart by identity politics and different political movements of the Aramean people variously adopted Arabist, Aramean, Assyrian, Chaldean, Phoenician and Syrian identities.

When Aramaic-speaking Christians in the northeastern parts of the Ottoman Empire were contacted by Europeans in the 19th century did they simply explain to the Europeans that they were Israelites indeed. Colonialist discourse however noted the Assyrian cultural traces in their Aramaic-language culture and so was the nucleus of modern Neo-Assyrian nationalism born. European missionaries were interested in the de-Judaization of Para-Jewish peoples whom they encountered around the world and so Assyrian identity became a tool for imposing imperialist European Christianity on indigenous Aramaic-speaking Christians.

Assyrian nationalism later became organized as a regional tool for the KGB-trained Syrian intelligence establishment in promoting the expansionist agenda of Greater Syria, as the word Syria is indeed derived from the word Assyria. The old Communist PKK, Iranian-controlled Hezbollah and various Communist Palestinian political parties were similarly used as tools by Damascus for the Ba’athist Pan-Syrian agenda.

However, as other indigenous forms of Middle Eastern Christianity (Coptic Christianity, Ethiopian/Eritrean Christianity and Armenian Christianity) is Aramean Christianity precisely a thinly veiled, indeed superficially Christianized form of various regional expressions of the wider Judaism of Antiquity (of both the Southern Jurisdiction of Judah and the Northern Jurisdiction of Israel) and entirely so without the ideology of religious imperialism that typically characterizes Eurocentric Christianity and its typically pretentious imperialist theologies.

However, although the Aramean people is a Para-Jewish people indeed do the various branches of the Aramean people have distinctive histories of their own as Lebanese Christians are indeed ultimately descended from the Canaanite Phoenicians (ancient Phoenician and ancient Hebrew were literary dialects of the Canaanite language) and Aramaic-speaking Christians of Kurdistan are indeed descended from Aramaic-speaking Assyrian Jews of Antiquity. However, it is notable that Assyrian was a dialect of Akkadian and not of Aramaic as claimed by Aramaic-speaking Neo-Assyrian nationalists although the ancient Assyrians did in fact become Aramaic-speakers. Arameans are also traditionally divided by religious language as some Aramean churches used Greek rather than Aramaic in church liturgy.

Arameans generally and Lebanese Christians specifically however became divided in terms of identity politics in becoming politically aligned with the regional agendas of the nation states of Israel (Aramean identity, Phoenician identity), Syria (Arabist identity, Assyrian identity and Syrian identity) and Iraq (Chaldean identity).

The challenge now is to diplomatically bridge those differences and the sadly intense hatred between the various streams of identity politics of the Aramean people. This does not only require political dialogue between the top leaderships of those political movements but importantly also diplomatic coordination between Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus and Jerusalem as well as the three self-governing regions of Free Kurdistan.

Also, the history of the Aramean people needs to be better understood and certainly so beyond current identity politics, indeed both in terms of Arameans being a Para-Jewish people and the pre-Israelite genetic origins of the of various constituent ethnic groups of the Aramean people. It should be noted that Kurdish rabbinic Jews and South Azerbaijani rabbinic Jews traditionally speak Judeo-Aramaic and Mandaeans (representing a continuation of the most ancient form of Judaism, namely Sumerian religion) traditionally speak their own literary dialect of Aramaic.

Arameans as an oppressed people have suffered genocide and many centuries of cruel religious imperialism and must no longer remain tools of existing states, rather it is the obligation of others in the region (and not just Israel) to substantially aid the noble Aramean cause. A person is defined by her/his selfless care for others and so the bond between Israel and Aram is an eternal, everlasting one between two peoples and not merely an alliance between two regional movements of indigenous liberation. Aramean interests are Israeli interests and so it is precisely essential that Israel’s partners in the region and around the world come to the aid of the noble Aramean cause of building the three states of Aram, Alawistan and Ezidxan as all based on revival of the Aramaic language as is successfully already done among Arameans in Israel.