This is a cross post from Emet m’Tsiyon
Shlomo Sand has become the Great White Hope of the anti-Zionists. Sand, a Communist, claims that the Jews of today are not descended from ancient Jews but from just about anybody but the ancient Jews. He needs this to sustain the anti-Zionist effort to delegitimize Zionism, which Communists, like himself, have opposed since the days of Lenin and Stalin. After all, Zionism is a liberation movement of the Jewish people. If there was no Jewish people, then what was the reason for Zionism? Well, the Jewish religion has always viewed the Jews, often called Israel or People of Israel in the ancient writings, as an ethnic or national group as well as a religion. The Biblical books are in part a history of the people of Israel. Later, after the deportation by the Assyrians of most of the population of the Ten northern Tribes, the history of the remainder of the people, the Jews, originally the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah, later called Iudaei by the Romans. The Jewish prayers too consider the Jews –also called Israel– as a people or nation. Hence, the belief in the existence of the Jewish people has existed for three thousand years at least, wherever the traditional prayers were recited and the Bible and other ancient Jewish literature was studied.
But anti-Zionists, who pretend to believe in national self-determination in principle, need the denial of a Jewish people, at least in modern times. At the same time, Sand, as a Communist or Communazi, needed to prove that there is no Jewish people today in order to justify not only his anti-Zionism but in order to vindicate Stalin. One of the scientific obstacles to arguing against the continuity of the ancient Jews with modern Jews is a series of some dozen to two dozen genetic studies that indicate such a continuity. Of course, no genetic scientist argues that the Jews are a pure race or that Arabs are a pure race and the like. What they can do is show the similarities in modal DNA for Jews from different geographic regions ranging from Morocco to Minsk, from Berlin to Baghdad, etc. Scientific genetic studies have shown this as well as Jewish DNA resemblances to Syrian and Lebanese Arabs, even to Palestinian Arabs, to Armenians, and –to a lesser extent– to Kurds, Greeks, Italians and Turks [the modern Turks of Turkey are actually mainly descended from peoples living in Anatolia before the Turkish conquest, including Greeks, Armenians, Kurds, Jews, etc., as well as from Arab and Turkish nomad invaders]. So Sand and his cohorts have to get over the obstacle of scientific genetic research.
On the other hand, Arab Muslims do not need the pretext of “no genetic tie of ancient Jews to modern Jews” in order to hate the Jews of Israel. The Quran and early Muslim history and traditions [hadiths] give them plenty of excuses to hate today’s Jews precisely because they are descended from or related to the Jews who opposed Muhammad in Medina, Khaybar, and elsewhere. The Hamas Charter quotes a medieval hadith in Article 7 [found in at least four different versions in the hadith literature] that calls on Muslims to slaughter all the Jews at Judgment Day. Traditional Muslim society always oppressed Jews, as well as Christians and other non-Muslims, as dhimmis. That is, Jews were non-Muslims in the Islamic state who were tolerated in a state of inferiority subject to all sorts of oppressive, exploitative, humiliating laws, the dhimma. One Muslim professor at an American university, Ismail Farouqi, told a public meeting at Temple University that the Muslims were tolerant toward Jews and not genocidal towards them, since, he explained, We could have killed you all at the time of Muhammad, if we had wanted to.
Shlomo Sand attacks [in his book, The Invention of the Jewish People] the genetics researchers who have shown that the modal DNA of Jewish groups –Ashkenazic, Sefardic, Mizrahi, Yemenite– is close to each other and also close to Arabs and other Middle Eastern peoples such as Kurds and Armenians. He insinuates that these researchers were Israeli government agents assigned to invent the results that they obtained from genetic research. That is an ad hominem argument. He further falsifies his argument by only naming the Israeli researchers [and maybe some other Jewish researchers]. He did not mention the several non-Jewish genetics researchers [such as Arnaiz-Villena] who have obtained similar results about modal Jewish DNA. He cannot argue against genetics researchers in any real scientific way, since he has no competence in that field. But the genetics researchers get in the way of his Judeophobic, anti-Zionist claims, so he has to discredit them. That is, he argues ad hominem. But Sand too is open to ad hominem criticism and much more accurately than the Israeli genetics researchers. He cannot prove that the Israeli govt told those researchers what results to find. But it is well known that Sand was raised as a Communist, grew up in the Communist movement, and remained loyal to the general Communist outlook. As a Communist, Sand is echoing the argument of Stalin in 1913 that the Jews of his time were not a nation for several reasons, none of them genetic. These reasons were that the Jews didn’t live in one state; they didn’t have a common economic life; they didn’t speak a common language; they didn’t have a common psychological makeup or culture.* Well, the Swiss don’t speak one language but they are still considered a nation. Anyhow, the State of Israel’s very existence contradicts Stalin’s arguments. But Sand as a Communist would like to prove Stalin correct, that is, that there is no Jewish people.
Now, Sand’s whole argument is fake history and fake science. It is Judeophobic, anti-Zionist agitprop. In Europe, 100 years ago and before, Jews were considered non-Europeans, Orientals, Asiatics, swarthy aliens inferior to Nordics, etc. They were seen by the Judeophobes of the time as alien to Europe. This view was held by Kant, Hegel and Voltaire more than 200 years ago about Jews whose ancestors had long lived in Europe. Kant ironically called German Jews: “The Palestinians who live among us.” What recent anti-Zionists have done is to transpose the place where Jews are alien from Europe to the Middle East, to the Land of Israel. Now, the Judeophobes say that the Jews are alien to the Middle East and really “Europeans,” the most European, the Quintessential Europeans, the “true colonialists” while the colonialist oppressions of the Europeans are forgotten. It is the same argument, to wit, the Jews are alien. Only the place is different. The argument is old wine in a new bottle. The Jews are the ultimate, absolute Other.
Arguing against Sand’s claim is the fact that conversion to Judaism was forbidden in the Roman Empire even before Christianity became the state religion of the Empire. The Roman legal writer Paulus [1st half of 3rd century CE] states this. Modestinus, another legal writer of the same period, wrote:
It was permitted only to the Jews to circumcise their sons, by a rescript of Divine Pius [= the emperor]
Circumcidere Iudaeis filios suos tantum rescripto Divi Pii permittitur
[M Stern, Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism, vol. III (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1984), p 65]
Paulus said that Roman citizens must not let themselves or their slaves be circumcised. Physicians performing circumcision were to be beheaded. After Christianity became the Roman Empire’s state religion, more explicit prohibitions on conversion to Judaism prevailed in the Empire and –later– in Christian-ruled lands up to the rise of the modern secular state in the 19th century.** Further, Sand makes much of the Khazars who lived in the northern Caucasus region between the Caspian and Black Seas. Not quite the center of Europe. But Sand claims the northern European Jews, called Ashkenazim, as descendants of Khazars. The Khazars or perhaps only their aristocracy or royal family converted to Judaism. But the Khazars disappeared from history after their defeat at the hands of the Kievan Russian state in the mid-10th century. Nothing solid and reliable is known about them after the defeat, just tenuous mentions of Khazars in Hungary, Constantinople and Alexandria, etc. Did the survivors flee east or west or south or north? Were there many survivors or did the Kievan Rus army wipe out most of the Khazar people? Did any survivors hold to Judaism? We bear in mind that in any case, it is probable that only the aristocracy converted to Judaism. There is no solid evidence for what happened to them and if any remained Jews. There is only speculation based on hints and tenuous mentions.
On the other hand, there is a lot of evidence about Jewish migrations to southern Europe and from southern Italy and Sicily to northern France and then to the Rhineland after Charlemagne allowed Jews to migrate into Germany in 815. The links of Jews in northern Europe [Ashkenazim] with Jews in Israel, Spain, Egypt and Babylonia in the Middle Ages are documented. Likewise, the migration of Jews eastwards in the later Middle Ages to Poland, the Lithuanian kingdom [inc. Belarus] and Ukraine is documented. One obvious argument against Sand is that the Jews in Eastern Europe spoke Yiddish among themselves. But most of Yiddish vocabulary is Germanic, based on the medieval Rhineland dialect, with some important words and personal names derived from Romance tongues, besides the large Hebrew-Aramaic component of Yiddish. The Romance elements include the common word bentshn meaning to bless, from the Italian bendicere. Romance names include Shprintseh [Speranza], Belle & Bella, Bunim [Bon Homme], etc. If the Eastern European Jews were really Khazars, as Sand claims, how did it happen that they were not speaking the Khazar tongue, a Turkic language?? Why were the Polish, Rumanian, Ukrainian, Belarusian Jews speaking Yiddish, a language based on a medieval Germanic [MHG] vocabulary with some key words of Romance origin?? If supposed Khazar migrants to the countries mentioned could not maintain their original Turkic language in the new, non-Khazar environment, then why didn’t they adopt one of the Slavic languages spoken in those countries [or, in Romania, Romanian], instead of speaking Yiddish??
Next, let’s consider the personal appearance of various known Ashkenazic Jews. Look up photos as young men of Albert Einstein, Ferdinand Lasalle, Karl Marx [born a Jew, although not raised as a Jew]. Look up photos of Zionist leaders such as Theodor Herzl, David Ben Gurion as a young man, Moshe Sharett [2nd prime minister of Israel; original family name: Shertok], Abba Ahimeir, etc. Do they look like Khazars?
Before I end, I will speak of personal experience. I am an Ashkenazic Jew. But I have been taken for an Arab by Arabs on several occasion. Once, while in the United States, an Arab who had just met me, asked me –before knowing my name– in a friendly way, happy to be meeting someone that he thought was a fellow Arab: A’anta `arabi min al-`uruba? [rough translation: Are you an Arab of the true Arab essence?]. I have also been taken for an Italian and an Armenian several times, by Italians, Armenians, and others. Am I really a Khazar?
– – – – – – – – – – -footnotes- – – – – – –
Researchers on Jewish genetics include Bonne-Tamir, DM Behar, K Skorecki, MF Hammer, PP Majumder, A Nebel, D Filon & D Weiss, Arnaiz-Villena, SA Santachiara-Benerecetti, O Semino & G Passarino, AJ Redd & ET Wood, etc. The subject is important in medicine, such as in the field of organ transplants where genetic similarity is best, if not necessary, for the transplant to succeed. Of course, none of the various peoples mentioned above is a pure race in modern times. Here is the general genetic view today of Ashkenazic Jews:
Recent genetic studies, based on Y chromosome polymorphic markers, showed that Ashkenazi Jews are more closely related to other Jewish and Middle Eastern groups than to their host populations in Europe [here].
This study shows that 11.5% of Ashkenazi Jews present a DNA type that may indicate Khazar and/or other non-Jewish Eastern European ancestry. This percentage is not the dominant Ashkenazi Jewish DNA type.
On the Khazars, see Encyclopedia Judaica, “Khazars.”
* JV Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question” [1913; see International Publishers edition in English (New York); also in B Franklin, ed., The Essential Stalin: Major Theoretical Writings, 1905-1952 (London 1973), pp 62-65]; Robert Wistrich discusses Stalin’s argument in The Left against Zion [London 1979], p 13.
** Amnon Linder, Jews in the Legal Sources of the Middle Ages [Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities 1998]