Guardian reader pulls out anti-Semitic Khazar myth

In Nick Cohen’s piece in CiF today, “Our absurd obsession with Israel is laid bare“, we were treated to a rare CiF column which called out the Guardian Left’s obsession with Israel and, with precision and without mercy, exposed the human toll of their indifference to Arab brutality and despotism – which has been laid bare during the political upheavals over the last few weeks.  We were also heartened to see many reader comments in support of Cohen’s piece.

However, then there was this:

For those unaware of the anti-Semitic Khazar myth, Stephen Plaut’s explanation should make it clear:

Arthur Koestler is a writer better known for his lifelong battles against totalitarianism in all its forms. Koestler’s book was largely based on the earlier book The History of the Jewish Khazars, by the historianD.M. Dunlop.

Dunlop rejected the idea that large numbers of Ashkenazi Jews could trace their origins to the Khazars, but not so Koestler. By grossly and sensationally exaggerating the role and numbers of Khazar descendents among European Jewry, Koestler – who was a strong Zionist – inadvertently provided today’s racialist anti-Semites with all the ammunition they could want, and many of them frequently cite his book as the basis for their racialist denunciations of Israel.

Dunlop rejected the idea that large numbers of Ashkenazi Jews could trace their origins to the Khazars, but not so Koestler. By grossly and sensationally exaggerating the role and numbers of Khazar descendents among European Jewry, Koestler – who was a strong Zionist – inadvertently provided today’s racialist anti-Semites with all the ammunition they could want, and many of them frequently cite his book as the basis for their racialist denunciations of Israel.

It is one of the great ironies of the 21st century that anti-Zionists and anti-Semites on both the Left and the Right, have returned to racialist arguments against Jews that most of us thought had died out after World War II.

One of the most bizarre aspects of this “re-racializing” of anti-Semitism is the role played by the Khazar myth.

The newly fashionable Khazar mythology holds that modern day Ashkenazim, and especially the European leadership of the Zionist movement, are not Jews at all in the racial sense, but rather descendents from non-Jewish Khazars; therefore, the Khazar “theorists” claim, Zionists and Israelis have no legitimate claims to the Land of Israel.

It would be hard to exaggerate how widespread the misuse of the Khazar myth is among those seeking to delegitimize Israel and Jews today. A recent investigation showed nearly 30,000 websites using the Khazar “theory” as a bludgeon against Israel and Zionism.

Some two hundred websites claim to describe a cabal known as the Khazarian Zionist Bolsheviks (KZV). Neo-Nazi and Holocaust denial organizations and websites are particularly fond of the Khazar myth. It is also growing in popularity among left-wing anti-Zionists.

Arab…propagandists have long bandied about the Ashkenazim as Khazars theory and Iran’s genocidal leaders adore it. Al-Jazeera has been using the Khazar story to urge a worldwide Christian religious war against the Khazar pseudo-Jewish imperialists.

Groups promoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion often cite the nefarious role of Khazars as “proof” of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy (I counted 700 such websites). And even Jewish anti-Zionist cranks like Alfred M. Lilienthal and the Swedish “Israel Shamir” have used the Khazar myth to attack Zionism.

Why are these various groups suddenly interested in a rather esoteric and archaic group of people in Central Asia that disappeared nearly a millennium ago?

Plaut explains:

According to the Khazar theory of the new anti-Semites, most Jews today, particularly Ashkenazi Jews, are not racially Jews at all but descendants from the Turkic tribe of Khazars, whose ruling class and parts of its rank and file population converted to Judaism in the 8th or early 9th century CE. Hence, argue the racialists, Ashkenazi Jews have no rights to live in the racially Semitic Middle East and especially not in the Land of Israel.

You almost have to marvel at the lengths anti-Semites who read the Guardian will go to justify their animosity (some even willing to assert that Jews living in Israel aren’t really Jews at all) and how comfortable many of them are floating seamlessly between both right-wing and left-wing political narratives as long as the end result is the moral delegitimization of Jews and Israel.

Think of it as “big tent” anti-Semitism.

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