While Hitler y”s extended the definition of “Jew” in order to keep Aryan blood pure, his successors have worked to shrink the definition. To counter the prevalent Christian Zionist notion of G-d’s immutable covenant with the Jewish people, many anti-semites have resorted to the argument that today’s Jews are not really related to the Jews of antiquity, and therefore not a part of G-d’s plan.
More importantly, the Palestinians have increasingly battled the idea that the return of the Jews to Zion is a fitting corrective to the exile of the ancestors of those Jews. Nonsense, cry the Palestinians. Perhaps a few Sephardic Jews are related to some of the ancient Jewish inhabitants of the Land. The Ashkenazi architects of the State are all imposters, more or less recent converts to the cause. The oldest, continuous presence in the Land is that of the Palestinians, who, according to one of their fantasies, derive from none other than the ancient Canaanites.
The idea that only some Jews are authentic is not a new one. The most serious modern advocate of this “theory” was the Hungarian Jewish author Arthur Koestler, in The Thirteenth Tribe. Koestler argued that Ashkenazi Jewry derived from the Khazars, the people from the Russian Caucasus who converted en masse, and were the subject of R. Yehudah HaLevi’s classic Kuzari. According to Koestler, some of the Khazars penetrated the West and lingered to spawn the Ashkenazim.
Koestler thought that by demonstrating that the Jews of Europe were not really Jews, Europe could be cured of its anti-Semitism. Koestler was not the first to try to discredit Ashkenazic Jewry, but his book, published in 1976, is still quoted. (Andrei Gromyko, speaking at the UN around the time of the June War, mocked the idea that Jews are entitled to a homeland in the Middle East. This might be true, he said, but it would certainly not apply to a bunch of imposters from Europe who weren’t really Jewish.)
Koestler’s work was entirely without basis and roundly rejected. Moreover, Koestler, in his own misguided way, meant well if his own words can be trusted. This is not true of the evil opportunist Shlomo Sand, the contemporary ex-communist, anti-Zionist professor at Tel Aviv U. who very recently has embraced Koestler’s theory (in The Invention of the Jewish People) for very different motives – to bring about an end to the Jewish State, and create a single state for all its peoples.
Koestler will be remembered favorably for his Darkness at Noon, one of the most effective anti-communist works ever written. Sand will be justly remembered for infamy, and take his place beside people like Jacob Pfeferkorn, Pablo Christiani, and many of his colleagues at Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Ben-Gurion U. in a rogues gallery of Jewish turncoats.
Except that we will not have to wait for his disgrace. The New York Times reports that two new studies show a surprising genetic connection between Ashkenazic an Sephardic communities.
The shared genetic elements suggest that members of any Jewish community are related to one another as closely as are fourth or fifth cousins in a large population, which is about 10 times higher than the relationship between two people chosen at random off the streets of New York City….Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews have roughly 30 percent European ancestry, with most of the rest from the Middle East, the two surveys find. The two communities seem very similar to each other genetically, which is unexpected because they have been separated for so long.
This is not going to undo the reversals in Israel’s image to the world, but it is not an insignificant victory either. Watch for Palestinian attempts to deny the validity of the research, which included Jewish researchers. Frum NYU Professor Larry Schiffman engaged in understatement when he told the Times that “I’m constantly impressed by the manner in which the geneticists keep moving ahead with new projects and illuminating what we know of history.”
Revisionist history continues to eat away at the legitimacy of the Jewish State. Much of the world has come to believe many of the lies, such as the beginning of Israel’s history with a post-Holocaust attempt by the West to solve the problem of Jewish refugees, and the June War as an unprovoked war of territorial expansion.
Ironically, it is easier to demonstrate to the world truths about our origins thousands of years ago than to undo myths created by the Palestinians about much more recent events.
I don’t see the big deal here. Despite what Helen Thomas might say, I have no rights to Germany or Lithuania. It is irrelevant that my grandparents grew up in those countries. By the same token, if any Comanches or Carrizos were to come to my Austin home and demand their land back, I’ll tell them I’m not interested in selling. Legitimacy is a matter of the last few generations, not ancient history. Otherwise, any place on the face of the Earth will have irreconcilable claims on it.
My grandparents didn’t have the right to their homes under the British Mandate because their distance ancestors lived in the vicinity. They had the right to their homes because they bought them, in a chain of ownership that could be traced back to Ottoman times in the Tabu (the land registry). Other land became vacant after a war. Those are the only claims that should matter.