Two new articles deal with political/genetic controversies over the origins of "the Jewish people" (of whom I consider myself a part for
one tribal reason or another). Here is Israeli historian Schlomo Sand in
Le Monde Diplomatique, writing, "Israel Deliberately Forgets Its History." Sand says that the Jewish exile of 70 AD is a myth, and
"the Jews" of Europe were created by
there is the question of the exile of 70 AD. There has been no real
research into this turning point in Jewish history, the cause of the diaspora.
And for a simple reason: the Romans never exiled any nation from anywhere on
the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean
But if there was no exile after 70 AD, where did all the Jews who have
populated the Mediterranean since antiquity
come from? The smokescreen of national historiography hides an astonishing
reality. From the Maccabean revolt of the mid-2nd century BC to the Bar Kokhba
revolt of the 2nd century AD, Judaism was the most actively proselytising
The most significant mass conversion occurred in the 8th century, in the
massive Khazar kingdom between the Black and Caspian seas. The expansion of
Judaism from the Caucasus into modern Ukraine
communities, many of which retreated from the 13th century Mongol invasions
into eastern Europe. There, with Jews from the Slavic lands to the south and
from what is now modern Germany
they formed the basis of Yiddish culture…
Until about 1960 the complex origins of the Jewish people were more or less
reluctantly acknowledged by Zionist historiography. But thereafter they were
marginalised and finally erased from Israeli public memory. The Israeli forces
who seized Jerusalem in 1967 believed themselves
to be the direct descendents of the mythic kingdom of David rather than – God forbid – of Berber warriors or Khazar horsemen. The Jews
claimed to constitute a specific ethnic group that had returned to Jerusalem,
from 2,000 years of exile and wandering.
Halkin somewhat concedes the point in Commentary, writing that DNA studies suggest that "Jews" owe a lot to intermixing of genes in eastern Europe and Asia. Halkin briefly sounds an enlightened note:
Perhaps one day Israel will be become the “state of all its citizens”
that democratic values require it to be, a country of Hebrew-speaking
Jews, Muslims, and Christians, all equal before the law. Although the
great majority of secular Israelis do not yet subscribe to this point
of view, more and more will come to it if things continue on their
As for Palestine,
Schlomo Sand suggests that the Palestinians are the people we call "the Jews"
in the Bible:
from enslaved prisoners, the population of
continued to live on their lands, even after the destruction of the second
temple [in 70 AD]. Some converted to Christianity in the 4th century,
while the majority embraced Islam during the 7th century Arab conquest.
Zionist thinkers were aware of this: Yitzhak Ben Zvi, later president of Israel
David Ben Gurion, its first prime minister, accepted it as late as 1929, the
year of the great Palestinian revolt. Both stated on several occasions that
the peasants of Palestine were the descendants
of the inhabitants of ancient Judea.
I guess that's why I'm for the
right of return. Hey, we're all just people. Can't we all just get along??
(Thanks to Nabil Al-Khowaiter for the tip.)