Genetics, History, and the Mystery of Jewish Resilience

Nov. 11 2021

In recent years, comparative DNA studies have shed some partial light on how Jews spread to the four corners of the earth, and the possible connections of the most distant communities in Africa, India, and China to the rest of the Jewish people. Razib Khan, a geneticist, surveys some of these data, and their implications. Take, for instance, the Bene Israel Jews of Western India, who today number about 60,000, most of whom live in Israel. Unlike India’s Baghdadi Jews, whose ancestors came from the Middle East in modern times, the Bene Israel have far murkier origins, even if they are far less mysterious than those of the B’nei Menashe of the northeastern part of the country. Khan writes:

The Bene Israel clearly descend from a fusion of a Near Eastern population and local Indians. Judging by the Judaic practices in the community, and the fact that Bene Israel in genomic analyses yield some fraction of identifiable “Jewish” heritage, that Near Eastern population was surely Jewish. What’s more, the Bene Israel Y chromosomes, their paternal lineages, have a particularly strong Jewish imprint, sharing lineages found among European and Middle Eastern Jews. In contrast, their maternal lineages are overwhelmingly Indian. Overall, on the order of 20 to 30 percent of their total ancestry seems to derive from a Middle Eastern population quite similar to Iraqi and Iranian Jews.

From these questions, Khan turns to broader ones:

[Traditionally], Jews see themselves as descendants of Jacob, and to a great extent, this conviction has been validated, insofar as deep and common Near Eastern ancestry is evident in Jewish groups from Germany to Kerala. But Jewish endogamy has limits, and the assimilation of Gentile women has been commonplace from Europe to Asia and into North Africa. . . . The foremothers of many Jewish populations were clearly converts, just like the biblical Ruth, who told her mother-in-law that “your people will be my people and your God my God.”

And yet the examples of the Jews of India and China hint at the possibility that the unique role of Judaism and the Jewish people in Christianity and Islam may have been an important factor in Ashkenazi and Sephardi persistence and flourishing over the last 3,000 years. . . . If the glittering cultural, artistic, and intellectual achievements that members of the Jewish Diaspora have shared with all humanity are a diamond, created by the vice-like pressure of Christian and Muslim domination, you have to wonder . . . what unique contributions we all lost when less enduring minorities, Jewish or otherwise, were culturally and genetically subsumed into their surrounding societies.

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Read more at Razib Khan’s Unsupervised Learning

More about: Bnei Menashe, Diaspora, Genetics, Indian Jewry, Jewish history

Iran’s Dangerous Dream of a Triple Alliance with Russia and China

Aug. 16 2022

Unlike Hamas, which merely receives support from the Islamic Republic, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)—with which Israel engaged in a short round of fighting last week—is more or less under its direct control. In fact, the recent hostilities began with a series of terrorist attacks launched by PIJ from Samaria, which might in turn have been a response to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s call “to open a new front in the West Bank against the Zionist enemy.” Amir Taheri writes:

In Gaza, the Islamic Republic has invested heavily in promoting Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. . . . Islamic Jihad is in a minority in Gaza, hence the attempt by Tehran to help it create a base in the West Bank.

Reliable sources in Baghdad say that [Iran’s expeditionary and terrorist paramilitary] the Quds Force has been “transiting” significant quantities of arms and cash via Iraq to Jordan, to be smuggled to the West Bank. The Jordanian authorities say they are aware of these “hostile activities.” King Abdullah himself has publicly called on Iran to cease “destabilizing activities.”

But such schemes, Taheri explains, are part of a larger strategic vision of creating a grand anti-Western alliance even while engaging in nuclear negotiations with the U.S. and Europe:

Last month, Khamenei praised Vladimr Putin for his invasion of Ukraine. And this month, China’s ambassador to Iran, Chang Hua, praised the Islamic Republic for supporting China in “asserting its sovereignty” over Taiwan.

It is clear that some dangerous pipe-dreamers in Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran have fallen for the phantasmagoric vision of “three great powers” banding together and with help from “the rest,” that is to say, the so-called Third World . . . to destroy an international system created by the “corrupt and decadent.”

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: China, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Russia, West Bank