Tuesday, January 13, 2009

History and genetic tests to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict

So it seems that Palestinians are the descendants of Jews - so goes one theory. And if this is the case, then it can solve the Middle East crisis - so goes a second theory. Well - I guess both are testable ideas, but I think the first theory has a better chance of being right. Middle East crisis can be resolved - but I doubt that it will be because of this genetic relationship. So here is a wishful piece at a time of (another) crisis:
In a bustling fish restaurant in Jaffa, the ancient sea port just south of Tel Aviv, an Israeli Jewish man tries to convince the eatery's Arab owner that everything he has ever thought about his Palestinian heritage is wrong - that the conflict that has killed so many and which is claiming hundreds more right now in Gaza - has been nothing more than a tragic case of mistaken identity. Khamis Aboulafia, a well-known figure in the Israeli Arab community, listens politely as Tsvi Misinai, a retired computer expert and pioneer of Israel's IT sector, reveals the burning vision that has consumed him for years. He believes that the Palestinians with whom Israel is at war are, in fact, descendants of Jews who stayed on the land when the Roman legions sent most of their countrymen into exile 2,000 years ago.
This idea has been brought up before, but now it can actually be verified through genetic testing (though - I don't know the reliability of such tests..):
The theory was originally developed by David Ben Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister. But it has gained a new lease of life since a study into a rare blood disorder shared by Jews and Palestinians revealed a closer genetic match between the communities than between Palestinians and other Arabs. “It's all a tragic mistake, a tragic misunderstanding,” said Misinai, who divides his time between tracking down Palestinians who acknowledge their Jewish heritage, and lobbying ministers, ambassadors, religious leaders and activists in both communities.
And here is how Mininai connects it with history:
According to his theory, when Jewish fighters waged a series of unsuccessful campaigns against the occupying Roman forces in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, the Romans exacted a heavy price: they destroyed the temple in Jerusalem and exiled the vast majority of Jews.

Those who ended up in the Diaspora - mostly city dwellers - were determined to keep their Jewish identities during exile. But according to Misinai, many were allowed to stay behind to work the fertile uplands of Judea and Samaria - now known as the West Bank - to supply Rome with grain and olive oil.

Gradually, these people lost their ethnic identities, converting first to Christianity under Byzantine rule and then to Islam, as power in the land changed hands and rulers sought to homogenise the population, either through force or the offer of social privilege and tax incentives.

“We, the Jewish people, have kept our Israeli or Jewish identity by the book, by our religion, but we disengaged from the country,” said Elon Yarden, a lawyer and close associate of Misinai, who has also written on the subject. Those who stayed behind, in what became Palestine, “did not leave the country, but lost their identity”.

Hmm...ok - But can't we live and let live simply by the fact that all humans are in a sense related to one another? Yes, yes, there is the land issue - but then we have land issues every where on the planet - and Palestinian and Israeli area is no more special than Congo or Sri Lanka. But to be fair, I doubt that thinking in the Middle East will change simply because of this genetic link. In any case, read the full article here.

6 comments:

Tom Rees said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Rees said...

It's a rather fanciful history. It's more likely that Jews are descended from Palestinians, anyway. What we have is a cultural group originating in the Palestine that used religious identification to minimise intermarriage. Which meant that genetic variance was kept low despite the diaspora (although there's good evidence that gentile females were admitted). The Palestinians who didn't develop this identity continued to intermix with the various invaders as they came and went.

I think, however, that it is important. Many people view Judaism as a racial issue (which it is, of course, because of the barriers to intermarriage). This is exacerbated by a variety of genetic studies that have found the Jews useful study subjects because of their low variance.

So a study emphasising the common heritage of Palestinian (and indeed Semitic) peoples would be useful.

Salman Hameed said...

I think, however, that it is important. Many people view Judaism as a racial issue (which it is, of course, because of the barriers to intermarriage). This is exacerbated by a variety of genetic studies that have found the Jews useful study subjects because of their low variance.

So a study emphasising the common heritage of Palestinian (and indeed Semitic) peoples would be useful.


I totally agree. I just don't think that the results will have any bearing on the prospects for peace.

Anonymous said...

"In the early seventh century CE, on the eve of the Arab conquest, there were still enough Jews in Palestine to be an important
military factor in the territorial struggles between the Romans and the Persians.

(What happened to these Palestinian Jews? It's anybody's guess. But my own guess is that they gradually converted to Islam under the pressure of the Arab rulers of Palestine, and that they are the ancestors of the people we now call "Palestinian Arabs.")
..'
http://www.pathsinjudaism.com/judaism/syllabus/rabbinic.htm

"Our recent study of high-resolution microsatellite haplotypes demonstrated that a substantial portion of Y chromosomes of Jews
(70%) and of Palestinian Muslim Arabs (82%) belonged to the same chromosome pool (Nebel et al. 2000). [..] Altogether, the findings indicated a remarkable degree of genetic continuity in both Jews and Arabs, despite their long separation and the wide geographic dispersal of Jews.
..'
http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:maaIA5Z3Pb4J:bioanthropology.huji.ac.il/pdf/Nebel_2001b.pdf

Why should this have bearing on the prospects for peace? If widely known, not just the realization by Israeli Jews and Jews worldwide that these people are their own people, but also because the Zionists and Jewry have to agree that as Bnei Yisrael - descendants of the patriarch Jacob/Israel, Palestinians are entitled by the same covenant with GOD to inhabit all of Canaan. Genesis 35:12 and the land which I gave unto Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.'

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