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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Yet another poor paper on Jewish ancestry

N.M. Koppelman et al., Genomic microsatellites identify shared Jewish ancestry intermediate between Middle Eastern and European populations. BMC genetics, 2009. Open access.

The first thing I looked at was whether they had sampled non-Jewish Turks as control group. They did not, hence, in my opinion, this is just another paper that totally misses the point of Jewish origins, which are probably more in ancient Anatolia than in Palestine.

However, my dad, who grew up under a fascist dictatorship where good information was scarce and camouflaged, taught me to read between lines: to go beyond what the authors are expressly saying and detect that way further implications. And there are some things we can learn from this paper too therefore.

They did not sample gentile Turks but they did sample Jewish Turks and Palestinians, as well as Tunisian and Moroccan Jews, Tuscan and Adygei gentiles, etc. Certainly Jews (who appear as a rather homogeneous cluster regardless of origin) do not cluster closely with Palestinians at K=6, which in itself suggests that they are not of Palestinian origin. Their Palestinian genetic levels are essentially the same as those of Europeans, or just slightly higher.

The "Jewish" (Anatolian?) cluster does appear instead to have some increased presence in some European populations: exactly those in which you would expect a greater Anatolian affinity: Sardinians, Tuscans and Adygeis.

This paper is essentially useless and is unable to question the Anatolian Diaspora hypothesis that I hold as the likely origin for Jews and very specially European Jews (Ashkenazim and many Sephardim).

Why do I hold this hypothesis? First, for historical reasons: the original Jewish community in Hellenistic and Roman times was the Anatolian diaspora (there were Jews in some other areas, notably Alexandria and Palestine but the vast majority lived in Asia Minor - and that's why Christianity began there). At that time Judaism (of which Christianity is just an offshoot) was proselytist (and that's why Christianity and Islam are proselytist) and logically absorbed many gentiles who found spiritual and/or materialist benefits in such conversion. There are clear medieval examples of full nations or at least their elites converted to Judaism: Yemen, Kurdistan, Berbers, Khazars... and nothing less than the whole Roman Empire (Christian subsect, then transformed in a separate religion). So this should not be surprising at all (but of course is taboo under the Zionist doctrine because it would imply that Judaism is just a religion, not a race or nation).

Secondly, Jews, specifically Ashkenazi Jews, have only clustered with someone else (as far as I know) when Greeks and Armenians were included in the sample (see Bauchet 2007). They are not Turks but close enough and anyhow these three peoples made up a unique cluster in this mostly European study.

So I am still waiting for the research paper that dares to deal with this issue from a honest perspective. Of course, I know that (sadly enough) one should not expect such honest approach from a Tel Aviv University researcher but I am always optimistic and truly believe in human good disposition and honesty. However I also know of cowardice and conformism.

I'm still waiting.


Ken said...

Even if the original Zionists and settlers were originally converts from Anatolia (which I doubt), the population of Israel today are mainly Arab Jews whose claim to the land is not so easily dismissed.

Many doenmeh are among Turkey’s secular elite,

Maju said...

False in two senses:

Arab Jews (a taboo term for Zionists) made up some 500,000 of all arrivals to Israel. The vast majority are instead from Western countries, including many where they never had any persecution like the USA or the former USSR.

Anyhow, Yemenites or Moroccans can hold no claim for Palestine. They are as foreigner as an Ashkenazi.

Using the term "Arab" (instead of Palestinian) to confuse things is sooo typical of the Zionist discourse.

Why do I get so many single-though right wing readers?

Maju said...

Your opinion on the origin of Jews is very speculative, it sounds like the one about Khazar converts to me.

It is a fact that Khazars converted en masse to Judaism. And it's also very likely that they make up a significative part of the Ashkenazi ancestry in Russia and other East European areas.

Conversion to Judaism (proselytism) was common in Antiquity and early Middle Ages (and is directly related to the rise of "heresies" like Christianity and Islam - though Rabbinic Judaism can also be considered a "heresy" and not the real thing - all the Talmud is recent and makes up the bulk of modern Judaistic doctrine). Jewish polities in that period include not just Khazaria but also a Kurdish realm, Yemen before the Ethiopian invasion (and after it until conversion to Islam), many Berber tribes... Even the city of Medina that protected Mohamed was largely Jewish.

But we are here mostly concerned about the origin of European Jews, which do not have such origins for the greatest part. We know that in Roman times there were many more Jews (probably many of them converts) in Asia Minor and Syria than in Palestine, where the Roman genocide essentially made sure that Judaists were either killed, enslaved or pushed into underground marginality, favoring conversion to Christianity or other sects. We know of no such persecution elsewhere though.

Bauchet 2007 shows that Ashkenazim cluster tightly with Greeks and Armenians. No other study I know of has compared Jews with these populations of Anatolia and surroundings, where I think (and early Zionists used to think, when they were more honest) that the early Romano-European Jewry (the ancestors of most modern Jews) arose.

For me it's a clear case of hiding relevant data or avoiding a promising research line just because of ideological fears. Pathetic!