One of the favorite themes of Neo-Nazis is that today’s Ashkenazi Jews aren’t Jews, that is, descendants of the inhabitants of ancient Judea, but rather descended from the Khazars, Caucasian nomads that converted to Judaism around the 7th century (some of them converted to Christianity and Islam too, but never mind).
Now an Israeli scholar, Shlomo Zand (or Sand) claims that Sephardic Jews aren’t Jews either, but descended from various North African tribes.
Zand is not a neo-Nazi, and he even admits that his ‘findings’ don’t reflect on the legitimacy of the State of Israel. However, since he believes that “the character of the State of Israel undermines it in a much more serious way”, and also that “the chances that the Palestinians are descendants of the ancient Judaic people are much greater than the chances that you or I are its descendants”, one can see that he is happy to provide ammunition to those who want an ideological foundation for their hoped-for destruction of Israel.
Zand, a historian who has heretofore written about 20th-century France, based his work on modern “studies that present unorthodox views of the origins of the Jews” (I can imagine). For a taste of the absurdity of his argument, here’s how the Jewish People was ‘invented':
At a certain stage in the 19th century, intellectuals of Jewish origin in Germany, influenced by the folk character of German nationalism, took upon themselves the task of inventing a people “retrospectively,” out of a thirst to create a modern Jewish people. From historian Heinrich Graetz on, Jewish historians began to draw the history of Judaism as the history of a nation that had been a kingdom, became a wandering people and ultimately turned around and went back to its birthplace.
Of course the literature of the Jewish People goes back to long before this period. So Zand is apparently saying that at some point an influx of foreign DNA made the Jewish People not the the Jewish People, and therefore — knowing that they had been adulterated and therefore lost their birthright — they conspired to pretend that they were.
Even if we grant his genealogical point (which I don’t), certainly the ‘peoplehood’ of the Jews rests in culture and spirit and not physical DNA!
It’s argued that there is genetic evidence that links both Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews to the Middle East. I’m not qualified to evaluate it, of course, but most importantly, even if many Jews were descended from converts, who cares?
I could similarly argue that many Palestinian Arabs are descended from Egyptians that came with Muhammad Ali in the early part of the 19th Century, or Syrians who migrated to Palestine when the end of Ottoman rule and Jewish development improved the regional economy. I could talk about how nobody ever heard of the ‘Palestinian people’ until 1967. But this, too, would be irrelevant.
What is relevant is that the legitimacy of the Jewish state of Israel is not dependent on the presence of converts in the genealogy of the Jews. It is not dependent on Jewish provenance in biblical times, just as it is not justified by the Holocaust.
The Early Zionists purchased land legally, often paying exorbitant prices for poor land which they then improved by draining swamps and so forth. The yishuv (pre-state Jewish settlement) built all the institutions that would become the state.
The Jewish state received international sanction in 1947 and was kept through a series of defensive wars, which in fact are still ongoing. Israel is no less ‘legitimate’ than Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia which were created at about the same time — and possibly more so, due to the UN Partition Resolution, and the fact that Israel is a democracy.
Although religious Jews (and many Christians) believe that the Jews were given the Land as described in the Torah, there is a solid secular foundation for the state as well.
Zand’s work appears to be another manifestation of mental disorder in the extreme academic Left in Israel, similar to the completely insane thesis that the IDF’s failure to rape Arab women is a racist phenomenon.