If you live long enough everything you learned as a child will change. Or at least that’s the way it feels.
When I was growing up in the 1960s in Utah and Nevada, I thought we were all pretty clear about the Jews and Palestinians. They were both descended from the Israelites in the Bible. The Jews were the ones who went into Exile. The Palestinians were the ones who stayed behind. And the Mormons, so they said, were descendants of the 10 Lost Tribes. I wasn’t all that clear on the chronology, but I knew the basic outline.
Then there was the 1967 War. I remember a week of suspense and high emotion. My parents thought the Arabs would win. Everyone at church thought the Arabs would win. It was going to be a disaster. It changed my understanding of history. That’s when I became clear to me that the Mormons weren’t really Jews, the Palestinians weren’t really Jews, and (for what it’s worth) that the Jews weren’t Christians.
Flash forward a few decades. Sometime in the late 1970s I ran into Arthur Koestler, The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and its Heritage (1976). Koestler’s idea was that modern European Jews are broadly descended from the Khazars, a Turkish tribe that is said to have converted to Judaism in the 8th century. A controversial theory indeed.
Now, here is Shlomo Sand arguing:
“Apart from enslaved prisoners, the population of Judea 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.
“Most Zionist thinkers were aware of this: Yitzhak Ben Zvi, later president of Israel, and 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.”
That seems plausible to me. I have much more to say on this subject but it will have to be spread across several posts.
- Weiss, Philip. “Israeli Historian: Palestinians Are Biological Descendants of Bible’s Jews.” Mondoweiss <monodwiss.net>, Sept. 2, 2008. Retrieved Nov. 4, 2008.
- Entine, Jon. Abraham’s Children: Race, identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2007.
- Sand, Shlomo. The Invention of the Jewish People. Yael Lotan, transl. New York: Verso, 2009.
- Sand, Shlomo. “Israel deliberately forgets its history.” Le Monde diplomatique <mondediplo.com>, Sept. 7, 2008. Retrieved Nov. 4, 2008.
Revised to add and revise links.