A short time ago, I wasted some time watching excerpts from an interview of the Iranian president by Piers Morgan on CNN. Even the pause in answer due to the translations couldn’t mask the embarrassment that I felt watching the leader of such a large country—and one with such a refined history—deny the existence of the Holocaust. True, it was not an outright: “No it did not happen,” but rather a very weird avoidance of the issue, criticism of Mr. Morgan for “expecting only one answer,” and contention that “no one allows research to be done on the topic.” Perhaps a little side trip to the US Holocaust Museum on his next visit to the UN could be arranged.
In addition, Mr. Morgan questioned the leader about his statements that Israel should be wiped off the map. Needless to say, the replies were no more reassuring than those about his nuclear policy or the Holocaust. Indeed, according to this leader and other prominent opposers of Israel’s existence, Jews have no roots in the middle-east and should all go back to Europe or wherever the hell they came from.
Well, where did these pesky people actually come from? Here science comes to the rescue with an interesting new paper published by Campbell et al. (Proc. Natl Acad Sci., USA, 2012, 109(34):13865-13870) titled: North African Jewish and non-Jewish populations form distinctive, orthogonal clusters.
I have to admit that I was a little surprised by some of the history I learned. I had thought that since the Jews were expelled from the middle-east following the destruction of the 2nd temple, roughly 2000 years ago, I assumed that there was a fairly great concentration of Jews who lived in Spain and Portugal until the Spanish Inquisition. As it turns out, Spain was a magnet for Jews particularly from North Africa but also from central Europe—but this occurred primarily during the “Golden Age” of Spain and not immediately after the Jews were evicted from the middle-east. Also, these Jews who had moved to Spain and Portugal, dispersed back to their North African and European diasporas as the inquisition took place.
Using DNA analysis, this new paper unequivocally demonstrates that North African Jews comprise a distinct branch of Jews who are significantly related to Jews of Europe and the middle-east, all of which are part of a broad Jewish cluster. Within the North African group, the Algerian and Moroccan Jews show more similarity to the European Jews than do their Tunisian and Libyan counterparts. This seems logical, given the proximity of Algeria and Morocco to Spain and France. However, despite considerable intermarriage with the local populations in all North African countries, these varied Jewish populations are far more genetically related to one another than they are to their respective local populations. And all of these populations show a good deal of genetic similarity to current local non-Jewish populations of Israel, such as Bedouins and Palestinians. So from a scientific and historical perspective, it’s very clear that even European Jews have roots in the middle-east.
As an avowed atheist, I am not claiming that any land should belong to members of a certain religion based on godly or biblical promises. I’m not even necessarily advocating that “squatters rights” on a piece of land should necessarily provide the squatters with ownership—ownership of land/territories is a complex issue on this planet. I am, however, definitely saying that those who deny the existence of the Holocaust, maintain that “there is not enough evidence” or claim that Jews have never had roots in the middle-east are doing so for a very specific reason. It’s called anti-semitism.