Jewish Genetic Segregation

A Dissident Meditation on Jewish Identity: A Review of Gilad Atzmon’s “The Wandering Who?”

Gilad Atzmon, The Wandering Who? A Study of Jewish Identity Politics (Winchester, UK and Washington, DC: Zer0 Books, 2011, 202 pp.)

Gilad Atzmon is one of those rarest of all birds—the sort of person who would be called a “self-hating Jew” by Jewish activists. Except that he doesn’t really hate himself and really doesn’t have much of a Jewish identity at all. He is an honest leftist who happens to be of Jewish origin; or perhaps one should label him a liberal devoted to the values of the Enlightenment,  without the typical Jewish blinders. Although he has a few blinders of his own, he sees quite clearly the incompatibility of Zionism with post-Enlightenment Western civilization.

For Atzmon, Zionism is all about Judaism as racial identity politics, ethnic cleansing, and manipulating Western governments via the Israel Lobby. As a child growing up in Israel, “supremacy was brewed into our souls, we gazed at the world through racist, chauvinistic binoculars. And we felt no shame about it either” (p. 2). He began his journey of embracing the West as a result of immersion in jazz. Eventually, “I somehow already yearned to become a Goy or at least to be surrounded by Goyim” (p. 7).

For Atzmon, the racialism so fundamental to Zionism is an aberration from Judaism the religion. He has no problem with people who “regard themselves as human beings that happen to be of Jewish origin.” The problem arises with “those who put their Jewish-ness over and above all other traits” (p. 16). This sort of Jewish essentialism was central to Zionism from the beginning, often with strong racialist overtones. Quoting Vladimir Jabotinsky, the father of the Israeli right:

A Jew brought up among Germans may assume German customs, German words. He may be wholly imbued with that German fluid but the nucleus of his spiritual structure will always remain Jewish because his blood, his body, his physical racial type are Jewish. Read more

A new study on Jewish genetics

Kevin MacDonald:  Gil Atzmon and colleagues have come out with the largest study yet comparing Jewish and non-Jewish populations. (See here and here.) Ted Sallis will be coming out with a longer summary for TOO, but I thought I would highlight a couple points.

The study is remarkable for the number of genetic loci studied (3904 SNPs) and the number of people sampled (273 Jews from 7 different Jewish groups (Ashkenazi, Iranian, Syrian, Iraqi, Italian; Greek; Turkish) and 418 people from 16 non-Jewish groups).  As in previous studies, the main message is that Jewish populations do cluster together and are different from the populations they have lived among for hundreds of years.  The 7 Jewish populations divided into a European/Syrian group with a relatively high degree of genetic admixture with European non-Jews (30-60%) and a Middle Eastern group (Iraqi and Iranian Jews). The estimate of 60% overlap between Ashkenazi populations and Europeans indicates that Ashkenazi Jews are an intermediary population with genetic interests that overlap significantly with Europeans.

The new findings were seen as support for the idea that there was significant admixture with non-Jews in Greco-Roman times. This is based on the clustering of the European/Syrian Jews  and the fact that these groups have been separated since ancient times. The authors argue that the data are consistent  with historical accounts of proselytism and large-scale conversions to Judaism in ancient times.  When I reviewed the historical data in A People That Shall Dwell Alone (Ch. 4, pp. 62-78), I ended up rejecting this theory, coming down on the side of historians who doubted how important conversion really was. One thing that convinced me was that there was a lot of evidence for biases against converts. For example, once they converted they were regarded as very undesirable marriage partners and that a pure Jewish genealogy was a very big asset in the marriage market. Families keep their genealogies for generations, and there is a lot of evidence for hostility toward converts. Contrary to Atzmon et al., conversion is not required to explain the large numbers of Jews in the ancient world.

There was also a very pronounced apologetic tone to Jewish advocates of high levels of prosetlytism. But now it looks like they may have been right because the greatest admixture among the European/Syrian groups comes from the Mediterranean area: French, Northern Italian, and Sardinians. It’s hard to see how that could have happened without the admixture occurring in the ancient world. It’s also worth noting that, once again, the data are not compatible with a major role for the Khazars.

In any case, there certainly were elaborate cultural barriers against intermarriage throughout very long stretches of Jewish history, resulting in genetically different populations with substantially different genetic interests. That’s the point of the group evolutionary strategy idea: Admixture would have been much higher without barriers.

And of course, genetic overlap is not the same thing as a psychological sense of common interest. Following John Murray Cuddihy, I have often stressed the hostility and sense of historical grievance that Jews have had toward the Europeans they have lived among for centuries. Psychological attitudes do not necessarily match up one-to-one with genetic distance. Attitudes are affected not only by genetic similarity but are at least partly affected by ingroup/outgroup psychology which is known to be fairly insensitive to genetic distance: People can develop great hatreds toward the fans of different football teams.

The point is that it’s quite possible that Jewish hostility toward Europeans and their culture is not really warranted by the recent findings on genetic distance–an intriguing possibility to say the least.

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The Persian Jewish Community in Beverly Hills

Ashkenazi Jews are the dominant group of Jews in the US and Europe, but I think it’s worthwhile to discuss other Jewish groups, particularly those from the Middle East because Middle Eastern Jewish groups  illustrate Judaism in its purest forms. Middle Eastern Jewish groups are quite similar to Ashkenazi groups as they existed in traditional Europe. Among contemporary Ashkenazim, they resemble the more Orthodox and fundamentalist segments of the community.

A good example are the Syrian Jews that were the subject of a previous blog. Despite living in the US for over 100 years, they remain hermetically sealed off from the rest of America, including other Jews. They aggressively police group boundaries, particularly intermarriage. Their business relationships are with other Syrian Jews, particularly family members. Recently, the Syrian Jewish community has been implicated in scandals involving money laundering, drug and organ trafficking, and tax evasion (See here and here). Reflecting practices in traditional Jewish communities, a community member who ratted out other Syrian Jews to the police was renounced by his own father.

A recent article, “The Persian Conquest” describes  a more recently arrived group of Oriental Jews who emigrated from Iran since the fall of the Shah and mostly settled in Southern California, particularly Beverly Hills. This is an elite group:

Although dispossessed, the thousands of Iranian Jews who flocked to Beverly Hills … had assets most immigrants lack: advanced education, business experience and, in the majority of cases, some cash in overseas accounts.

The following paragraph gets at the insular, clannish nature of these Jews.

A complaint sounded by Beverly Hills old-timers was that the Persians could be clannish, self-segregating and indifferent to the established norms of the community they were entering. … Thanks to their wealth and numbers, Persians didn’t need to adapt. Instead, they developed a self-sufficient Farsi-speaking enclave, complete with grocery stores, restaurants and even taxi services. And rather than courting the local social establishment, rich Persians stuck to their own social world, which revolved around lavish 1,000-person bar mitzvahs and weddings. “My mother really doesn’t need to speak English, although she does,” says Nazarian.

The comment on lack of concern for established norms recalls the behavior of Lubavitcher Jews in Postville, Iowa: No concern for even trivial things like mowing lawns or shoveling sidewalks.  More importantly, it reminds one of the lack of respect for Christian traditions that has been so characteristic of the mainstream Jewish community in the US, as recounted, for example, by Edmund Connelly (see here, here and here).

An informant goes on to say, “Cultural preservation is one part of the experience of being displaced, and as with any immigrant community, we naturally want to associate with one another. Middle Eastern countries also tend to be very tribal.”

This comment on the tribal nature of Middle Eastern societies is right on the mark — a critical difference between Jewish and Western cultural traditions. It’s no surprise then that marriage with another Persian Jew is the norm. In the following quote, notice that marriage is at least as much about fitting into the other person’s family as it is about finding someone who satisfies your psychological needs as an individual — a clear marker of the collectivist mindset:

Likewise, a majority in the younger generation choose to marry fellow Persians—much to their parents’ relief. “They don’t have to marry Persian,” says Jasmine Yadegar, in a tone suggesting that she hopes her two twentysomething daughters—both of whom still live at home—eventually will. “All I want for them is to be happy and find people with the same background.”

“For me,” says daughter Sabrina, an aspiring fashion designer, “I think it’s a lot easier to fall in love with someone who has the same ideas and experiences.”

“I need to love their family, and they need to love mine,” adds older sister Jessica, a documentary filmmaker. “Some of my American friends have told me that you’re not dating the parents. They say you don’t need to meet the parents on the first, second or third date. That’s not my view. I think the longer you postpone the introduction to the family, the longer it takes you to get to know if this is someone you want to spend the rest of your life with.”

If you married an outsider, you would be completely cut off from the intense social life of the community.

It will be interesting to see if this group is as able as the Syrian Jews to remain separate in the American context.

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Shlomo Sand’s Invention

Shlomo Sand’s The Invention of the Jewish People is a book full of counter productive ideas for our side. I know it will attract interest for being anti-Zionist, but the author takes up the anti-Zionist argument for all the wrong reasons. He opposes the idea of an ethnostate — a result that would rule out everything except enclaves of implicit white communities. He is extremely anti-nationalist in political outlook; rejects the idea of race as a biological reality; dismisses research findings on Jewish genetics (see the recent blogpost by Ted Sallis for what the scientists say). He rejects the idea of Israel as a ethno-homeland for Jews. Ideologically Sand seems very much in line with the Jewish socialist tradition of Trotsky and Saul Alinsky.

In other words, this is a book by a radical leftist — Sand’s Wikipedia biography notes that he was a communist in his youth. Not  surprisingly, it was published by Verso, a leftwing publisher that has also given us the likes of Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, etc.

Although his book at times contains interesting admissions, overall his thesis rests on a number of flawed, counter-productive, and perilous arguments that racially conscious Whites should reject.

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Ted Sallis: More Jewish Genetics: The "Weak Khazar Hypothesis"

Ted SallisAn important new paper (free online; see here) has come out on Jewish population genetics.  

The populations used in this study are described as: 

The Middle Eastern populations included in the study were Bedouin (46), Druze (42), Mozabite (29), and Palestinian (46). The European populations were Adygei (17), Basque (24), French (28), Italian (13), Orcadian (15), Russian (25), Sardinian (28), and Tuscan (8). Middle Eastern and European non-Jewish individuals were taken from the H952 subset of the HGDP-CEPH panel [24]. The Jewish samples included Ashkenazi Jews (20), Moroccan Jews (20), Tunisian Jews (20), and Turkish Jews (20). 

The major findings are described below, emphasis added: 

Abstract: Background: Genetic studies have often produced conflicting results on the question of whether distant Jewish populations in different geographic locations share greater genetic similarity to each other or instead, to nearby non-Jewish populations. We perform a genome-wide population-genetic study of Jewish populations, analyzing 678 autosomal microsatellite loci in 78 individuals from four Jewish groups together with similar data on 321 individuals from 12 non-Jewish Middle Eastern and European populations.

Results: We find that the Jewish populations show a high level of genetic similarity to each other, clustering together in several types of analysis of population structure. Further, [statistical analyses] place the Jewish populations as intermediate between the non-Jewish Middle Eastern and European populations. Conclusion: These results support the view that the Jewish populations largely share a common Middle Eastern ancestry and that over their history they have undergone varying degrees of admixture with non-Jewish populations of European descent. 

Neighbor-joining population trees obtained for the three distance matrices were generally quite similar (Figure 3). All three trees are divided into a European side and a Middle Eastern side, with the four Jewish populations located in the interior. 

This result … assigns the Jewish populations and the Palestinians to the same cluster (Figure 2), and by the relatively close placement of the Palestinians and the Jewish populations in MDS plots of individual distances (Figure 5). 

What about the Khazars? 

One frequently discussed conversion that likely occurred in the 8th century at the far eastern edge of Europe, north of the Caucasus and Black Sea regions, is that of the Khazarian kingdom [60, 62, 64]. The demographic effect of this conversion is debated, so that only a small minority of the Khazars may have adopted Judaism. While the ultimate fate of the Khazar population remains unknown, the theory has been advanced that a large fraction of the ancestry of eastern European Jews derives from the Khazars [60, 62-64]. This theory would predict ancestry for the eastern European Ashkenazi Jewish population to be distinct from that of the other Jewish populations in the study. Although we did not observe such a distinct ancestry, it is noteworthy that in some analyses (Figures 2 and 3), as was observed in the recent study of Need et al. [10], we did detect similarity of the Adygei, a north Caucasian group from the area once occupied by the Khazars, to the Jewish populations. 

This is consistent with what I’ve said in the past. The data are consistent with a “weak Khazar hypothesis” — that Ashkenazi Jews may have some fraction of Khazar ancestry but are more closely linked to other Middle Eastern groups. On the other hand, the “strong Khazar hypothesis” — that the Ashkenazim are merely “converted Khazars without any connection whatsoever to the Middle Eastern populations of the classical world (i.e., Hebrews)” — is highly unlikely.  Not only are the Ashkenazim genetically close to the Sephardim (who have traditionally been considered as likely Hebrew descendants), but this study yet again confirms previous findings of a significant fraction of historical Middle Eastern ancestry in the Ashkenazim. 

Therefore, the idea that the Ashkenazim are simply Khazars with no Middle Eastern ancestry is untenable.

However, equally untenable is the idea that the Ashkenazim are “just like Europeans” and are not distinct from the European genepool.  It is quite clear that Europeans are different from Middle Easterners, with various Jewish groups positioned intermediate to those two major Caucasian continental population groups.  Indeed, it may be reasonable to see Jews as a “mini-race” as they are distinct from both Europeans and Middle Easterners and are indeed more similar to each other than to these other groups.  This conclusion is supported by the work of Need et al. (Note 1), which demonstrated that 1/4 Jewish ancestry can be detected in individuals.  This ability to detect 1/4 Jewish ancestry, in a reasonably reliable manner, within the broader Caucasian family suggests a degree of racial differentiation of Jews sufficient for consideration as a separate (sub-) racial group.

In general, these findings support Jewish history and tradition, given the commonalities of the Ashkenazim and Sephardim, as well as the Middle Eastern connection.  One would think that persons of Jewish ancestry would be well pleased with these findings, which have a strong empirical basis.  Indeed, persons who falsely claim that the Ashkenazim are “Europeans” are as anti-Semitic as those who continue, in the face of all contradictory evidence, to peddle the “strong Khazar hypothesis.”

Note that discussions of the Ashkenazim as a group do not necessarily cover all individuals of this group.  Likely (and supported to some extent by this paper) individual Ashkenazim may be essentially genetically European, and others genetically Middle Eastern, even when most of their fellows are intermediate to those populations. Global similarity analyses, such as the quantitative measurement offered by 23andme (using over 500,000 autosomal SNP markers), may be useful to determine the genetic affinities of individual Ashkenazim (and Sephardim); particular individuals may be quite different from their ethnic genetic centroid.

That being said, this paper’s data are fairly clear that the Ashkenazi (and Sephardic) genepool, as a whole, is not European, and it is not Middle Eastern either.  It is a unique and distinct blending of these ancestries.  This analysis is in no way a commentary on the debates found elsewhere on the Internet about “are the Jews white?”  Different people draw the line of “whiteness” at different places within the Caucasian family of peoples.  The issue here is, instead, empirical determination of the place of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews in the genetic spectrum of human populations.  This paper is an important contribution to our understanding of this complex and fascinating topic. 

This paper also refutes some self-serving stupidity that a part-Jewish and highly confused commentator has been making, in that he incorrectly asserts that the major biological/genetic split of Caucasians is within Europe, with northern Europeans (who he bizarrely believes underwent racial differentiation in India [!] of all places) separate from the other Europeans, who he thinks are in the Middle Eastern population branch. Of course, autosomal analyses consistently show this is incorrect, and I’ve previously cited those papers in other forums.  From the present paper (emphasis added): 

Neighbor-joining population trees obtained for the three distance matrices were generally quite similar (Figure 3). All three trees are divided into a European side and a Middle Eastern side, with the four Jewish populations located in the interior. This division is supported by relatively strong bootstrap values… …the basic pattern visible in all three trees, in which the Middle Eastern and European populations cluster separately with the Jewish populations in the center. 

European populations included are examples of Basque, French, Italian, Orcadian, Russian, Sardinian, and Tuscan.  Basque, Italian, Sardinian, and Tuscan are southern European. Orcadian is northern European, the French can reasonably be seen as “central,” and Russians are eastern European.  Given that European genetics is clinal as well as clustered, the arrangement of the populations in the “trees” is what one would expect. 


1. The Need et al.  paper also clearly shows a variety of European populations (similar to those analyzed in the paper discussed here) clustering separately from Middle Easterners, with Jews in an intermediate position.  Thus, different research groups, using different marker sets, are coming to the same conclusion – a conclusion supported by other peer-reviewed papers as well.

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Jewish Intermarriage

There has been a lot of talk about the “high” intermarriage rate (~ 50%) of American Jews and how this “proves” a willingness to assimilate.  However, in Separation and Its Discontents, Dr. Kevin MacDonald analyzed the data and concluded that the 50% rate was likely an over-estimate, at least for first marriages (i.e.,  those most likely to lead to family formation), and because of undercounting conservative and orthodox Jews.  In addition, even if we accept a 50% rate, I previously commented on other forums that such a rate is actually indicative of a resistance to assimilation, not a tendency toward it.  That is because not only do virtually all white gentile ethnic groups have an intermarriage rate greater than 50% (as the work of Alba has shown), but proportion of the population needs to be figured in.  The larger a group, the greater the probability, and possibility, of finding a mate of the same ethnic (or religious) background; the smaller the group, the greater the chance of mating with someone different – that is, if the people in question have no innate resistance to assimilatory intermarriage.  Given that Jews make up a very small percent of the American population, the Jewish intermarriage rate in the absence of anti-assimilation pressures should be much higher than 50%, in fact at least 80%.

An excerpt from a relevant article, emphasis added:

Individuals that make up ethnic groups may influence the group’s rate of assimilation. While not necessarily providing the ultimate explanation for variations in assimilation between ancestry groups, ethnic capital plays a vital mediating role in the transmission of ethnicity. Not only is ethnic capital an outcome, as is implicit in the assimilation literature, but it plays a role in ethnic choice, as individuals with greater ethnic capital will be more likely to retain ethnic identification and invest in their children’s ethnic capital, a subject that has received little attention in the literature. The lack of an explicit concept of ethnic capital has contributed to the focus on group-level, structural analyses of assimilation rather than at the level of the individual….

While the concept of ethnic capital has been shown to incorporate existing theories, its utility depends on its ability to expand theoretical and empirical knowledge about ethnicity. To demonstrate the usefulness of an ethnic capital approach to assimilation, we examine the causes of intermarriage, a key product of and contributor to assimilation among American Jews. The Jewish intermarriage rate of about 50 percent is extremely low, given environmental odds of intermarriage of 98 percent. This compares with ethnic intermarriage rates of 80 percent for U.S.-born whites (Alba 2000:218-220) and religious intermarriage rates of 38 percent for Catholics and 65 percent for moderate Protestants (Sherkat 2004), each of which would be expected to have far lower intermarriage rates than Jews given the greater size of the groups. American Jewry may represent the outer limits of resisting assimilation for white ethnic groups in the United States.

Even though the intermarriage rates for Catholics and Protestants, when adjusted for population, demonstrate a far greater willingness to “mate with the other” than the Jewish rate, those religious comparisons are not reasonable; the correct comparison should be to the ethnic intermarriage rates.  After all, what does Catholic or Protestant intra-religious marriage really mean?  A Catholic marrying a Catholic could be an Irish ancestry person marrying another Irish, or an Italian or a Pole.  Or, it could very well mean the Irish person marrying a mestizo Mexican, mulatto Puerto Rican/Dominican or an Asiatic Filipino.  Likewise, a Swedish ancestry Protestant can “marry within the faith” with a Korean or a Negro.  On the other hand, the vast majority of American Jews are Ashkenazi and a sizable fraction of the small non-Ashkenazi minority is still Caucasian Sephardic or “Oriental” (e.g., Iraqi, Iranian, etc.) Jews.

Therefore, comparing Christian vs. Jewish intermarriage is like comparing apples and oranges, and makes the Jewish resistance to intermarriage less extreme than it really is.  Given the strong ethnic/racial component to Jewish identity, the real comparison is the white gentile intermarriage rate of 80 percent.  Even with a Jewish rate of 50% — likely an overestimation — that’s almost two-fold lower than what is should be.

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