Jews are a Nation of Color

Racialization of Jews have a long pedigree in the history of Anti-Semitism. Racialization of Jews was practiced in Spain against the Anusim (“Marranos”), Jews who were involuntarily converted to Christianity during the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. Racialization of Jews in Germany became prominent already in the second half of the 19th century when religious Anti-Semitism (Anti-Judaism) was increasingly supplanted by racializing Anti-Semitism. The third phase is the current racialization of Jews by the extreme left. 

Racialization of Jews is intended to paint Jews as “genetic aliens” in a certain country (e.g. Spain, Germany or Israel). Of course painting any other people as “genetic aliens” is not socially acceptable beyond Nazi circles. But Anti-Semitic opponents of Israel systematically engage in discourse to stigmatize the Jews in the land of Israel as genetic aliens despite Askhenazim, Sephardim and Mizrahim patrilineally being very very genetically similar to Palestinians due to common historical origin, with the genetic divergence accounted for by historical conversions to Judaism and by immigration to the land of Israel from other parts of the Middle East during the Islamic era. 

Ashkenazim, Sephardim and Mizrahim are more similar to each other than to any other populations and are predominantly of Middle Eastern origin in genetically confirming the historical narrative of ancient Israelite origin. The Anti-Semitic accusation according to which Ashkenazi Jews are exclusively descended from European converts to Judaism despite that part of Ashkenazi ancestry accounting only for only 30% of the Ashkenazi gene pool with the remaining 70% being Middle Eastern in origin is used by Anti-Semites such as Palestinian-American professor of Columbia University Joseph Massad to libelously paint Israeli Jews as “European colonizers” and against the scientific consensus denying that most modern Israeli Jews are Levantine returnees to Israel. The false claim that Ashkenazi Jews are “European colonizers” is in fact one of the main claims involved in the Anti-Semitic racialization of Ashkenazi Jewry.

Racialization of any people is abhorrent and is in this case based on pseudo-scientific claims that are completely debunked by genetic science. No scholars of genetics claim that Ashkenazi Jews are entirely descended from Europeans. There are however in fact a group of Jews who are entirely descended from European converts to Judaism and these are the Subbotnikim, descendants of Russian peasants who converted to Judaism in the 18th century. There are also Jewish ethnic groups of non-Middle Eastern origin with a long Jewish history and these are the Cochin Jews, the Bene Israel (both from India) and the Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jews). Anyone claiming that these groups are not authentically Jewish would immediately be considered racist and rightly so, however racism against Ashkenazi Jews has once more become increasingly socially acceptable with the resurgence of leftwing Anti-Semitism in recent years. There are also attempts at racializing Mizrahim in claiming that they are “Arabs”, due to historically having spoken distinctive Judeo-Arabic languages despite Mizrahi Jews never having been recognized as Arabs in Arab lands and never having identified as such. Arab identity beyond Arabia is furthermore a modern European-influenced nationalist social construction of Arabist imperialism. Claiming that Mizrahi Jews are “Arabs” is the equivalent of claiming that Ashkenazi Jews are “Germans” by nationality due to their ancestors having spoken Yiddish, the Judeo-German language.

The Nazis and the European consensus at the time recognized Ashkenazi Jews along with all other Jews as a non-European people of color. The mixed Israelite-Italian origin of Ashkenazi Jews notwithstanding (many other indigenous peoples have undergone genetic admixture), it is essential for Jews to reappropriate their status as people of color as all other peoples of mixed European and non-European origin are recognized as peoples of color. The attempts to racialize Israeli Jews as ostensible “Whites”, with the intention of stigmatizing Jews as ostensibly “genetically alien” to the land of Israel is pure racism and must be condemned as such. Furthermore, marriage between Israeli Jews of different ethnic origins is very common and so an increasing proportion of Israeli Jews are of mixed Ashkenazi and non-Ashkenazi origin. Mizrahim and Sephardim have been liberally marrying since returning to the land of Israel.

Denying that Jews are a people of color despite 6 million Jews having been murdered in Europe due to being a people of color is a malign attempt to once more racialize the Jews as “genetic aliens” in order to pave the way for a Second Holocaust.

Published by Daniella Bartfeld

Daniella Bartfeld is the founding director of the Aliyah Organization.

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