The Forgotten Diaspora (1)

February 3, 2023 Category: Uncategorized


Ernest Renan once noted that “Getting its history wrong is part of being a nation.” Renan said this in 1882 during his famous lecture, “What Is A Nation?” at the Sorbonne–in Paris, France. After quoting this line, renown historian, Eric Hobsbawm elaborated on the larger point: “To be a Fenian or an Orangeman, I would judge, is not so compatible, any more than being a [Revisionist] Zionist is compatible with writing a genuinely serious history of the Jewish people; unless the historian leaves his or her convictions behind when entering the study. Some nationalist historians have been unable to do so.” This was an understatement, to say the least. By “convictions” here, Hobsbawm was primarily referring to biases in favor of the anointed in-group. {48}

Before embarking on this inquiry, we might note the formidable power of the “illusory truth effect”: the tendency to embrace misinformation when we have been routinely exposed to NOTHING BUT that information for as long as we can remember.  Favored dogmas calcify; and eventually serve as the substrate for a psychical / social homeostasis—a homeostasis on which many come to depend. To have those “truths” challenged can be quite jarring. Naturally, we will be inclined to reject any information–out of hand–that undermines the narrative to which we have become accustomed.  This is especially so when that narrative has been rendered sacrosanct by an entire community.

As a consequence of the illusory truth effect, we cling to cherished beliefs even in the face of an alluvion of countervailing evidence. In such cases, obstinacy is seen as a kind of virtue—to wit: as a sign of unwavering commitment.

Vested interests, then, are a disqualification when it comes to serious inquiry.  This maxim is quite straight-forward.  Want a penetrating critical analysis of the Church of Latter-Day Saints?  Don’t ask a Mormon.  Want a frank assessment of Scientology?  Don’t ask a Scientologist.  Want the inside scoop of the Watchtower society?  Don’t ask a Jehovah’s Witness.

Coveted beliefs can be very stubborn things. In some cases, sanctified dogmas are actually strengthened when ardent believers are presented with contradictory evidence. (The tendency to dig in our heals when coveted beliefs are debunked is known as the “backfire effect”.) Sanctified dogmas, it turns out, are extremely difficult to dislodge from their hallowed perch; and successful memes are designed for self-preservation.

There is an explanation for this lamentable predilection: We are often at the mercy of ingrained mental habits—habits that are required to maintain a semblance of psychical / social stability. Our default, then, is not epistemic flexibility; it is epistemic rigidity. We are, after all, eminently pragmatic creatures; and hold fast to whatever seems to be (currently) working within the incumbent meme-plex. There is, in other words, a prodigious amount of memetic inertia, leading to what is referred to as the “continued influence effect”. Hence the slew of confirmation biases that characterize virtually all human rationalization. In the midst of all this, upsetting a sacred apple cart is a surefire way to become persona non grata amongst those who deem the (debunked) lore to be sacrosanct.  Sacred cow-tipping is guaranteed to render one a pariah within a community of committed ideologues.

Ego plays a significant role in “sticking to one’s guns” even when one’s beliefs are confronted with contradictory evidence; and—per the backfire effect—ESPECIALLY when one’s beliefs are confronted with contradictory evidence. This is—in part—because people really, really, really don’t like to be wrong; especially about something on which they have staked their claim–or even their very identity.

But there’s even more to the illusory truth effect.  When communal, people base their identities on certain believes being “true”.  In the event that identities are collective, this becomes a TRIBAL matter as well as a personal matter.  So abandoning the belief is not merely a matter of saving face; it jeopardizes the (false) pride of the in-group, as it compromises the integrity of their collective identity.  The epistemological calculus here is oriented more on social considerations than on anything resembling an objective assessment (or pretenses thereto).  Whenever there are vested interests, partiality reigns supreme; and bias runs amok.

Dogmatic edifices are notoriously brittle; so cannot withstand much strain.  As with a house of cards, just a bit of disruption jeopardizes the structural integrity of the entire conceptual framework. So no unsanctioned information can be tolerated.

A sanctified dogmatic system is born of a community of True Believers desperately wanting certain things to be SEEN AS true; as the subsistence of their movement—and the success of their ideology—depends on that perception. The moment a party is shown to have a vested interest in that dogmatic system, that party forfeits its right to be considered impartial interlocutors. Scholarship is only (genuine) scholarship when it is utterly disinterested. Alas. Few are able to remain sanguine when it comes to assessing the available evidence, and follow it wherever it might lead.

It should go without saying; yet–remarkably–it is a maxim that is rarely heeded: Impartiality is a prerequisite for any serious scholarship.  For many, though, doing history often involves some sort of (oft un-recognized) bias.  This is especially so when it comes to SACRED histories, as there is a vested interest in upholding a foregone conclusion.  Once something is sanctified, deep-seated prejudices are invariably at play.  This is why confirmation bias is the perennial hobgoblin of those seeking to corroborate OR refute a pet theory. {1}

Alas, such partiality is something to which we are all susceptible. It is for this reason that those who aspire to perspicacity are obliged to enter into a critical analysis with a kind of DIS-confirmation bias–which is simply to say: Inconvenient as it might be, they make a concerted effort to find any and all evidence that might undercut whatever theory they are considering. (“Here’s what it would take to disprove this theory. So I will now assiduously seek out whatever that might be; and let the chips fall where they may.”) Disinterested investigation not only requires one to set aside even the most hallowed of “received wisdom”; it requires that one does not have any investment–one way or another–in what the verdict ends up being.

Vaunted etiological accounts are especially ripe for rationalization.  It makes sense, then, that national origin myths generally take the form of just-so stories. Invocations of Providentialism lend a veneer of credence to even the most spurious of claims. Flights of fancy become inviolate; and a hefty dose of divinely-ordained entitlement can’t help but ensue. And, as if often the case, a strategically-tailored account is employed to establish a privileged status for the exalted in-group.

The architecture of an etiological myth–being as it is self-serving–involves some combination of obfuscation (of inconvenient truths) and confabulation (of useful fictions).  This comes in handy, as it legitimizes the desire agenda.  Thus a contrived legacy is parlayed into a longed-for destiny.  When the viability of a creed is at stake, one finds oneself operating in a skewed incentive structure.

The problem that arises for hidebound ideologues (those engaged in—nay, dependent upon—dogmatic escapades) is that serious inquirers now avail themselves the scientific method–replete with high standards of archeological verification and a firm understanding of philology, anthropology, and evolutionary psychology. The process of vetting claims includes a concerted attempt to expose–and eliminate–conflicts of interest when conducting any inquiry.

In the midst of all this, what is an ideologue left to do?

A prerequisite for confabulation is the deliberate elision of that which the confabulation is designed to replace.  The present monograph exposes not only what is being elided by dishonest interlocutors; it makes the case that Reality-denial IN GENERAL is typically involved in the promulgation of a dubious ideological agenda.

The best way to expose Reality-denial is to provide an explication of the Reality being denied.  (Behold HOW MUCH must be obfuscated in order to persuade people that a despised theory is fallacious.)  When it comes to the oft-derided “Khazar theory”, the “there’s no evidence” assertion only works by denying all the evidence.  In providing all the evidence, the following monograph illustrates how far ideologues will go to evade the truth. For virtually everything adumbrated forthwith must be denied.  As will be made clear forthwith, doing so entails a monumental amount of dissimulation.

The chances that one is deluding oneself about a proposition is proportional to how ardently one wants it to be true. Carl Sagan once noted that it requires a “courageous self-discipline” to check this tendency.

He cautioned that “we should pay attention to how badly we want to believe a given contention. The more badly we want to believe it, the more skeptical we have to be.” When it comes to issues in which there is a staunch vested interest in upholding sacrosanct “truths” (as with the sanctified dogmas of a religion), we find that those who work most ardently to suppress information are likely those who should be challenged the most. This principle is no more salient than when it comes to disabusing ourselves of highly-coveted national origin myths.

The fetishization of Semitic provenance animating Judaic ethno-centricity offers a case study.  The prime example of a vociferous–often militant–campaign of information-suppression is the Revisionist Zionist’s elision of the [k]Hazarian origins of the Ashkenazim.  Like anything done in bad faith, this program of disinformation is undertaken in the service of the continued promulgation of a faux history on which their ideology is based. {2}  Debunk the faux history, and the ideology collapses.

Right-wing ideologues are fully aware of this; so, naturally, they don’t want their just-so-story debunked. {3} 

As is often the case, anyone with the gall to set the record straight is summarily vilified by those who’s sacred applecart has been upset. It’s as if pointing out that some of the world’s Jewish people are not descendants of Semitic peoples were somehow a sign of anti-Semitism. (This requires one to suppose that anti-racism were ITSELF a kind of racism.) However, all the present thesis does is counter an ethno-centric worldview, thereby undercutting claims of blood and soil. That’s a good thing. {43}

We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that the REAL history of the Ashkenazim is often dismissed with a scoff by those who subscribe to the Revisionist (read: right-wing) version of Zionism. A paroxysm of pearl-clutching is typically followed by the huffy proclamation: “There is no evidence for that!” In reality, virtually ALL the evidence points to the present thesis. And—so far as I could find—NO evidence exists to refute it. {121} Indeed, there is even evidence in the NAME ITSELF. From whence did the moniker “Ashkenaz” come? Lo and behold: It derives from the Assyrian term for the people of the Eurasian Steppes: “Ashkuza”. {42}

What prompts this line of inquiry regarding Ashkenazi provenance?  As it so happened, just prior to the time Ashkenazim emerged in vicinity of the Rhine valley, a Jewish kingdom almost 2,000 kilometers to the east had just been overtaken–precipitating what was likely a displacement westward.

The Jewish kingdom was that of the [k]Hazars.

But why bother? The aim here is not so much to corroborate one hypothesis or another; it is to show the lengths to which some ideologues will go to bury evidence in order to uphold the (chimerical) credence of what they deem to be a foregone conclusion. In this case, as we’ll see, they are forced to deny virtually ALL the available evidence in order to accomplish this feat.  The onus, then, is on such actors to address all the evidence adumbrated forthwith; and to show HOW ELSE such things might be explained were the present thesis (which explains every bit of it) NOT true.  Though not inconceivable, this would be a monumental task—an attempt that anyone sincerely interested in the truth would welcome.  In fact, much of the following monograph was spawned from my own attempt to do exactly that.  At every turn, in seeking to discover some bit of possible falsification of the oft-derided “Khazar Theory”, I only uncovered yet more evidence for it. I ended up only further corroborating the thesis I was diligently striving to refute.

This is, after all, how science works. My own methodology is as follows. Due to the lack of conclusive evidence either way, I employ somewhat of a Beysian approach to the matter. Thus, only part of what is done here is show that IF the thesis were true, then THESE are the sorts of things we would expect to find in the historical record (which, it turns out, we do); and THOSE are the sorts of things we would expect NOT to find in the historical record (which, it turns out, we don’t). For this accomplishes only a tenuous kind of corroboration. It merely shows that the historical evidence is COMPATIBLE WITH—though does not necessarily confirm—the thesis.

Compatibility only goes so far, as it only establishes plausibility. It is necessary, then, to go further. The more crucial part of what is done here is as follows: IF the conventional explanation (the counter-thesis) were true, then THESE are the sorts of things we would expect to see (which, it turns out, we do not); while THOSE are the sorts of things we would expect NOT to see (which, it turns out, we do). This is far too much of a coincidence to dismiss. What this effectively accomplishes is showing that it is highly implausible that the counter-thesis is true. As an explanation for what the historical record shows, the present thesis works best. In other words, the “Khazar theory” is most likely true.

Since it is the latter heuristic that is more powerful, it can be used to debunk MANY myths. For example, in order for the 9/11 conspiracy theory (the contention that the terrorist attacks of September 2001 were a secret U.S. government plot) to be true, it would need to be the case that every last person involved in the conspiracy (and there would have been many) would need to have remained mum in the decades since. This scenario is so highly unlikely as to induce a chuckle; and goes further than any amount of hard evidence to falsify what is quickly revealed to be an untenable hypothesis.

What of the salient timeframe for the present inquiry?  I place the latest temporal threshold at somewhere in the vicinity of the late 14th or early 15th century.  That serves as a “terminus ante quem” to the analysis of the origins of Ashkenazim as a distinct ethnic group. Pursuant to the Sephardic-Ashkenazic intermixture that transpired since the period-in-question (roughly, the 10th century thru the 14th century), miscegenation and cultural melding occurred—as would be expected, as these communities were both denizens of Beth Israel. Therefore developments since that temporal threshold are rather beside the point.  Tellingly, most of those who vociferously argue against the “Khazar theory” focus on developments since the 15th century. Other than a nod to Rashi–who was Sephardic–, they do not say a word about the five centuries prior to this temporal threshold.  As it happens, those are the only centuries that truly matter for the inquiry at hand. Such evasion speaks volumes.

To reiterate: There is no absolute certainty when it comes to the present thesis. Admittedly, it requires a modicum of conjecture (and some educated guesses). The counter-thesis, though, requires one to account for mountains of circumstantial evidence that go against it.  Presuppositions are fickle things, and we all tend to gravitate toward those that are most gratifying.  Be that as it may, those with no vested interests (who quite literally don’t care one way or the other what the verdict might be on the matter) are most qualified to assess things. And those who’s conclusions FLOUT their own vested interests are almost certainly on to something.

So do the Ashkenazim have Semitic provenance? Almost certainly not.

It’s worth noting that the [k]Hazarian origins of the Ashkenazim used to be openly discussed, even within Beth Israel.  Early proponents of the theory included:

  • Polish scholar, Tadeusz Czacki (b. 1765)
  • Ukrainian scholar, Isaac Baer Levinsohn (b. 1788)
  • Russian scholar, Avraam Yakovlevich Harkavy (b. 1835)
  • Australian scholar, Joseph Jacobs (b. 1854)
  • Polish scholar, Maksymilian Gumplowicz (b. 1864)
  • Hungarian scholar, Samuel Krauss (b. 1866)
  • Russian anthropologist, Samuel Weissenberg (b. 1867)
  • Lithuanian historian, Julius Brutzkus (b. 1870) openly wrote about the [k]Hazarian background of Jews in the region, and even documented the [k]Hazar origins of Kiev.
  • American scholar, Maurice Fishberg (b. 1872)
  • Polish scholar, Itzhak Schipper (b. 1884)

All ten of these scholars were Jewish.  The examples go on and on. In the 1880’s, the (Jewish) secretary of the “Alliance Israélite Universelle” in Paris, Isadore Loeb, put forth the theory that the [k]Hazars accounted for Ashkenazi origins. Tellingly, he saw it as a way to DEFUSE anti-Semitism. (He pointed out that the ubiquity of miscegenation in all populations rendered the strange preoccupation with pure bloodlines moot.  He was right.)

In 1883, Ernest Renan noted that the “conversion of the kingdom of the Khazars has a considerable importance regarding the origin of Jews who dwell in the countries along the Danube and in southern Russia.”  He was correct–though he neglected to include the rest of eastern Europe in his assessment.

The history of Jewish scholarship on this topic is long, and continued into the 20th century—though, in the advent of Zionism, with ever-increasing push-back.  Here are sixteen more notable examples:

  1. At the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919, renown Jewish scholar, Joseph Reinach noted that the majority of “Russian, Polish and Galician Jews descend from the Khazars, a Tatar people from the south of Russia who converted to Judaism en mass at around the time of Charlemagne [in the 8th century].” 
  2. Arguably the greatest Jewish historian of the 20th century, Salo Wittmayer Baron of Columbia University, was forthcoming about the Eurasian origins of the Ashkenazim in his “A Social And Religious History Of The Jews” (1937).
  3. In his “Khazaria: History of a Jewish Kingdom in Europe” (1943; updated in 1951), the famed Jewish historian, Abraham Nahum Polak concluded that the [k]Hazar theory was, indeed, correct.  Polak was the founder of the Department of Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University.
  4. In the now out-of-print “What You Should Know About Jewish Religion, History, Ethics, and Culture” (1955), Rabbi Sidney L. Markowitz noted: “The first Jews to settle in Lithuania in the 11th century came from the land of the Khazars, on the lower Volga River, from Crimea on the Black Sea and from Bohemia… The Khazars had welcomed the Jews and later had been converted to Judaism. When the Khazars were overrun by the Mongols [author’s note: false] and Russians, the Jews settled in Lithuania–whose rulers at that time were extremely tolerant.” 
  5. Famed Russian archeologist, Mikhail Artamonov published his landmark work, “Istoriya Khazar” in 1962.
  6. Eurasian historian, Douglas Morton Dunlop (Columbia University) published “The History Of The Jewish Khazars” in 1967, providing some key insights. 
  7. In “Finding Our Fathers: A Guidebook to Jewish Genealogy” (1977), Dan Rottenberg noted that “some East European Jews, and perhaps a great many, are descended from the Khazars.”
  8. Omeljan Pritsak’s “The Khazar Kingdom’s Conversion To Judaism” (1978) is self-explanatory.
  9. Peter Benjamin Golden’s “Khazar Studies: A Historico-Philological Inquiry Into The Origins Of The Khazars” (1980) offers insights into the relevant linguistic history.  The following year (1981), Csanad Balint published “Archeological Addenda” to this work. 
  10. Norman Golb and Omeljan Pritsak’s “Khazarian Hebrew Documents Of The Tenth Century” (1982) provides a thorough analysis of the historical record.
  11. In “Great Moments In Jewish History” (1999), Robert Slater noted: “The descendants of the Khazars reached eastern and central Europe. There is substantial evidence that some of them settled in Slavic lands, where they took part in establishing the major Jewish centers of eastern Europe… It is also widely believed that many Khazarian Jews fled to Poland to avoid forced baptism. Moreover, some of the groups that migrated from eastern to central Europe have been called Khazars and may have originated in the former Khazar Empire. Some apparently fled into northern Hungary, where, to this day, there are villages that bear such names as Kozar and Kozardie.”  These latter settlements constitute what came to be called “Oberlander” Jews. 
  12. Kevin Alan Brook’s “The Jews Of Khazaria” (1999) addresses the role of Judaism in the Empire.
  13. Haggai ben Shammai and Peter Benjamin Golden’s “The World of the Khazars [New Perspectives]” (2007) paints a helpful picture of the Empire.
  14. In “The Story Of Yiddish: How A Mishmash Of Languages Saved The Jews” (2008), Neal Karlen noted: “The population explosion of Eastern European Jews can probably be accounted for by the voluntary mass conversion to Judaism in 740 by the Turkic Khazars, who had settled on the steppes of southern Russia.” 
  15. Peter Benjamin Golden’s “The Conversion Of The Khazars To Judaism” from “The World of the Khazars: New Perspectives” (2007) and “Turks And Khazars: Origins, Institutions, And Interactions In Pre-Mongol Eurasia (2010) offer further scholarship.
  16. Christopher Beckwith’s “Empires Of The Silk Road: A History Of Central Eurasia From The Bronze Age To The Present” (2011) provides much of the relevant historical background.

In other words: The theory is nothing new.  (Also see the work done by Thomas Schaub Noonan and Glen Shake.)  In fact, the [k]Hazarian provenance of the Ashkenazim only started to be dismissed as a “fringe theory” in the post-War era.  With the advent of Revisionist Zionism, where there was a clear geo-political agenda (ethnic cleansing in Palestine based on etiological myths), the proposition is now characterized as inimical to Jewish interests; as Jewish interests have been inaccurately equated with the agenda of right-wing Zionists (i.e. those who fashion the Abrahamic deity as a cosmic real-estate agent).

It is therefore disingenuous to associate any presentation of the [k]Hazarian history of the Ashkenazim as a devious scheme to denigrate eastern European Jewry. On the contrary, it is simply a matter of recognizing historical reality; thereby rescuing Judaism from the very ethno-centric conceptualization that has hobbled its most laudable endeavors to reform.  (If there is one thing that all humanists can agree on, it’s that an obsession with bloodlines never ends well.)

As is plain to see from the above list, this is a theory that plenty of honest Jewish scholars have been propounding for quite some time.  Indeed, it is a theory anyone would espouse by simply looking at the evidence.  In other words: It is a conclusion that would be adduced by any inquirer who was unconcerned with promoting one or another ideological agenda. {4}  Surely, if this explanation were some cockamamie hypothesis pushed by perfidious interlocutors, so many (Jewish) scholars would not have espoused it. On the contrary, they surely would have ADDRESSED such perfidy in no uncertain terms.

Yet we find no such rebukes…that is, prior to the post-War era.  Indeed, it is only in the past couple generations that mere discussion of this topic has come to be seen as a third rail; and thereby deemed verboten in Reactionary circles.  This has especially been the case in the advent of the ethno-nationalist ideology known as Revisionist Zionism.  Alas.  Today, if one were to go on Wikipedia, one would find this theory derided as “fringe” and “discredited”—an assertion that is based on nothing more than the sentiments of the party who wrote those words.

The theory-in-question is even sometimes (spuriously) associated with anti-Semitism–which, of course, makes no sense; as the thesis is that the subjects aren’t Semitic. (Frankly, the world’s Turkic people should be PROUD of the fact that their was a thriving Jewish Kingdom, enduring for centuries, in their history.) Only racists would take such a statement (that the ancestors of a haplo-group hailed from one place rather than another) as a disparagement. And, indeed, that is precisely what we find when we encounter interlocutors who vehemently denounce the present thesis: apologists who’s point of departure is ethno-centricity (not to mention, an obsession with bloodlines).  There’s nothing wrong with having Turkic ancestry.  And there is nothing about having Semitic ancestry that privileges anyone over anyone else.

Granted, many anti-Zionists have embraced the theory; but that makes perfect sense, as the theory is a solid argument against Zionism (that is, Zionism in its most right-wing form); undercutting, as it does, the claims of blood and soil made by that ideology’s proponents. That some ACTUAL anti-Semites have been known to espouse aspects of the theory (in order to promote their own odious agenda) in no way discredits it.  If a fascist says the sky is blue, others who make the same claim are not ipso facto implicated in his fascism…let alone complicit in his opprobrious agenda (simply by dint of having concurred on that particular point). As it turns out, the sky really is blue. {5}

The present work is not a summary of what the above scholars wrote. (This is for two reasons. First, I have not read all of their works cover to cover. Second, I have no interest in simply re-hashing what has already been said.) What follows here are my own points—things that I have noticed, insights I’ve gleaned.

In this monograph, I will primarily make use of circumstantial evidence; as–regrettably–that is all we have at our disposal. The key, of course, is to treat such evidence as pieces of a puzzle…and then see if it can all be put together to yield a coherent picture. Evidence of certain circumstances is–after all–an indication of what actually happened. As it turns out, ALL the (available) evidence points in the same direction.

More to the point: The profusion of evidence turns out to be more than enough to infer what actually occurred (as well as HOW and WHY it occurred). While the verdict isn’t conclusive; it should suffice for our present purposes. What IS the present purpose?  Not merely to show where the evidence takes us, but to show how dishonest ideologues must be in order to evade what turns out to be an unavoidable conclusion.

I come at the question from many different angles. As will become apparent, taken together, the observations made in this monograph constitute various aspects of a SINGULAR explanation.  If the conclusion here turns out to be errant, this would be an incredible coincidence. 

And what of falsifiability? We might go so far to say the following: To refute the present thesis, one would only need to produce a single document that unequivocally asserted the Ashkenazim’s (ethnically) Semitic origins; and which explained how / why some Sephardim suddenly came to be in the Rhineland at THAT particular point in time—replete with a different tongue, and a novel version of the creed fully intact.  Given the surfeit of available evidence on the matter, it is obvious why no such document exists. {6}

Fortuitously, there is a fair amount of documentation of the relevant era (though any perspicacious historian would very much wish for there to be more). Some of it needs to be taken with a grain of salt, of course; but, so far as I can ascertain, virtually all of the documentation comports with the present thesis. Note, for example, the trove of [k]Hazarian documents from the early 10th century discovered by Solomon Schechter in the Genizah at Fustad (an ancient Jewish storehouse in Cairo, Egypt). This collection of documents included correspondences written by Jewish [k]Hazars that made reference to Oleg of Novgorod–a key player in the relevant history, as we shall see.

According to the Schechter letter, many Alans as well–being as they were [k]Hazar vassals during the 8th and 9th centuries–were adherents of Judaism. (In the early 10th century, the Byzantines took control of the Alans, and promptly mandated that they institute a staunchly anti-[k]Hazar posture.)  And what of dissent?  It is telling that one of the first to obdurately deny that there was a Jewish Empire located in the Eurasian Steppes was Joseph Stalin–who’s virulent anti-Semitism (nay, racism against anyone of the wrong ethnic background) drove him to condemn any historian that discussed such matters. Why? Because it was unconscionable to him that his Slavic ancestors would have once paid tribute to Jewish sovereigns. {43}

Mention of the [k]Hazars in chronicles actually goes back to the writings of Theophanes the Confessor c. 800.  Documentation of the [k]Hazars is available in several other sources.  Here are sixteen of the most notable:

  • The correspondences from the Karaite rabbi, Eldad ben Mahli “ha-Dani” of Abyssinia [a.k.a. “Elchanan the Danite”] (9th century)
  • The “Administrando Imperio” [Governance Of The Empire] by Byzantine Emperor, Constantine VII “Pophyro-gennotos” [esp. chapters 10-12 on the Turkic peoples; spec. the Pechenegs] (c. 950)
  • The “Gestae Saxonicae” [Deeds Of The Saxons] by Saxon chronicler, Widukind of Corvey (10th century)
  • The “Kitab al-Tanbih” by Arab geographer / historian, Al-Masudi (10th-century)
  • The “risala” [travelogues] of Arab geographer / historian, Ahmad ibn Fadlan of Baghdad, in which he wrote extensively about the Turkic peoples of the Eurasian Steppes at the time—especially the Volga Bulgars, who interacted with the Kumens, [k]Hazars, Avars, and Slavs (10th century)
  • In 977, the traveler, Abu al-Qasim ibn Ali ibn Hawqal of Nisibis composed his “Surat al-Ard” [Face Of The Earth], in which he described trading routes of the [k]Hazars and Volga Bulgars (spec. with respect to Kiev, the Byzantines, and the Silk Road).  He did not seem befuddled by this; as he might have been had he found that they were EUROPEAN Jews in that region.  (What in heaven’s name were Sephardic Jews doing way over THERE?!)
  • The “Tajarib al-Umam” [Experiences of Nations] by the Persian chronicler (and Buyid official), Ibn Miskawayh (late 10th / early 11th century)
  • The “Gesta Ham[ma]burgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum” [Deeds of the Bishops of Hamburg, which covered the history of the region from c. 788 to the time it was written c. 1073] by Adam of Bremen (11th century)
  • Kara-Khanid ethnographer, Mahmud ibn Hussayn of Kashgar (11th century) 
  • The “Synopsis of Histories” by Byzantine historian, Ioannes Scylitzes [Romanized “John Skylitzes”] (late 11th century)
  • The writings of Catalan rabbi, Yehuda ben Barzillai [Judah of Barcelona] (c. 1100)
  • The “Gesta Principum Polonorum”, composed between 1113 and 1118, recounts—among other things—the congress that took place between the Polish Duke, Boleslaw “the Brave” and Holy Roman Emperor Otto III; convened at Gniezno around the time the [k]Hazarian Diaspora would have asserted its new identity as “Ashkenazim”.
  • The “Chronica Slavorum” by Helmold of Bosau (12th century)
  • The travelogues of Bohemian rabbi, Peta[c]hiah ben Yakov of Regensburg [Bavaria], who linked the Jewish communities of eastern Europe (e.g. the Crimean Karaites) to their [k]Hazarian forebears (late 12th / early 13th century)
  • The writings of the Catalonian rabbi, Moses ben Na[c]hman of Girona [a.k.a. “Nachmanides”; “Ramban”] (13th century) 
  • The accounts of the Byzantine minister, Constantine Akropolites (13th century) 

That’s not all.  In the 10th century, when the Sephardic scholar, Hasdai [ben Isaac ben Ezra] ibn Shaprut of Jaén caught wind that there was a Jewish kingdom in central Asia, he wanted to be involved in the correspondences that were being conducted by the rabbis in Cordoba.  The most notable exchange involved two (Jewish) ambassadors of a Croatian king—both of whom had come to Cordoba: “Mar” Saul and “Mar” Joseph.  Hasdai ended up composing a letter to the [k]Hazarian khagan.  In it, he talked about his fellow Andalusian Jews (i.e. Sephardim); and sought information about the [k]Hazars (regarding their beliefs, their origins, and how they had managed to establish their own Jewish kingdom in that far-away land).  In other words, Hasdai was much more earnest to learn about the [k]Hazars than is most of Beth Israel today; and far more curious about them.  Tellingly, he did not find it problematic that they were TURKIC Jews.  In fact, he seems to have been quite intrigued by them. This correspondence is now referred to as the “Schechter Letter”. {90}

When the [k]Hazar king, Joseph, sent a letter to Hasdai, he informed the scholar that he and all his people, indeed, followed the Jewish creed. “We have seen descendants of the Khazars in Toledo, students of the wise; and they have told us that the remnant of them is of the rabbinical Faith.”  The key part of this statement is “the remnant of”, indicating an abiding [k]Hazarian Jewish community in the 10th century.  In other words, those who would come to be the Ashkenazim.

Unfortunately, the only other Slavic text that chronicles this era in detail is the First Chronicle of Novgorod, which only goes back to Vladimir’s son, Yaroslav “the Wise” (who’s reign began c. 1019).  (Note that “slav” means “glory”.)  Even that relatively early chronicle does not start going into detail until the 12th century. {7}

In the 9th century, the Persian scholar, Abu Zayd Ahmed ibn Sahl of Balkh (Khorasan) studied under the famed expositor, Al-Kindi, and wrote about the geography of central Asia and eastern Europe.  His student (Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Muhammad al-Farsi of Istakhr) then composed the “Routes Of The Realms”.  Such documentation offers windows into how people at the time perceived the geo-political landscape.

In his “Book of Traditions” (c. 1161), the Andalusian rabbi, Abraham ben David of Toledo (alt. “Ibrahim ibn Dawood”) wrote: “You will find the communities of Israel spread abroad…as far as Daylam and the river Atil where there dwell the Khazar peoples, who became [Jewish] proselytes.”  This statement indicates that there was still a Jewish community through the late 12th century…people who were direct descendants of the [k]Hazars.

Also notable is a comment in a report by the Italian diplomat, Giovanni da Pian del Carpine in the 1240’s which references the “Kumani Brutakhi, qui sunt Iudii” [Kuman Brutakh peoples, who are Jewish].  The Kumans were a Turkic peoples related to the [k]Hazars. {8}

Though we wish there was more, there is still quite a bit of documentation.  Alas. The obduracy with which the history is denied by Revisionist Zionist propagandists is mind-boggling. It is routine for such ideologues to scornfully denigrate any explication of the ACTUAL history of their forebears (i.e. the explanation presented here) as the “[k]Hazar myth”. Yet as we shall see, just a little research demonstrates how easily such a second-order myth (the myth that something is a myth) can be refuted. {3}

So who REALLY WERE the ancestors of the Ashkenazim? Well, insofar as we are only concerned with Judaism as a Faith, it shouldn’t matter. Fealty of Mosaic law, after all, transcends ethnicity; and has nothing whatsoever to do with racial considerations. Insofar as this is the case, exactly from whom one happens to be descended is beside the point. (To say some Jewish people have these ancestors instead of those ancestors does not make them any less Jewish.  Beth Israel is a community of FAITH, not a monolithic ethnicity.)  So long was we deny a racialist conception of the term (as we should), belonging to one haplo-group as opposed to another does not entail that a person has any less of a claim to Judaism.

Yet ancestry matters very much to those who are obsessed with claims of unsullied bloodlines (a.k.a. racists); especially insofar as those bloodlines can be tied to a certain tract of land (i.e. their alleged “homeland”). Such is the nature of any preoccupation with “blood and soil”. (For further discussion, see my essays “Genesis Of A People” and “The Land Of Purple”. To illustrate this point, other examples of “blood and soil” will be provided later in this essay.)

But wait. If it doesn’t matter, then why even bother with the present thesis? As stated earlier: I aim to show the lengths to which obdurate ideologues will go to obscure history in order to uphold of a (bogus) “sacred history”–the subsistence of which their ideology depends upon. 

Here’s the thing: The moment one insists that bloodlines should matter, we should all recoil in disgust.  One way that we can combat such thinking is by debunking the faux histories that are constructed around an ethno-centric worlview. Therein lies my motivation for this monograph.

But why the extent of this effort?  In order to show THAT something is being obfuscated, it must first be shown WHAT, exactly, has been obfuscated.  This requires making the case for the real historical explanation. (Well, there’s that; and I’m also a stickler for setting the record straight.)  Hence the disquisition that follows. {1}

The point cannot be reiterated strongly enough: My goal is not so much to tout a certain verdict–a verdict that shouldn’t really matter one way or the other.  Rather, it is to show that a program of deliberate obfuscation exists–specifically when the issue is broached amongst Reactionaries. In order to carry out this task, it is necessary to show that what REALLY happened does not correspond with what many unscrupulous expositors claim to have happened. The larger point, though, is that it DOESN’T MATTER whether or not the ancestors of the Ashkenazim belong to one ethnic group or another.

The sad fact that, for some, it DOES matter–and matters so much that they are moved to rewrite history–is what the present monograph demonstrates. This is, of course, one of many instances in which ethno-centrists seek to fabricate history in a gambit to support their odious ideology.  Alas, there remain some for whom special bloodlines still matter.

At the end of the day, whether or not significant parts of Beth Israel have Semitic forebears should be seen as patently irrelevant…just as whether or not any given American’s ancestors came over on the Mayflower is patently irrelevant. (When it comes to national legitimacy, the mere suggestion that “pure stock” is a salient consideration should make any decent person cringe.) For Revisionist Zionists, however, it is imperative that the ENTIRETY of Beth Israel can trace its lineage back to ancient Judea…lest the case for their agenda collapse. They adamantly deny the present thesis because they NEED it to be un-true.

One would think that the only Jewish Empire to ever exist–a bastion of religious tolerance, as well as a beacon of pluralism during the Dark Ages–would be a source of pride for Beth Israel. Indeed, one would think that the [k]Hazar legacy would be something the world’s Jewish people would celebrate.  The catch: In doing so, Judeo-Supremacists would be deprived of their rational for demanding “lebensraum” in Palestine. This would be a salutary development for those of us who care about human rights.

So what REALLY DID happen?

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