The Forgotten Diaspora (2)

February 3, 2023 Category: Uncategorized

Postscript 2:

When it comes to scholarship on any topic, the idea is to follow the evidence wherever it leads. Assess what we know, and let the chips fall where they may. Hence scholars enter into an inquiry with no vested interest in any particular verdict. Perspicacity demands nothing less.

The point is worth reiterating: I’m personally ambivalent to what the verdict on this matter happens to be–one way or the other. I don’t care because IT DOESN’T MATTER. The only thing any honest scholar is concerned with is Truth.  Intellectual integrity must always prevail over ideological commitments. But good luck persuading religious fanatics to accede to this maxim.

Vested interests—be they financial or ideological—entail conflicts of interest; and this disqualifies one from being a dependable (read: impartial) expositor on a given issue. Genuine scholars undertake an investigation without wedding themselves to pre-conceived notions of the subject-matter.

When we encounter a scenario in which the preponderance of evidence points to a certain explanation, yet is denied by a cult movement, we are reminded of the lengths True Believers will go to obfuscate anything that undermines their ideological claims. Under such circumstances, Truth–be it in the form of archeological evidence or historical documentation–is seen as a threat (see Endnote 48 above).  After all, it doesn’t matter how spurious such claims might be; they serve a purpose.  So long as they are compelling, they play a crucial role in sustaining a sanctified dogmatic system.  If Ashkenazim turn out to be the progeny of a Turkic people—even a Jewish Turkic people, then on what shall Revisionist Zionists stake their claim?  Their dreams of ethnic purity end; and any “birthright” disintegrates.

The contention that Ashkenazim are a Semitic people (qua ancestry) has been buried beneath a mountain of countervailing evidence. As we’ve seen, they are primarily descendants of Turkic peoples from the Pontic Steppes. This conclusion is–admittedly–politically fraught; as it deprives Judaic ethno-nationalists of a coveted etiological myth.  It comes as little surprise, then, that Revisionist Zionists–obsessed as they are with (chimerical) bloodlines–dig in their heals; and are virulently contemptuous of anyone who is candid on this matter.  For their ideology is predicated on (farcical) claims of blood and soil in the Levant (see my essay on “The Land Of Purple”).

Eliding Turkic ancestry is not unique to the Ashkenazim. For example, Vladimir Lenin was likely ethnic Chuvash, though he was certainly not characterized as such.  (His successor, Stalin, did not consider the Turkic peoples within his dominion legitimate Russians; an alterity that accounted for the horrific pogroms he undertook against them.) Once ethnocentricity enters into the equation, all bets are off.

Those determined to propound claims of blood and soil will try to maintain the illusion of credibility for their spurious assertions about Ashkenazi provenance.  For them, bloodlines matter; so they are obliged to uphold the illusion of Semitic ancestry for what was, in reality, the (now forgotten) [k]Hazarian diaspora.  And so it goes: Hidebound ideologues (especially those obsessed with bloodlines; e.g. Shaul Stampfer) will fight the present thesis tooth and nail. Stampfer rests his case on three fraudulent claims: That there is no genetic, linguistic, or cultural evidence for the present thesis. On the contrary: As we’ve seen, there is plenty of evidence on all three counts.

It’s worth revisiting the onomastic, “Ashkenazi”.  How plausible is it that a break-away segment of Sephardim would have adopted this as an ethnonym?  Not likely.  In fact, during the Crusades, the indigenous (Palestinian) Jew referred to the attacking Franks as “Ashkenaz”. (!)  Note that the farcical genealogies go on and on. The Hamites were assumed to account for a slew of other OTHER-IZED lineages: Kush (Nubians, and–via Nimrod–Babylonians), Mizra[c]him (Arabs), Put (Egyptians, Abyssinians, and Numidians; i.e. Berbers), and Canaan (for non-Hebrew Canaanites; esp. the Amorites). According to this scheme, it was only some of the progeny of Shem who–via [h]Eber–begat the Abrahamic linage, which originated in Chaldea. ALL of this is, of course, bunkum. It involves some combination of racism (see: the “curse of Ham”) and backwards history (Africans being descendants of someone in the Middle East).  But where EXACTLY was it that the fabled Ashkenaz (ben Gomer ben Japheth ben Noah) was supposed to have settled during the Bronze Age?  Lo and behold: Above the Caucasus Mountains, between the Black Sea and the Caspian sea–that is: the land that would later become Khazaria. (!)  (In Abrahamic lore, this was also associated with Ashkenaz’s menacing uncle, Magog.)  That land was later dubbed “Scythia”. (The remaining Scythians–from the Sarmatians to the Alans–were associated with Gomer’s other progeny.)  In sum: No Jewish people with Semitic provenance would ahve ever been inclined to identify themselves as “Ashkenaz[i]”.

So the query regarding the etymology of “Ashkenaz” is resolved: the [k]Hazarian diaspora was open about the fact that it was from, well, [k]Hazaria–that is: a land that ALL Jews traditionally associated with the northern Caucuses, in the Pontic Steppes. Since that is where the “Ashkenazim” were actually from, that was naturally how the [k]Hazarian diaspora identified itself. In sum: The moniker was announcing: “THIS IS WHO WE ARE”.  And that endonym–which is used to the present day–originally had nothing to do with the Rhineland (see Endnote 64).

It is important to bear in mind the basic tenets of the scientific method. Just as important as the (disinterested) assessment of all available evidence, a key feature of a hypothesis is its falsifiability.  Put another way: The sign of a strong theory is that anyone can readily articulate the specific ways in which it might be falsified. We can then show that it has (or has not) been falsified in those specific ways.

So it goes with the matter at hand.

We have already debunked the supposition that Ashkenazim came from west European Sephardim (i.e. from France and/or the Iberian Peninsula).  The only other alternative to the present thesis is that they migrated northward from the eastern end of the Mediterranean basin (the Balkan Peninsula, Anatolia, and/or the Levant).  If it can be shown that the sudden appearance of Ashkenazim a thousand years ago is completely–or even mostly–attributable to such a migration, then there would be reason to question the salience of a [k]Hazarian diaspora into Eastern Europe.  Such a migration is often proposed in a gambit to refute the present thesis.  The problem, though, is that there is no evidence for such an event.

If not from western Europe, then from where?  The only other (debunked) proposition is as follows: Ashkenazim BECAME “Ashkenazim” after having migrated from the eastern end of the Mediterranean basin at some point during Late Antiquity. But as we’ve seen, the historical record refutes this.  Recall that the appearance of synagogues across the land between the northeastern of Mediterranean rim (spec. the Balkan and Italic peninsulas) and the Rhineland follows a timeline that is the OPPOSITE of what we’d expect if said proposition were true.  It moves southeastward rather than the other way around.  Moreover, it begins only AFTER the community-in-question was already established.  So the archeological record of such communities (in southeastern Europe) is after the fact.

And with respect to the Roman-held Middle-East through all of Late Antiquity: Between the relevant exilic flash-points (the Roman crack-down c. 70 and/or the Bar Kokhba revolt in the early 130’s) and the establishment of a distinct Ashkenazic community, there is an inexplicable NINE-CENTURY hiatus.  This gigantic temporal gap cannot be accounted for by any historical events.

Suffice to say: If there HAD existed nine centuries of Jewish people migrating from the eastern end of the Mediterranean basin into northeastern Europe, there would be an extensive historical record of it.  This is especially so considering it would have occurred during the epochs of the Amoraim and Geonim…and into the Masoretic period; and would have surely been a major topic of discussion. Because not a shred of documentation for such a migration exists (e.g. northward along the Amber Road in the late 10th thru early 12th centuries), proponents of “received wisdom” are forced to go from merely far-fetched to downright absurd. In other words: They are obliged to just make stuff up.

Recall: In the 11th century, Rashi mentioned a group of foreign Jews who spoke a peculiar language and dwelled in a land called Ashkenaz.  This is how we know Rashi was Sephardic, not Ashkenazi. (Clearly, Rashi did not consider HIMSELF, or his followers, Ashkenazi.)  Also in the 11th century, the Mesopotamian “Gaon”, Hai ben Sherira [bar Hanina] of Pumbedita (Nehardea) mentioned faraway Jews who’d recently posed questions to him.  He did not identify these interlocutors as Sephardim, but rather as “Ashkuza”.  Such alterity is telling.  Even then, Ashkenazim were considered an entirely separate ethnic group from Sephardim…as opposed to some divergent sect of (west European) Sephardim who’d simply migrated eastward.

In the late 12th century, at no point did the famed Sephardic expositor, Moses ben Maimon ben Joseph of Cordoba (a.k.a. “Maimonides”) lament a recent schism in world Jewry.  Neither he, nor any of the denizens of Hachmei Provence in Occitania, nor any of the Jewish scholars in Andalusia, mention a break-away contingent that—for the time being, at least—eschewed the Talmudic tradition.  It makes more sense that the Jews-in-question did not have a Talmudic tradition to begin with; and only acquired it later on.  Were Ashkenazim a faction that had broken away from the Sephardic world?  No.

We might suppose that Sephardim of the time were obliquely aware of a diaspora of Turkic Jews that had arrived in Eastern Europe (from the Eurasian Steppes) over the course of the previous two centuries; but this would not have been considered an earth-shattering development—at least, not for a man living amongst Karaites in Egypt.  What WOULD have been earth-shattering, though: A partition of Beth Israel due to a wayward faction of Sephardim in the Rhineland.  That did not occur; so it’s no surprise that no prominent Sephardic Jew thought to reference such a development anywhere in all their vast writings.

By the 13th century, most of the world’s Jews resided in the Middle East and North Africa.  Anatolia was under the (Seljuk) Sultanate of Rum, precursor to the Ottoman Empire; Mesopotamia and Persia were under the (Turko-Mongolic) Ilkhanate, prior to its fragmentation into myriad fiefdoms; Egypt and the Levant were under the (Turkic) Mamluks; and the Maghreb—along with parts of Andalusia—was under the remnants of the fractured (Berber) Almohad regime. In the early 13th century, the global Jewish population was about 2 million, roughly 250,000 of whom resided in the Holy Roman Empire (western Europe).  There was a smattering of small Jewish communities in eastern Europe, yet estimates at the time seem not to have included those who resided in Slavic lands (that is: Kieven Rus and Greater Lithuania).  It’s as if (Turkic) Jews were not recognized as part of Beth Israel at the time; at least not by mainline Jewish expositors. *

In the midst of this inquiry, there is a historical question that cannot be avoided: Did the [k]Hazarian Jews just VANISH?  If the present thesis is NOT true, then we are forced to explain: What in heaven’s name happened to all of them?  In the advent of Svyatoslav’s conquest c. 965, there is no record of genocide, nor is there any record of a mass conversion of Jews into Eastern Rite Christianity (that of the Byzantines and the Slavs). Either event would have been significant; and documented by those involved.

Notably, just after we STOP hearing about [k]Hazars as a people, we BEGIN hearing about the Ashkenazim as a people.  Coincidence?  Probably not.  How else might this be explained? There is no record of a massive swath of Sephardim in north-eastern Europe suddenly breaking off from their forebears; let alone doing so at exactly that time.  As we’ve seen, the Sephardic communities remained remarkably cohesive through the Middle Ages—a fact made plain by the “Tosafist” tradition. 

Unlike the “Tosafot”, the Ashkenazim did not come from a Talmudic background.  Even so, the [k]Hazars used Abrahamic tropes (“There is one god; and Moses is his messenger” embossed on their coins) and distinctly Judaic iconography (menorahs carved into stone walls).  So there is really only ONE explanation for the rather abrupt emergence non-Talmudic Jewish communities in Eastern Europe at that time.

We might also recall the vestigial Turkic onomastics.  Behold Ashkenazi names like Burak, Sevim, Khanum / Khatum, Kalman, A[r]slan, Mann[is], Zalman, Gabor, S[h]agan, Kaplan, K[h]agan[ek], Kahan / Khanin, Kazan, Khesin, Perchek, Kozar, Lazar, Kilimnik, Krak[h]mal, Bak[k]al, Bak[h]shi, Pamuk, Kulaga, etc. all have a Turkic etymology.  The same goes for many surnames with a Slavic suffix: “Jeljaszewicz”, “Sulkiewicz” / “Sulkowicz”, “Achmatowicz”, “Abakanowicz”, etc.  Other surnames had a more Slavic origin—as with Kazh-dan [alt. “Kashtan”] and “Bog-dan”.

It might be noted that there are various other Ashkenazi surnames that likely have Turkic etymologies—including Shu-pak (“shu” means “this” in Turkic; “-pak” means “pure” in Persian and Turkic) and Bog-oraz (while “bog” is Slavic for “god”, “oraz” is Turkic for “fast”). **  Meanwhile, during the Middle Ages, there were Lithuanian shtetlekh (Jewish villages) referred to as “Kozara”, “Kozari”, and “Kosarze”.  This is further evidence for the present thesis.

Of course, very rarely do Ashkenazim STILL use overtly Turkic family names. As would be expected, the onomastic vestiges of their Turkic forebears became increasingly sparse over the centuries. (A lot can happen over the course of a thousand years.) In light of the circumstances in which they found themselves after the dissolution of the [k]Hazar Empire, such onomastic molting makes sense. And the adoption of secular vocational names (using the Germanic suffixes “-man” and “-er”) in the indigenous tongue of their new homeland is exactly the sort of thing we’d expect. (Also recall the 50+ Germanic toponyms enumerated earlier, which would probably not have been adopted by Jews who hailed from an already-European background; who would have migrated from western Europe with Semitic onomastics already in tact.) As we’ve seen, all Sephardic tongues boasted palpable Semitic elements—whether Ladino, Zarfadic, or any of the other creole languages enumerated earlier.  Old Yiddish had NONE.

Another clue is the Turkic origins of key terms in the Yiddish lexicon–from “yarmulke” and “kalpak” / “kolpik” (male headwear) to “borekh-habo” (a customary greeting).  As discussed, the onomastic vestiges of Turkic even applies to the endonym for the people themselves: “Ashkuza”.  What makes this striking is that, as a label for the Rhineland, “Ashkenaz” did not exist before the 11th century. Not once was it used by anyone in Beth Israel to refer to that particular geographic region…UNTIL, that is, it was used by the first “Ashkenazim” (when the [k]Hazarian diaspora established communities there). In other words: This particular geographical label derived from the endonym; not the other way around. It was coined only when the [k]Hazars (self-identified as “Ashkuza”) arrived in that new land, and felt obliged to give that land a name. **

Recall that the only other time “Ashkenaz” was used by those of the Abrahamic Faith to allude to a PLACE was when the region in the Eurasian Steppes (i.e. Scythia; later [k]Hazaria) was associated with the Biblical figure by that name. (It is likely that the Biblical figure was derived from the latent Assyrian exonym, “Ashkuza”: an ethnonym intimating alterity; see Endnote 42.)  Before then, no Jewish literature referred to Germania as “Ashkenaz”–not any Talmudic literature, nor even the Tosafot who dwelled in Frankish lands. 

To recapitulate: Upon arriving in the Rhineland, the [k]Hazarian diaspora adopted a new identity.  So it stands to reason that, when we survey the Yiddish vernacular, we do not find more residual traces of Turkic than we do.

As with any other kind of religiosity, Faith does not preclude one from coming to terms with historical facts…even if those facts pose a problem for those clinging to outmoded dogmas. Progressive denizens of Beth Israel have no problem eschewing folk history for REAL history; as their Faith is predicated neither on racial purity nor on fanciful historiography. 

Right-wing proselytes will harbor a seething contempt for any scholar who has the gall to shed light on things that they would much rather remain obfuscated (that is: anything that refutes the sanctified narrative on which their central conceit depends).  They insist that Ashkenazim had nothing whatsoever to do with the [k]Hazars (or ANY Turkic peoples); and vice versa.  So far as they’re concerned, all Ashkenazim hail from the bloodlines originating in the Judean countryside.  End of discussion.  As I hope to have shown: Given the panoply of archeological, cultural, genetic, onomastic, and linguistic evidence, such a position is untenable.

We might bear in mind that, when it comes to ethno-centric ideologues engaging in programmatic obfuscation, Revisionist Zionists are not the only culprits.  Scholarship on the [k]Hazar Empire was forbidden in the Soviet Union.  Joseph Stalin (an ethnic Georgian) despised the notion that a powerful Jewish empire had occupied much of central (present-day) Russia, and had been influential in medieval Slavic lands.  Consequently, he ordered references to [k]Hazar history be expunged from all texts.  His motive was clear: The ACTUAL history undermined the gilded Russian legacy—as well as claims of Russian dominion across Eurasia—he so avidly sought to promulgate. He was especially incensed by the Eurasian theory of Russian history, which was championed at the time by such scholars as George Vernadsky.  This wasn’t just a matter of Russian nationalism; it was impelled by virulent anti-Semitism as well.

Such contempt was not an isolated case; as Stalin did the same for OTHER Turkic-Mongolian peoples—from Kazakhs to Kyrgyz. He went so far as to commit a virtual ethnocide of the Mongols—replete with the systematic destruction of their texts and artifacts. 

Again, the attempted cover-up serves to expose precisely what the perpetrators are trying to obfuscate.  And as usual, the attempted cover-up ens up showing the rest of us precisely where we need to look.  Those with Truth on their side don’t find the need to hide anything. “Look away; there’s nothing to see here” is always a red flag. Honest scholars say: “By all means, look into it; and see for yourself.”

Even in the current era, with our panoply of modern technology, things can be expunged from the record; and from people’s memories along with it. Consider an example from contemporary pop culture: The original music video for Bryan Adams’ 1991 ballad, “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)”. At some point, the video was wiped from the internet (likely for reasons having to do with corporate ownership). Not only did the video disappear; any hint that it is gone is also nowhere to be found. In fact, there is no evidence—anywhere on the world wide web—that the original video even existed. Bear in mind, this was one of the biggest music videos of MTV’s heyday (the 80’s and 90’s). Gone. With no mention of the fact that it is gone. (But fear not: The original music video can still be found in the film’s DVD extras, preserved in dust-covered plastic cases in closets across America.) 

To reiterate: Not only is there—now—no trace of this music video anywhere on the internet; there is no acknowledgement that THERE EVER WAS such a video. In its place is a different music video: a black- and-white concert video rather than the one with Adams performing in Sherwood forest [really Sheffield, England], in color, interspersed with scenes from the film, “Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves”. The idea, it seems, is to pretend that the concert video was the official video all along. 

Without acknowledgement, people forget. This is a reminder that part of a cover-up is covering up that there was a cover-up. After all, an aspect of forgetting is not realizing that one has forgotten. Therein lies the rub: It is difficult to find something when it doesn’t even occur to us that there is anything to look for. There’s a difference between not recalling where one has placed one’s car keys and not even remembering that, at some point in the past, one had car keys. In the former case, one is at least trying to find something. In the latter case, it doesn’t even occur to one that anything has been lost. 

It comes as little surprise, then, that the [k]Hazars are not featured in Ashkenazi historiography. Ashkenazim would only have been inclined to talk about [k]Hazarian Jews if they were different from themselves (i.e. those Turkic Jews from the Pontic Steppes). They would NOT have been inclined to tout their own former identity—which was, by then, eschewed. It speaks volumes that the early Ashkenazim do not mention the [k]Hazars qua [k]Hazars. Similarly, the Nabataeans are not explicitly accounted for in Islamic lore. Why not? The Arabs who became Mohammedans saw THEMSELVES as (former) Nabataeans. (I explore this in my essay on “The Meccan Cube”.) 

Another example serves to illustrate this point. Even though their ancestors were part of a Celtic diaspora originating in Gaul, the (Gaelic) Irish rarely commemorate their Gallic provenance. Continental Celts have no role to play in their most hallowed origin myths; so the etiological musings begin in Albion with the fabled “Tuath De Danann”. To construe the absence of European Celts in the sacred histories of the Gaels as an indication that they had no Celtic provenance would be rather daft. Yet that is precisely the sort of thing we encounter in ancient Gaelic folklore. Historians do not let this deter them from studying actual history.

When it comes to official historiographies, the omitted part is precisely where we need to look THE MOST if we are to understand what really occurred. The “catch” is that such tidbits are not readily available. Proponents of conventional wisdom depend on nobody having the time or the will to do a lot of digging. Why would anyone? For those wed to the vaunted legacy that was crafted by forebears, there’s little incentive to do so (which explains why the present monograph is the first of its kind). Once sanctified, bespoke historiographies become inveterate—a contrived heritage gilded for posterity. Whatever’s been left out is not meant to be found. Why let the truth get in the way of a good story?

The preceding monograph demonstrated how much must be elided in order to maintain the farce that is the Semitic origins of all Ashkenazi Jews.  My aim was to show the lengths to which ideologues will go in order to maintain a sacrosanct–though groundless–etiological myth; especially when the credence of their entire ideology is at stake.  (For another case-study of this, see my essay, “America’s Founding Origin Myth”, where I show how much theocrats in the United States must occlude in order to get their claims of Christian Nationalism to seem remotely plausible.)  For ideologues engaging in apologetics, being unscrupulous is not a bug; it’s a feature.  To rationalize forgone conclusions, perspicacity can only ever get in the way.

There is a perverse irony to this obduracy.  For the supposition that the only way to be a REAL Jew is to have Semitic ancestry is itself born of racism.  It is a tenet on which Aryan Supremacists and Judeo-Supremacists concur.  Yet once all ethno-centric worldviews are discarded, the entire issue becomes moot; and we can proceed with attending to global human solidarity—celebrating our resplendent ethnic diversity without losing touch of our shared humanity.

The fact of the matter is: The ancestors of the first Ashkenazi Jews were primarily [k]Hazars.  There is no reason for anyone to take exception to this–or any other–genealogical reality.  Why not?  When it comes to assessing the value of our fellow humans, bloodlines shouldn’t matter.

{*  When it comes to ethnographies during the relevant period, also worth consulting is the first chapter of volume I of S.M. Dubnow’s “History Of The Jews In Russia And Poland: From The Earliest Times To The Present Day”, published in 1916.}

{**  While “raz” does have a meaning in Hebrew (“secret”), no Jew would have used a non-Judaic term for god (that is: the Slavic “bog” in lieu of the various monikers in the Hebraic lexicon). In any case, there was already a Hebrew name for “secret of god”: “Raz-i-El”. “Bog-oraz” meant “fast god” in a Slavic-Turkic context. And if interpreted instead as the Slavic for “god set apart”; it is even more odd that they opted for this Gentile moniker instead of the well-known Hebrew moniker, “adonai m’kadesh”.} 

{***  It is telling that there were no Coh[e]ns or Levis (on record) amongst Ashkenazim until the last five centuries–that is: after Sephardim and Misra[c]him began intermixing with the Ashkenazic community. There is another indication that an early variant of “Ashkenaz” was used by Turkic Jews as an endonym. Some places in Anatolia (located at the western end of the Silk Road) were founded under that name–towns like Is[h]kenaz, Es[h]kenaz, and Ash[k]anaz. Israeli geneticist, Eran El-Haik has done research on this; and attributed it to the [k]Hazarian influence on those trade routes. In other words, the locations were associated with TURKIC Jewish merchants along the Silk Road. It is important, though, not to jump to the (erroneous) conclusion that Anatolia was a place of Ashkenazi settlement–let alone of Ashkenazi origin–as El-Haik insinuates. There are other explanations for the propagation of Turkic onomastics.}

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