The Forgotten Diaspora (2)

February 3, 2023 Category: Uncategorized

Author’s Note:

I reflect on the fact that I came of age watching Woody Allen movies; and it didn’t matter to me one wit how Semitic or Turkic he might have been.  That he happened to be Jewish was—so far as I could see—an opportunity for him to be droll (that is: engage in cheeky self-deprecation).  I was a huge fan of his dry humor.  Allen was Ashkenazi…which meant what?  Frankly, it never occurred to me to care.  Likewise, with Albert Einstein.  When considering the General and Special theories of Relativity, whether the famous physicist had Turkic ancestors was—so far as I could see—patently irrelevant.

This prompts the question: Why did I even bother with the preceding monograph if—in an ideal world—the verdict on that particular point doesn’t really matter?  Five reasons come to mind.

First and foremost:  It dispels the misapprehension that Sephardim and Ashkenazim must be consanguineous in order to be considered homologous denizens of Beth Israel.

Second: It shows the lengths to which hidebound ideologues will go to occlude history.  As discussed, they do so in a desperate gambit to uphold their ramshackle dogmatic edifice.  The preceding monograph has shown that this requires ignoring—or outright denying—oodles and oodles of evidence.

Third: It sheds light on the adversities with which European Jews were forced to contend in the Middle Ages.  Knowledge of this history better equips us to combat anti-Semitism TODAY.

Fourth:  Overall, the relevant history is utterly fascinating; and not talked about nearly enough.  This monograph has the up-side of catalyzing new avenues of inquiry; or—at the very least—starting new conversations from which historians might benefit.  I suspect that elucidation on this particular matter may have (as-yet unforeseen, and likely salutary) ancillary effects on our understanding of world history.  And it certainly affords us all a chance to learn about the history of Beth Israel.  That’s a GOOD thing. *

Fifth:  Sacred cow-tipping is kinda what I do.  The moment I hear an ideologue—of ANY kind—ardently insist, “There’s nothing to see here!” I am all-the-more inclined to look into the matter.  Those with nothing to hide don’t diligently try to divert everyone’s attention away from things.  (Oftentimes, things that some believe are worth hiding are, for the rest of us, worth revealing.)  Peculiarly, when it comes to the infamous “Khazar hypothesis”, proponents of conventional wisdom bend over backwards to curtail any discussion of the matter.  If there was REALLY nothing to it, then surely any honest scholar would say: “By all means, look into it!” with the surety that those who oblige will simply wind up empty-handed.  After all, in the process, inquirers may end up finding something ELSE interesting.  So why not?

In sum, my decision to weigh in on this topic stemmed primarily from an abiding devotion to Truth; and a demonstration of how ideologues are apt to elide it.  That being the case, the question still arises, and is almost impossible to avoid: In writing the preceding monograph, where am I (personally) coming from?  More to the point: When it comes to this (rather contentious) topic, might I have my own conflicts of interest?  How can one be so sure that I am the impartial bystander I purport to be?  After all, it is quite possible I harbor biases of my own—some of which I may be unaware.

I am a bit reticent to respond to this query, as self-reporting is rather useless.  “Take my word for it” is hardly a solid justification.  Worse, I risk offering what sounds like the dubious rationalization: “I have a [insert ethnic group] friend, so how could I possibly be bigoted against [insert same ethnic group]?”  Such a plea is casuistic because it tokenizes members of the group-in-question.  It is therefore necessary to make a distinction between two very different things:

A: There being many people from a marginalized community who are an integral part of one’s life.

B: Treating casual acquaintances as props, thereby using them for self-serving purposes. **

The distinction might be illustrated by considering two extremes.  If one is married to a Latino, and many of one’s closest friends are Latino, and many of one’s heroes are Latino, and one regularly lobbies for Latino rights, then one is almost certainly not bigoted against Latinos.  It is highly implausible that one decides to orient one’s life around members of an ethnic group simply to use them as cover for a covert bias against them.  On the other hand, if I play poker every Friday night with a group of guys, one of whom happens to be Latino, I cannot use that as evidence that I’m not bigoted against Latinos.

I’ll make my case here via (A); but I fear that doing so may be mischaracterized—by unscrupulous bystanders—as (B).  How so?  The more one makes the case that (A) is not (B), one opens oneself up to the allegation: “Thou doth protest too much!”  Special pleading never comes off well.  Hence my hesitation to address the matter.

Be that as it may, I have nothing to hide; so will go ahead, and engage in some disclosure…in the vain of (A). Plus, I figure my readers may want to know a bit more about me personally.

My hero is Ashkenazi.  Though he was born and raised in Philadelpha, Noam Chomsky’s family was originally from Ukraine.  In fact, barring Baruch-cum-Benedict Spinoza (who was Sephardic) and Thomas Paine (who was English), FIVE of my biggest heroes are Ashkenazi Jews—Ludwig Wittgenstein, Isaac Asimov, Bella Abzug, and Howard Zinn being the others.

I would submit that a clear pattern of admiration for members of an ethnic group—over the course of a lifetime—precludes bias against that group.  After all, the five aforementioned figures aren’t mere tokens; they are role models.  Such luminaries are in addition to Ashkenazim who have inspired me over the course of my life—including Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim, Rudolph Rocker, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Victor Frankl, Albert Schweitzer, Louis Brandeis, Emma Goldman, Erich Fromm, Karl Popper, Ernst Cassirer, Thomas Kuhn, Seymour Hersh, Eric Hobsbawm, David Halberstam, Reinhold Niebuhr, Harvey Milk, Douglas Hofstadter, Ernest Becker, Richard Hofstadter, Sheldon S. Wolin, Michael Mann, Ronald Dworkin, and Martha Nussbaum…to mention 25 more.  That their forebears might have been Turkic is patently irrelevant to the esteem I hold for them.  Frankly, that any of them happened to be Jewish never even occurred to me.  I may as well have considered what kind of shampoo they used.

Were many of their forebears Turkic?  As it turns out: yes.  I can’t imagine why it matters to so many that such a thing be obfuscated.  In lauding them, are we to suppose that Semitic ancestry is somehow superior to Turkic ancestry?  Vice versa?  No matter what their GENETIC provenance, one can say one thing for sure: The world is now a better place because such people were in it.

In assessing the great work of pop-culture icons like Steven Spielberg and Larry David, it would never occur to me to factor in how Semitic their ancestry may or may not have been.  (They are probably more Turkic.)  A juxtaposition may serve to make the point: When I would watch Lea Michele on Glee, I didn’t find myself wishing away her Semitic ancestry; and when I would watch Idina Menzel in Wicked, I didn’t find myself distraught that she might have Turkic ancestry.  I no more wished Lea was more Turkic than I wished Idina was more Semitic.

And, yes, over the course of my life, I’ve had some very good friends who have been Ashkenazi.  Others have been Sephardic.  Others have been Tatar.  Neither I nor they cared who their ancestors happened to be (pace upholding this or that cultural legacy).  Human connection has been—and always will be—the foundation of such kith-ship.  In every case, our shared humanity has been the over-riding factor.

That brings me back to Woody Allen’s movies and Albert Einstein’s theories. Growing up, my favorite singer was Billy Joel.  My favorite broadway musical is by Stephen Schwartz. My second favorite is by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.  My third favorite is by Charles Strouse. My second favorite novel is by Michael Chabon.  Comedians that have made a key difference?  Lenny Bruce and Al Franken.  Three (more) of my favorite scientists?  Carl Sagan, Stuart Kauffman, and John von Neumann.  Three (more) of my favorite composers?  Felix Mendelssohn, Gustav Mahler, and Arnold Schoenberg.  Three (more) of my favorite authors?  Franz Kafka, Herman Wouk, and Na[c]hem Male[c]h (a.k.a. Norman Mailer). And the music from my favorite Disney movies? Composed by Alan Menken.

I could go on and on.  The last genuine intellectual to vie for the U.S. presidency: Adlai Stevenson.  The American politician for whom I have the most respect: Bernie Sanders.  The greatest Supreme Court justice of my lifetime: Stephen Breyer.  One of the podcasts I watch each week: “Useful Idiots”, currently hosted by Katie Halper and Aaron Maté.

Does it matter to me whether or not any of these people might have (had) Turkic ancestry?  Nope.  (Being Ashkenazi, it so happens that they ALL probably had / have Turkic ancestry.) What matters is that every one of them made significant contributions for which we should all be thankful.

That said, I find it intriguing that such ancestry DOES matter so much to certain parties; and that they will go to great lengths to obfuscate the facts when it comes to elucidating the truth-of-the-matter.  Such interlocutors are a reminder that there is a difference between not knowing and not wanting to know.

But wait.  Is it possible that I might have a penchant for denying that certain (exalted) Jewish figures have Semitic bloodlines?  That would be hard to square with the reverence I have for Spinoza.  The same goes for the philosopher, Michel de Montaigne…and the economist, David Ricardo…and the human rights advocate, René Samuel Cassin…and every other Sephardic figure for whom I have great respect.  (Nobody doubts that Sephardim are Semitic.)  Do these men having one ancestry rather than another factor into my esteem for them?  Frankly, I couldn’t care less; and neither should anyone else.

How feasible is it, then, that I harbor some sort of inexplicable pro-Turkic bias—or have some other ulterior motive that might account for the thesis of the preceding monograph?  I’ll leave that for the reader to surmise. (I suspect that my secret plan to exalt the world’s Tatars may need to go a bit beyond this monograph.)

Another thing to consider: Bias can just as well work in the opposite direction.  So we might ask: Is it possible that I’m inclined to ascribe a certain ethnic background to figures for whom I have CONTEMPT?  Answer: No.  Henry Kissinger, arguably the world’s biggest war criminal in the post-War era, serves as a good example.  Do I WISH that Kissinger was more Turkic than Semitic?  That would make no sense.  For in doing so, would my aim be to disparage the world’s Turkic people; or to insist that such a baleful person couldn’t possibly be Semitic?  (On the contrary, if one were anti-Semitic, one would actually INSIST on the Semitic ancestry of the world’s most vile people.)  Yes, Kissinger probably has Turkic provenance because he’s Ashkenazi.  This fact in no way reflects badly on the Turkic peoples of the world—Jewish or not.

I have plenty of umbrage to take with certain figures of Turkic ancestry; but never BECAUSE of their Turkic ancestry.  (Arguably, the worst human being to ever live was Timur of Kesh.  See my discussion of him in part 2 of my essay on “The History Of Salafism”.)  The suggestion that Turkic ancestry is inferior OR superior to Semitic ancestry is patently absurd.

Again: Esteem is to be accorded exclusively based on merit—that is: on an individual-by-individual basis, after a consideration of what the person stood for.  As it turns out, the likes of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Sheldon Adelson were more Turkic than many of us realized.  Again: I couldn’t care less.  After all, it only makes sense to assess people based on their deeds, not on their ancestry.  These men were deplorable people; and it had absolutely nothing to do with their bloodlines.  (If anything, it was THEY who made things about racial purity—obsessed, as they were, with establishing a theocratic ethno-State in Palestine.)

I cannot fathom any honest person reading “The Forgotten Diaspora” and being left with the impression that it was done in anything other than good faith.  But for hidebound ideologues, intellectual integrity is entirely beside the point.  They take anything that counters their sanctified narrative as a personal affront.  Revisionist Zionists especially don’t like having preconceived notions of their racial identity challenged; as it undercuts their rational for a theocratic ethno-State in Palestine.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world is not hindered by such vested interests.  What does the preceding thesis change about the way I view / treat any given Ashkenazi Jew? 

Absolutely nothing.

It’s worth repeating: The preceding piece should serve as a point of departure.  Rather than pretending to be the final word on the matter, it merely aims to set the record straight on what we currently know; and all-but-begs for further investigation.

Throughout my research for this monograph, my attitude was as follows: If even a mere amateur like ME noticed these things, then god only knows what a renown scholar in the relevant field(s) might uncover.  Should the preceding monograph serve to inspire further inquiry into the fate of the [k]Hazars and/or the origins of Ashkenazim, then my wish has been granted.

It’s worth asking: If we come to find that many of the world’s Jewish people have some sort of kinship with many of the world’s Turkic people, would that be such a bad thing?  Their Jewishness certainly does not hinge on an ancestry being traced back to people living in the Judean countryside during Classical Antiquity.

In the end, though, the Turkic-Semitic distinction simply shouldn’t matter.  I imagine the comedian, Jerry Seinfeld does not consider his mother (who was Mizra[c]hi) more Jewish than his father (who was Ashkenazi)…even as the former had Semitic provenance and the latter probably had Turkic provenance.  There is a term for those who would contend that Ashkenazim are less Jewish because they are less Semitic: anti-Semitic.  Ironically, an obsession with (ostensibly) pure bloodlines going back to an anointed tribe—based on some fantastical etiological myth—is ALSO morally problematic.

I am neither an expert on Sephardim nor on Ashkenazim; and have only a basic knowledge of Judaism.  My lack of expertise does not make these points any less factual. What it shows is that these points are so elementary that EVEN I–merely a curious bystander–noticed them. (As always, readers are encouraged: “Don’t just take my word for it. See for yourself.”)  I suspect that if I knew significantly more about this topic, this list of cultural discrepancies would be much larger.  I look forward to hearing more about this matter from scholars who specialize in Jewish history.

Pending further investigation, the observations provided in the preceding monograph are sufficient to illustrate the disparate provenance of the two Judaic peoples in question.  As there was no documented schism in Beth Israel a millennium ago, it is prudent to surmise that these two communities came to abut each other due to a convergence rather than a divergence.

A final thought: So far as I see it, the world’s Turkic people should celebrate the fact that Judaism was part of their history. Meanwhile, the world’s Jewish people should consider it a point of pride that there was a thriving Jewish kingdom in central Asia for centuries; and that the progeny of its people are still with us. After all, it is a reminder that Germanic, Slavic, Turkic, Semitic, or anything else; at the end of the day, we’re all human.

In the final analysis, the monograph’s verdict shouldn’t matter.  That it DOES matter to certain parties is the problem.

{*  I, for one, learned a tremendous amount about the history of the Jewish people; and about the Turkic peoples of the Eurasian Steppes.  Not only that.  In doing the research for the preceding monograph, I learned a tremendous amount about the history of anti-Semitism in Europe, about Judaism as a creed, and about medieval geo-politics.  PLUS I learned some Old Yiddish and some Old Turkic!  In fact, the knowledge I gleaned from the research requisite for this monograph helped me understand the travails of Beth Israel even more than I already had.  If only more people looked into this, they would be exposed to an area of European history that is often not stressed in Occidental circles—namely: one that gives precedence to peoples of the Orient.  What was thought to be ancillary is brought center-stage; and we are furnished with a wonderful new perspective on world history.}

{**  Examples of this are well-known—from “Behold my [token] black friend” to “Behold my [token] Muslim friend.”  Says the misogynist: “I fancy certain women, so how could I possibly be a misogynist?”  Tokenism is the height of condescension.  (After all, that’s one of the things that makes identity politics so abhorrent.)  At the end of the day, casual associations tell us very little about a person’s character.  The values that guide one’s life (and the moral principles on which one bases one’s decisions): THAT is what reveals the sort of person someone really is.  Many white racists routinely commiserate with people of color. Some watch Oprah. Some enjoy dancing to Salsa. But none of them genuinely care about the latter’s plight as members of a marginalized group.}

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 - 2010-2019 -
Developed by Malagueta/Br
Note to readers: Those reading these long-form essays will be much better-off using a larger screen (not a hand-held device) for displaying the text. Due to the length of most pieces on our site, a lap-top, desk-top, or large tablet is strongly recommended.


Download as PDF