Today, a friend of mine claimed that Jews are a genetic people, and I replied,
We're an ethnic group, but a cultural one, not a genetic one. Saadia Gaon says we are a people due to the Torah. Thus, Jewish peoplehood is about Sinai. Of course, there are citizenship requirements, and so you can be a Jew without believing in the Torah, and you can believe in the Torah without being a Jew. But putting the technical citizenship requirements aside, being Jewish is about following the Torah.Studies show that Jews from around the world (Europe and the Middle East alike) have more in common with each other than with their neighboring gentiles, but
Now, Jews will happen to have a genetic commonality, but that's not what makes us Jewish. Jews marry other Jews, so you'll form a self-contained genetic pool, but that's not what makes person Jewish.
it's coincidence. We merely happen to have common ancestors, but that is not what makes a person Jewish.
Imagine a Jewish man marries a gentile woman. They have a daughter. She marries a Jewish man. They have a daughter. She marries a Jewish man. And so forth, ad infinitum. In the end, you have a gentile with 99.99% Jewish blood.
Conversely, imagine a gentile man marries a Jewish woman. They have a daughter. She marries a gentile man. They have a daughter. She marries a gentile man. And so forth, ad infinitum. In the end, you have a Jew with 99.99% gentile blood.
My friend said to me,
dont you feel like our not being an ethnic group semi-legitimizes arab claims? like if israel isnt the birthplace of our ethnic group, what do we have? i feel iffy about using religious claims
We are still a people. Just because you're not a genetic relative, does not invalidate your being a cultural relative. We are a peoplehood. It's just that the criteria are different.She asked, but doesn't genetics show precisely who is a lineal descendant, who has inherited the property? I said,
Why should ownership of land be genetic? Why not cultural? See http://spme.net/cgi-bin/articles.cgi?ID=1726 [ = "The Gene Wars" by Diana Muir Appelbaum and Paul S. Appelbaum, AzureWinter 5767 / 2007, no. 27]. The authors argue that even if the Palestinians do have a genetic relationship to the original inhabitants of Israel (which is a very doubtful claim, they show, but they temporarily accept it, for the sake of argument), that even so, Israel belongs to those who believe in the Biblical religion of Israel. That is, blood or no blood, it is Jews, not Palestinians, who have a cultural relationship to the land of Israel. In other words, who says everything comes down to genetics? Maybe it depends on culture.
Or, if you want to take a libertarian property-rights tack, then the land of Israel belongs to anyone who has a deed of ownership. Well, the Jews who were expelled by the Romans, they never renounced their ownership. Palestinians are squatters. Now, we cannot always determine which contemporary Jew is a lineal descendant of which Roman-era Jew (meaning he has inherited the deed of ownership), but the least we can do is say that the whole Jewish people have inherited those deeds of ownership, whether by blood-descent or by culture. Every convert who converts to Judaism, is regarded by the Jewish people as a valid member, and so the blood-Jews let him join in their property claims.
Okay, perhaps, yes. The problem is, most of the people who make the genetic argument, are not libertarians, and they do not believe in staunch, absolute personal-property rights. So they don't really have the credentials to argue that the Palestinians deserve the land by virtue of being the lineal descendants and inheritors of the deeds of ownership. If you generally do not believe in absolute personal property, you cannot suddenly invoke personal property claims when it is convenient.I neglected to say to my friend, that another crucial claim by Appelbaum and Appelbaum, is their precise justification for why culture should trump genetics: their claim is that property ownership (or rather, they speak of "national identify") is a cultural identification. If a group of Poles voluntarily moved to Germany, and married other Polish immigrants to Germany, would anyone claim these Poles deserve to be given Poland? Of course not. Or, in their words,
For these people, who do not believe in personal property, cultural is as good a criteria as genetics. They have no basis to prefer genetics, because genetics presumes a libertarian take on personal property. Karl Marx, for example, advocated the abolition of inheritance. So anyone with socialist or social-democrat leanings, cannot use the genetic argument, because they already believe in the abolition of inheritance.
Only the libertarian who believes in personal property, can make the genetic argument. For everyone else, the cultural argument is as valid as the genetic one.
For example, no one would argue that the descendants of the several hundred thousand Poles who migrated to the Ruhr Valley at the end of the nineteenth century are anything but German, even those among them who have married only the descendants of other Polish immigrants. Nationality is a matter of culture, not genetics.Sure, they have Polish blood, but they no longer identify as Poles, but rather, as Germans. To maintain a national (or property-ownership) claim, requires not just blood, but also the explicit identification and articulation of yourself as the legitimate heir. The problem with the Palestinians would be that, even if they have Biblical Jewish blood, they nevertheless came out of nowhere, and suddenly, in 1967, began making a claim they had never made before. For 2000 years, while in exile, Jews would constantly speak of a return to Zion, several times daily in the daily prayer liturgy. Where were the comparable Palestinian claims? How is it possible that someone in 1967 suddenly makes a claim to a land lost in 70, and claims that blood alone compensates for the cultural identification as heir which he neglected to previously make? The problem is that being someone's heir requires some sort of maintenance of that inheritance right. Jews have been claiming for 2000 years to be the exiled descendants of the Biblical Jews; the Palestinians have not.
Also ... if anyone says the Palestinians own Israel, tell them that apparently, it's because Mohammed's army conquered Israel. If so, then Israel's conquests are valid too! That is, if the Palestinians own Israel, one must either claim that (a) they are the descendants of the Biblical Jews or the Canaanites (a preposterous claim with no genetic or historical evidence), or (b) that conquest makes ownership. If (b) is true, then Israel's conquests are just as valid.
And, if one claims that property is owned by its original owner, then fine, it's the Canaanites, but please, find me a Canaanite, and I'll gladly hand over all of Israel to him. In the meantime, the second owner is the Jews. Whether Israel goes to the original owner or to its latest conqueror, either way, it's the Jews.