Seth J. Frantzman: Terra Incognita: The Return of the Khazar Myth

Seth J. Frantzman received his Ph.D from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2010 and is a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies.

A recent study (‘The missing link of Jewish European Ancestry’) published online by the Oxford journal Genome Biology and Evolution concluded that “the genome of European Jews is a tapestry of ancient populations including Judaized Khazars, Greco-Romans and Mesopotamian Jews, and Judeans, and their population structure was formed in the Caucasus and the banks of the Volga with roots stretching to Canaan and the banks of the Jordan.”

The article has been gaining some buzz in a variety of places, from neo-Nazi websites to radical left-wing blogs, as proof that the Jewish people are not a distinct “people” and that their origins are in the Caucuses, not the Middle East.

The author of the article, post-doctoral researcher Eran Elhaik of the Department of Mental Health at Johns Hopkins University, based his conclusion on what he describes as the “Khazar hypothesis,” which he accepts as a reasonable hypothesis that should be tested.

The Khazar theory for the origin of the Jews was invented by the ... intellectual Arthur Koestler in his 1976 book The Thirteenth Tribe. The Khazars, a Turkish polity that came to dominate the Caucuses in the 7th century, disappeared eventually several hundred years later, like many other tribal mini-states established in that area during the period. Some of the Khazar elite supposedly converted to Judaism....

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