A myth being repeated by Anti-Semites is that Jews aren't really Jews
and that somehow the Celts are authentic "Israelites". The flaws in
this theory are obvious.
First, Judaism is a religion, and even if you believe somehow all Jews
in the world today are descended from a tiny handful living in what is
today they southern Ukraine, it would be a moot point, since Judaism is
a religion, not a race. Converts to Judiaism have always been
considered to be 100% authentic Jews. This has been so even in Biblical
Second, the Celts not only lived in the British Isles, but also France,
Spain, Belgium,Turkey, etc. The Celts had been living in Europe since
The Celts were in Europe by 850 B.C., and the Northern tribes of Israel
did not disperse until 720 B.C. There is no way the Celts are solely
the descendants of the 10 Northern tribes...at best they intermarried
with SOME of the Celts who had been living in Europe for centuries.
There is no question people of Celtic descent in America have
intermarried with people of non-Celtic origin, including Native
Americans and African Americans. People who use the Kazar fallacy to
justify anti-Semitic could hardly be considered "authentic Israelites"
using their own twisted logic!
Here's a good article debunking the subject.
The Khazar Myth and the New Anti-Semitism
By Steven Plaut
>"Israelis have no history in the Land because they are Khazars, who
are not connected to the land" - Al Hayat Al Jadida, June 16, 2003
>"Oddly, the Zionists were mostly non-Jews whose ancestors had
themselves converted to Judaism around 800 AD in a place called
Khazaria, in the Caucasus Mountains between the Caspian and Black Seas.
They were quite literally Caucasians." - Judicial-inc. website
>"In 1917 the Khazar Jews passed a major milestone towards the
creation of their own state in Palestine. The same year they also
created the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. There followed a Christian
holocaust, the likes of which the world has never seen. The Khazar Jews
were once again in control of Russia after more than 900 years, and
they set about the task of destroying the Russian Christians - over
100-million of them, at the same time over 20-million religious Jews
also died at the hands of the Khazar Jews." - Aljazeerah.info website
It is one of the great ironies of the 21st century that anti-Zionists
and anti-Semites on both the Left and the Right, have returned to
racialist arguments against Jews that most of us thought had died out
after World War II.
One of the most bizarre aspects of this "re-racializing" of
anti-Semitism is the role played by the Khazar myth.
The newly fashionable Khazar mythology holds that modern day
Ashkenazim, and especially the European leadership of the Zionist
movement, are not Jews at all in the racial sense, but rather
descendents from non-Jewish Khazars; therefore, the Khazar "theorists"
claim, Zionists and Israelis have no legitimate claims to the Land of
It would be hard to exaggerate how widespread the misuse of the Khazar
myth is among those seeking to delegitimize Israel and Jews today. A
recent investigation showed nearly 30,000 websites using the Khazar
"theory" as a bludgeon
against Israel and Zionism.
Some two hundred websites claim to describe a cabal known as the
Khazarian Zionist Bolsheviks (KZV). Neo-Nazi and Holocaust denial
organizations and websites are particularly fond of the Khazar myth. It
is also growing in popularity among left-wing anti-Zionists.
Arab and Islamofascist propagandists have long bandied about the
Ashkenazim as Khazars theory and Iran's genocidal leaders adore it.
Al-Jazeera has been using the Khazar story to urge a worldwide
Christian religious war against the Khazar pseudo-Jewish imperialists.
Groups promoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion often cite the
nefarious role of Khazars as "proof" of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy
(I counted 700 such websites). And even Jewish anti-Zionist cranks like
Alfred M. Lilienthal and the Swedish "Israel Shamir" have used the
Khazar myth to attack Zionism.
Why are these various groups suddenly interested in a rather esoteric
and archaic group of people in Central Asia that disappeared nearly a
The answer is very simple.
According to the Khazar theory of the new anti-Semites, most Jews
today, particularly Ashkenazi Jews, are not racially Jews at all but
descendents from the Turkic tribe of Khazars, whose ruling class and
parts of its rank and file population converted to Judaism in the 8th
or early 9th
century CE. Hence, argue the racialists, Ashkenazi Jews have no rights
to live in the racially Semitic Middle East and especially not in the
Land of Israel.
Fact and Legend
For Jews, the history of the conversion of the Khazars to Judaism is
best known from essays in The Kuzari: In Defense of the Despised Faith,
a medieval book composed by the great Spanish poet and philosopher
Only part of the book actually deals with the Khazar kingdom, about
which little was known, and the historic claims about them in the book
are not considered fully reliable.
In any case, The Kuzari purports to report the debates at the Khazar
royal court that supposedly led to the Khazar elite's conversion to
Judaism. Other senior Jewish officials in the Spanish Muslim regimes
actually corresponded with the Khazar kingdom - most notably Cordova
Rabbi Hasdai ibn Shaprut (whose letters have survived). And the great
Iraqi sage Saadia Gaon is believed to have maintained correspondence
with Jews in the Khazar kingdom.
It is commonly thought that part of the motivation for the Khazars'
conversion was to establish political neutrality for the Khazar
kingdom, which faced potential threats from the powers of both
Christendom and Islam.
The Khazars themselves left no documentary records. The Arab historian
ibn Fadlan wrote about them, but he did so two centuries after the
conversions to Judaism had occurred. Some Jews, having sought refuge
from Byzantine persecutions, probably lived in the Khazar kingdom long
before the conversion of the royalty there.
One ironic historical twist is that the Khazars contributed to the
Cyrillic alphabet, in which Russian and some other Slovak languages are
written. Saint Cyril came to Khazaria in 860 in an attempt to convert
the Khazars to Christianity. Since the Hebrew of the Khazars and Greek
were the main alphabets known to St. Cyril and the early Slavs, they
borrowed from both.
Western interest in the Khazars was stimulated largely by the 1976 book
The Thirteenth Tribe by Arthur Koestler, a writer better known for his
lifelong battles against totalitarianism in all its forms. Koestler's
was largely based on the earlier book The History of the Jewish
Khazars, by the historianD.M. Dunlop.
Dunlop rejected the idea that large numbers of Ashkenazi Jews could
trace their origins to the Khazars, but not so Koestler. By grossly and
sensationally exaggerating the role and numbers of Khazar descendents
among European Jewry, Koestler - who was a strong Zionist -
inadvertently provided today's racialist anti-Semites with all the
ammunition they could want, and many of them frequently cite his book
as the basis for their racialist denunciations of Israel.
A number of more serious books about Khazars are now on the market,
including The Jews of Khazaria by Kevin Alan Brook. Rabbi Bernard
Rosensweig was one of the leading figures in debunking the Khazar
theory of Ashkenazi Jewish origins. Writing in Tradition (16:5, Fall
1977, pages 139-162), he dismissed it as "wobbly scholarly foundations
without historical support."
Likewise, the Swedish archaeologist Bozena Werbart, an expert on the
Khazars, wrote: "In the Khazar kingdom, Koestler wanted to see the
origin of the eastern European Jewry. Nevertheless, all the historical
and linguistic facts contradicted his theories."
As The Encyclopedia of Judaism (1989) emphatically states, "The notion
that Ashkenazi Jewry is descended from the Khazars has absolutely no
basis in fact."
What Became of the Khazars
The actual Khazar kingdom was partly subjugated by the early Russians
in the 10th century, and whatever was left was annihilated as a result
of the Mongol invasions of Central Asia.
What exactly became of the Khazar Jews is simply not known. Those who
retained their Judaism probably integrated themselves into other Jewish
communities around the world. Some groups of Khazars joined the Magyar
invasion into what became Hungary and may have merged with local Jews
already living in those lands; indeed, archeologists have found Jewish
stars in the remains of Hungarian Khazar villages.
Small groups of Khazar mercenaries probably found refuge in other
places. Most likely the largest integration of Khazar Jews among other
Jews took place in Iran and Iraq, the large communities closest to the
Khazar kingdom and with whom close ties had been maintained.
(An urban legend holds that red-haired Jews are descended from Khazars,
though that could hardly explain King David, not to mention Esau.
Arthur Koestler claimed many were blond with blue eyes.)
In any case, Khazar political existence ended a thousand years ago.
So what are we to make of the Khazar myth concerning Ashkenazi Jews and
their supposed lack of legitimate claims to Israel due to their Khazar
origins? The greatest irony is that even if the entire Khazar theory of
Ashkenazi Jews were correct - and virtually none of it is correct - it
would be entirely irrelevant. Judaism has never defined Jews on racial
grounds. Anyone from any race is welcome as a convert to Judaism as
long as he or she is sincere.
The biblical Israelites themselves were already a racial hodgepodge.
They absorbed the "mixed multitude" that left Egypt together with them
at the time of the Exodus. There are biblical references to Jews of
different racial features, including the black-skinned Shulamit
mentioned in the Song of Songs.
Jews always defined themselves in religious, ethnic-national and at
times linguistic terms, but never along racial lines. If all Ashkenazi
Jews were indeed converted Khazars, as the racial anti-Zionists claim,
they would be no less legitimately Jews - and, as such, would have the
same legitimate claims to the Jewish homeland as any other group of
Jews. (Given the traditional Jewish deference to righteous converts,
maybe more so.)
Pseudo-History and Poppycock
The actual details of the Khazar theory concerning European Jewry are
simply pseudo-history and crackpot poppycock.
Jews already lived in Europe a thousand years before the Khazar kingdom
was formed. There are no genetic markers or indicators at all showing
that Ashkenazi Jews are descended from Turkic tribes. In fact, there
exists considerable genetic evidence showing that European Jews are
closer to Levantine and Syrian Arabs than to Central Asians.
After the Mongol invasion most Khazars probably assimilated into the
Jewish communities of Iran and Iraq, which of course eventually emerged
as important Sephardic centers, formed mainly of Jews with Semitic
racial characteristics, descended from migrants and exiled Jews from
the Land of Israel. In any case, there are more "Semitic" Sephardic
Jews in Israel today than there are European Ashkenazi Jews. And if the
Khazars looked Turkic, how on earth could they give Ashkenazi Jews a
There are other problems. If all Ashkenazi Jews are descended from
converted Khazars, why are there Cohens and Levis among them? One
inherits the status of a Cohen (priest) or Levite from one's father.
Descendants of converts through the male line can never be a Cohen or a
And why are there no Khazar surnames among Ashkenazim, or Khazar names
for towns in Europe where Jews lived? And why did most Ashkenazi
communities speak variations of Yiddish rather than Turkic?
As mentioned, the popularity of the Khazar myth among anti-Semites
represents a return of modern anti-Jewish bigotry to the racialism of
the 1930's and earlier.
Nearly every anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi website denounces Zionists and
Israelis as "Khazars." Web chat lists in which Jews defending Israel
are dismissed as "Khazar usurpers" are too numerous to count.
The racialism once again in vogue holds that Jews would only have
legitimate claims to the right of self-determination in their homeland
if they were appropriately Semitic from a racial point of view.
Palestine is part of the Semitic racial lebensraum and those who do not
possess the correct pure racial markings have no business being there.
Racial purity is suddenly the new basis for national rights.
I discovered scores of neo-Nazi websites claiming that "Khazar
Zionists" were really behind the 9/11 attacks. I found thousands of
websites claiming that "Khazar Jew-pretenders" are in a conspiratorial
league with Freemasons, the Vatican, the Illuminati and others to
control the world.
Khazar conspiracists get nuttier by the day; a widely cited Ku Klux
Klan website claims that the pro-Israel evangelist Pat Robertson is
really a Khazar Jew. The neo-Nazi American Patriots Friends Network
claims Khazars are themselves descended from the Magog race and
secretly control America.
If we take the racialist argument to its logical conclusion,
Palestinian Arabs have the right to exercise all claims to sovereignty
in Israel due to their being true racial Jews, while Zionists are
non-Jewish Khazars - racial imposters and usurpers.
To make things even sillier, Arabs themselves are, of course, a mix of
racial strains, with a particularly large Caucasian component thanks to
Arab intermixing with Spanish and Italian Europeans, Caucasian Berbers,
Vandals, Goths, and even some Vikings.
The racialist delegitimizing of Zionism as "Khazar imperialism" is
smack inside the same insane asylum with the "Jesus was a Palestinian"
theory and the claim that all real Jews (from a racial point of view)
converted to Islam after the Arab conquest of Palestine in the 7th
century and so became Palestinian Arabs.
One can also find countless websites claiming those things.
Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press and the new
Jewish Press Blog (www.thejewishpress.blogspot.com), is a professor at
the University of Haifa. His book "The Scout" is available at
Amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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