By Jessica Felber
The “two state solution” (a misnomer) calls for dividing the land of Israel into two states for two “people,” Israel and Palestine, based on the fear that absorbing the Arab population of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) would render Jews outnumbered in their own country.
Merely living as a Jewish majority should not be the only raison d’être for the existence of a Jewish state in the land of Israel. The Jewish people must remember why they deserve and desire the land of Israel in the first place: it is rightfully theirs. The Jewish people were the last, official owners of the land of Israel (having been exiled from it 2,000 years ago) and Jews reconquered it in multiple wars of self-defense. The land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people, and it is the place where they can flower and flourish to their fullest potential as a people, living as a “light unto the nations” in a region overrun by darkness.
We must not begin with the premise that Jews must exist as the majority population, and then fit borders to suit that premise. Rather, Israel must begin with the premise that Jews desire and deserve to settle the entire land of Israel and do what they do best: make their desert bloom.
Assuming the doomsday demographic predictions are even accurate (which several studies show they are not), what would happen if, all of a sudden, we found out that a good number of Palestinian Arabs are, in fact, racially Jewish? And that if they would be formally converted to Judaism, they would tip the scales of demography in favor of a Jewish majority? Would they be rejected by mainstream Jews because of their Arab roots? Would they be embraced? Would Jews who believe in the “two-state solution” suddenly give up the impractical and unethical vision of splitting the land of Israel to create “Israel” and “Palestine”?
These questions should not be dismissed as theoretical because, in fact, evidence suggests that many Palestinian Arabs are actually racially and, in some instances, culturally Jews.
Genetic research conducted by Professor Ariella Oppenheim at Hebrew University found that 82 percent of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River (including those referred to as Israeli Arabs) are genetically closely related to Jews (T. Misinai “The Engagement” 15). This genetic evidence supplements the growing theory that many Palestinian Arabs are actually anusim (Jews who were forcibly converted to another religion yet sought to retain their Jewish tradition). What is the theory behind the claim that Palestinians are anusim?
In the sixth century BCE the Babylonian Empire exiled the Jews from Israel, but near the end of the century, Jews were allowed to return to their homeland. The Jews who remained in Babylon made their way to Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and other Middle East and North African countries and became what are known today as Mizrahi Jewry. Those Jews who returned to Israel suffered a second exile in 70 CE by the Romans. When this exile began, many Jews were brought to Rome and sold as slaves. Other Jews came to Rome as diplomats and merchants. Some of these Jews died as gladiators and others eventually made their way to other parts of Europe. Their descendants are known today as Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewry. However, not all Jews left Israel during the exile; after all, Jews have had a continual presence in Israel for over 3,000 years. After Islam spread to the area many of these Jews were forcibly converted and many of them are today known as Palestinians (T. Misinai “The Engagement” 73-75).
Dr. Oppenheim’s research finds scientific support for this theory. According to her findings, as many as 90 percent of Palestinians in some areas have close genetic ties to Jews and, in fact, Palestinians are genetically much closer to Ashkenazi Jews than they are to Arabs. To strengthen the theory even further, many Palestinians carry the chromosome for the priestly “Cohen” line (T. Misinai “The Engagement” 15).
Palestinian custom supports these findings as well. Members of the Sawarka tribe, located in Gaza, still hold on to forgotten Jewish traditions, such as not lighting a fire on the Jewish Sabbath and having a mikvah in their community, just like the Crypto-Jews of today in South America.
Tombstones at the Muslim cemetery of the bedouin Ta’amra tribe in Judea have grooves in them that are meant to hold candles, a Jewish tradition (T. Misinai “The Engagement” 32). The Arab Israeli village of Sakhnin in the Galilee is known to have been a Jewish town that was forcibly converted to Islam under Turkish rule. The people of the Kawazba clan in Judea have a tradition of being descended from the Jewish freedom fighter Bar-Kokhba, originally named Bar-Koziba (T. Misinai “The Engagement” 63). Ninety percent of people in the community of Yatta, near Hebron, are genetically Jewish, and based on the recorded discussions between them and their Jewish neighbors in Judea, many want to reconvert. Half of the town has a history of coming from the Makhamara clan which consisted of winemakers, a vocation strictly forbidden in Islam. Three families from the Makhamara clan in Samoa have already begun the conversion process to Judaism despite torment and threats of death directed against them (T. Misinai “The Engagement” 27).
If over fifty percent of Palestinians are in fact Jewish, could and would they really be welcomed back to the Jewish people and would they want to be? Would the organized Jewish even accept a people that may have genetic ties to Jews but who are seemingly at odds with Jewish interests politically, socially, and culturally?
Actively converting people to Judaism has become taboo only in recent Jewish history. Until just before the Roman exile, Jews actively and successfully proselytized; approximately ten percent of the Roman Empire was Jewish (Prager and Telushkin “Why The Jews” 179-192).
It was only after the Emperor began sentencing both proselytizers and converts to death that Jews implemented the law forbidding active conversion. Despite the fact that this is an outdated law created for a situation that is no longer applicable today, the law against conversion is generally already overlooked when the active conversion is towards a people who already have Jewish ancestry, which is commonly called “re-conversion.”
In the case of Palestinian Arabs with Jewish roots, “re-conversion” rather than conversion would be required, in the same way that Ethiopian Jews “re-converted” to Judaism when they settled in Israel, because while they did have Jewish ancestry, they were not halakhically Jewish, i.e. they could not definitively prove a Jewish matrilineal line. Likewise, dozens of Crypto-Jewish communities in South America are receiving support and encouragement from rabbis in their “re-conversion” process. Many Orthodox rabbis will agree that there is a custom to encourage the conversion of someone whose father is Jewish and who is interested in Judaism. Many Jewish communities around the world not only support the efforts to re-convert the hidden Jewish communities found in India and China but are also excited about it.
However, when it comes to Palestinians who not only have Jewish ancestry but are also already in the Jewish homeland, Jews often turn a blind eye to them because they have been trained to believe that Palestinians are simply “bad” and that Jews are “good,” or that Jews are superior and that Arabs are “less than,” and they should therefore not be made to live together. But Jews and these Palestinian anusim actually share the same blood, the same customs, and the same land. There is no reason why they cannot live together as equal Jewish citizens under one unified Jewish nation.
Now you may ask, what about those Palestinians who do not have Jewish ancestry or who do not want to convert? For the answer to that you will have to wait for my next article: Muslim Jews!
Misinai, Tsvi. N.p.: n.p., n.d. The Engagement. Web. 03 Jan. 2013. <http://the-
Prager, Dennis, and Joseph Telushkin. Why The Jews? New York: Simon and Schuster,