Population Genetics Study on Khazar Origin of Jews is Back in Spotlight


Few months back, we wrote on a Genome Biology and Evolution paper by Dr. Eran Elhaik of Johns Hopkins University -

New Study Sheds Light on the Origin of the European Jewish Population

American media finally found the population genetics study newsworthy and covered it in an article.

‘Jews a Race’ Genetic Theory Comes Under Fierce Attack by DNA Expert

Also see - If Jews Are a Race Which One? By Anne Cohen

People of all flavors, including semites, anti-semites, anti-anti-semites, Zionists, anti-Zionists and white/yellow/black/pink-supremacists chimed in. What got lost in the cacophony is the immense medical importance of making the correct determination. Quoting Dr. Elhaik -

Studying genetic disorders in Jews and non-Jews, finding the disease allele and genes, which would eventually lead finding a cure is the only issue that matters, at least to me and my colleagues. For that reason, and because European Jews are one of the most studied groups, uncovering their origin is crucial to trace the mutations. For example, Eiseberg et al.’s (1998), Diagnosis of Familial Mediterranean Fever by a Molecular Genetics Method) study describes molecular markers for Familial Mediterranean Fever among Jews, and Armenians. The found two mutations, one in Sephardic Jews and the other in Ashkenazi & Iraqi Jews and Armenians. This finding was fundamental and was highlighted by George E. Ehrlich (Genetics of Familial Mediterranean Fever and Its Implications) who explained it in light of the Khazarian Hypothesis. Dr. Ehrlich was ambushed by two other authors who raised very similar issues to those raised here (non of which had anything to do with science), but nonetheless he stood up and replied:

The genetic data offered by Eisenberg and colleagues (2) suggest a genetic identity of Ashkenazi Jews and Armenians and Iraqi Jews. This would imply that they originated from the Jews of the Babylonian captivity and the converts in the adjacent Khazar empire. Unscrupulous uses of such data in social and political contents are deplorable but should not influence the search for and publication of science. I assume Dr. Levin worries that these data would undermine the claim of Israel to its legitimacy, but I believe that they actually strengthen that claim because they provide proof of origins of its inhabitants in that area long before the influx of later invaders, including the Arabs.

Eventually, the critics won. Reading the comments above you can see why. Today, we still dont understand genetic diseases nor do we have a cure (for a large number of them). Non-Jews who have Jews-only diseases are misdiagnosed because they are not Jews.

We believe the best way to sort out the differences between Ostrer and Elhaik is to remove all contextual references from the data, and do the analysis by imagining that we are tracing the roots of grapes or honey bees. Such studies have already been published, and it is not too difficult to give those researchers ‘blind’ genetic data to see what they conclude based on their analysis pipeline.

We asked Dr. Elhaik by private email, whether such an analysis would be meaningful. The answer we got is extremely worrisome for scientists. Apparently the raw data from original study publsihed in American Journal of Human Genetics (AJHG) is out of reach. Quoting the Forward article:

To illustrate his point, Elhaik swivels his chair around to face his computer and calls up a 2010 email exchange with Ostrer.

It was a great pleasure reading your groups recent paper, Abrahams Children in the Genome Era, that illuminate[s] the history of our people, Elhaik wrote to Ostrer. Is it possible to see the data used for the study?

Ostrer replied that the data are not publicly available. It is possible to collaborate with the team by writing a brief proposal that outlines what you plan to do, he wrote. Criteria for reviewing include novelty and strength of the proposal, non-overlap with current or planned activities, and non- defamatory nature toward the Jewish people. That last requirement, Elhaik argues, reveals the bias of Ostrer and his collaborators.

Allowing scientists access to data only if their research will not defame Jews is peculiar, said Catherine DeAngelis, who edited the Journal of the American Medical Association for a decade. What he does is set himself up for criticism: Wait a minute. Whats this guy trying to hide?

An editor of AJHG told Dr. Elhaik that the journal encourages but does not require sharing of genotype data. Is that consistent with what is done in other journals?


Written by M. //

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