Opinion

The Racist Gene

On the racist, superficial and ignorant attempt by an Israeli TV reporter to describe the phenomenon of 'Jewish genetics'

West Bank settlement leader Daniella Weiss.

It’s hard to know whether laughing, pulling out one’s hair out or throwing up is the most appropriate response to a four-part series of reports last week by Channel 10 reporter Avishai Ben-Haim on “Jewish genetics,” which took DNA samples from Israeli public figures to ascertain their ancestry.

Genetics is a relatively new field of biology (barely 150 years old), and an important and fascinating one. It has been of major value in a number of fields of research, including life sciences, medicine, botany, evolution and demography. But in just one field, it is malignantly poisonous, and that is politics.

Mixing genetics and politics will always produce the basest forms of racism: biological racism, Nazism, white supremacy, misogyny, apartheid. All of them are the product of political genetics.

It’s not by chance that the so-called alt-right movement in the United States has also begun to show an “interest” in the wonders of genetics, with the neo-Nazi Stormfront website featuring the proper technique for identifying “pure” white people. And into this contemptible morass comes Ben-Haim, with an approach that is superficial, ignorant, obsequious and demagogic. “Genetics has major political significance,” he told Arab Meretz Knesset member Esawi Freige, in helping to determine “who the descendants of Abraham are who are entitled to this country.”

That was when the time to throw up came, both because of the racism and the ignorance. One cannot discover religions or nations through genetics, only geographic regions and forms of disease. Moreover, geneticists have discovered that every Palestinian has deeper and “purer” Middle Eastern roots than those of every Jew (this finding also has no political significance).

The moment to pull one’s hair out came during the series when a young Israeli woman of Ethiopian background bitterly complained that members of her community were required to undergo giyur lehumra – an extreme form of conversion – to eliminate any doubt about their Jewishness.

To put things in perspective, and maybe also make this young woman smile, it is worth noting the findings from another important, convincing and fascinating genetic study.

Those listening closely to Ben-Haim’s reporting may have noticed that he and the commercial firm that carried out the testing he used insisted on talking only about fathers. The word “mothers” was never uttered. I’m afraid that this wasn’t by chance. In 2013, the results were published of a study by the prominent British geneticist Martin Richards, who specializes in researching the maternal genome, which passes from the mother to all of her descendants. Richards researched the maternal genetic ancestry of Ashkenazi Jews. And lo and behold, he discovered that 80 percent or more (!) of the maternal genetic makeup of Ashkenazi Jews derives from European women – goys, heaven forbid. Gevalt! Devoid of any gene originating in the Land of Israel.

Maybe the Ashkenazim converted, maybe not, but in any event, they certainly weren’t converted according to the criteria of the Chief Rabbinate of the State of Israel. (But, Sephardi brothers, don’t become too smug. Your situation is no better).

In short, we are all possible goys and thus we all must undergo that serious conversion procedure to remove any doubts over our Jewishness, which I would hope would relieve members of the Ethiopian community a bit.

And then we come to the moment to laugh: the shocked image of West Bank settlement leader Daniella Weiss, when she is informed by Ben-Haim that the blood of her ancestors has been contaminated over the years by several Polish genes. “What will I do now?” she asks, wringing her hands. “What will I tell my husband?” she laments. She looks every bit like a pure Aryan who suddenly discovers that her great-great-great-grandfather was 27 percent negroid. It’s just a shame that everything about Polish genes was not fully explained to Lady Daniella Weissowa.

It seems that there is just one point over which there is (at least temporarily?) a complete consensus among geneticists, and that is if we continue to delve into human DNA, we will ultimately find that we are all Africans. And if we dig a little further still, we will also find that we are all descendants of Cheeta, Tarzan’s chimpanzee sidekick. It can therefore be said that our right to a big banana is immeasurably greater than our right to the Land of Israel.

In short, all that this Jewish and theocratic State of Israel needed was an enthusiastic television series that praised political genetics. Oy vey, as my genetically shiksa mother used to say.