Inside 3-Fifths: The Jewish Gene Myth

Black History Unleashed Jewish Gene Myth 3-Fifths


In This Edition

The first edition of the Black History Unleashed, If Black History Is Ours, We Must Own It, looked at what makes BBC’s work “unleashed”, and not simply “black history”. In short, we are pursuing a radical approach to historical inquiry with an expressed agenda to uplift the psyche of a people that has faced exploitation, systematic terrorism, and persistent marginalization from every region of the globe. The approach tackles difficult topics. The Inside 3-Fifths series unravels the rudiments of society in-effect ascribing to blacks a “lesser than” status and, more importantly, a propensity for some blacks to a relegated. This series will conclude with several pieces that reposition the concept of 5-Fifths as empowering framework for black identity and lifestyles. It is our hope that exploring these topics will deepen an appreciation for our historical contributions and our significance in God’s plan for mankind. Information below deserves broad distribution. Please help us get the word out by sharing on social media. And subscribe to BBC News for future notices.


The Chosen People. A number of religions make claims of God’s special designation of a group as the instrument of divine purpose in the world. Variants are found in Islam, Rastafarianism, and Mormonism. According to Judeo-Christian tradition, it has deep spiritual meaning. That God looked across the ancient world and designated Abram, a Babylonian living in the city of Ur, through whom to reveal Himself. 

A common theo-historical view is that those today who call themselves Jews are the decendants of the Old Testament clan, set apart from all other peoples of the world as God’s “chosen”. This distinction carries a range of implications and factors heavily in religious, psychological, social, and political dimensions:

  • If such a people holds a special standing with God, what of the other peoples of creation? 
  • Specifically, if this segment of the population has legitimate claims that other segments cannot make, what does this mean for the latter?
  • Has God picked genetic winners and losers in his grand design?
  • Are certain arrangements in modern society a reflection of some cosmological odds making? 

For a people subjugated across the globe, at one point in time, these are particularly disturbing questions. And in light of recent events, these questions require an answer as a part of a broader agenda to unapologetically appropriate blackness as a divine gift and cherished design.

Blacks, Jews and a Troubling Dynamic

Jewish Gene, Genetic Superiority, Chosen People, MythRecently, I participated in a tense debate on a Facebook thread largely joined by members of the Jewish community. During the exchange, one Jewish young man posted a lengthy comment that concluded:

Look how my people [Jews] were blessed with great minds. Yours weren’t. Thank Jesus.

I was astonished at the open display of racism to assign a sort of intelligence deficit to an entire people. Even more startling was the noticeable silence among Mr. Stewart’s Jewish peers. To note, the exchange came in the backdrop of recent  tensions involving blacks and Jews, including:

  • Jewish groups calling for Dr. Marc Lamont Hill’s firing from CNN and Temple University after his empassioned speech at the United Nations. In it, Dr. Hill went into great detail about conditions facing Palestinians in Israel;
  • The departure of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz [D-FL] from the National Women’s March (NWM).  The Florida 23rd District legislator protested 2019 NWM Co-President Tamika Mallory for not denouncing Nation of Islam leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan;
  • NBA star Dwight Howard blasted over his “#FreePalestine” Tweet hashtag.

In each case, the political winds blew against members of the black community and provided a tail-wind of legitimacy for Jewish individuals and groups. People of African descent instantaneously became persona non grata in these controversies and would remain there without a sufficient acquiescence and/or apology. And let the merits of the black person’s position be damned. In Dwight Howard’s case, the act of contribution was swift and clear:

I apologize if I offended anyone with my previous tweet, it was a mistake!

Stanford University history professor Clayborne Carson notes:

A typical controversy beings with a controversial statement or action by a black person, which is then condemned by Jewish leaders as a sign of increasing anti-Semitism. The initial stimuli for past crises in black-Jewish relations have often been statements by obscure individuals; yet the understandable desire of Jewish leaders to expose black anti-Semitism has the effect of transforming obscurity into notoriety.1

Carson offers a historical perspective of these “quarrels”. The infamous Hymie-town comment that derailed Rev. Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign. The fiery speech by Nation of Islam minister, the late Khalid Muhammad, at Kean College in 1993. In Carson’s enumeration of events is a 1967 circular by members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) that criticized the State of Israel. This controversy highlights the tenuous nature of the relationship where a critique of Israel is made synonomous wth anti-Semitism. The claim is specious, at best. A widely accepted fallacy of false equivalence. Tantamount to suggesting a critique of Iran or Saudi Arabia is a denounciation of Islam. Or that citing America’s injustices is a condemnation of Christianity – the nation’s predominant faith. 

 

Coalition or Quiet Contempt

From where does this asymmetric arrangement come? Both groups have experienced atrocities. And arguably, the most heinous of them all — chatel slavery and The Holocaust — would by every metric demonstrate the greater (unreparated) crime was visited upon people of African descent. Not to mention the direct involvement of Jews in the inhumane ownership of slaves and participation in the broader slavery economy as traders, financiers, [property] insurers, ship owners, etc.

How is it that the pecking order of societal favor situates blacks at the bottom of consideration in the wake of black-Jewish disputes? To what can we point for the comfort level of the Jewish community to critique and castigate blacks without reprisal? Mr. Schwartz, for instance, used perjoratives and negative assessments of Rev. Al Sharpton, Minister Louis Farrakhan, and The Congressional Black Caucas. He suggested that I held Adolf Hitler in high esteem. The most basic and well-articulated view that diverges from common Jewish sentiments receives the visceral labeling, “You’re an anti-Semite!”  Yet, claims that blacks are intellectually challenged is acceptable in a public forum; not worthy of [immediate] criticism.

Black History Unleashed - Chaney Goodman Schwerner - black Jewish relationship

The bodies of civil rights workers – James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Mickey Schwerner – discovered in a Philadelphia, MS Neshoba County, August 4, 1964. Photo Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation – Public Broadcasting Service. Public Domain.

The thread of black and Jewish relations meanders through complex terrain. At one end of the continuum, those who see a constructive coalition point to the Jewish involvement in the formation of the NAACP and civil rights movement. The 1964 brutal execution of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Mickey Schwerner cemented into the national consciousness, the notion of cooperation in a shared struggle for justice.

At the opposite end, a macro-critique of the relationship between blacks and Jews sees a quiet contempt that flows beneath the surface of public engagements. As Howard University political scientist, Ralph Bunche, succinctly described:

It is common knowledge that many members of the Negro and Jewish communities of the country share mutual dislike, scorn, and mistrust.2

That tensions exist between two groups should not be terribly surprising. Tribalism is a common byproduct of oppressive regimes as was the case in violent clashes between the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi. Another, lesser discussed, tension has existed in America on the parallel courses for women’s rights and civil rights for blacks. Here, however, white women have been at the center of some of the most violent injustices perpetrated against blacks. We can note the Emmett Till killing, massacre in Tulsa, OK that leveled Black Wall Street, the murder of The Groveland Four, the massacre in Rosewood, FL, to name of few. In one sense, George Orwell’s Animal Farm illustrates how tensions can ultimately erupt between oppressed segments.

Tensions between blacks and Jews is not particularly enigmatic. The more troubling, central question is:

“How it is that blacks are invariably the antagonists in these quarrels?” 

 

3-Fifths Status and The Chosen People Syndrome 

One answer points to relative political power. An analysis of concentrated wealth, and the power that wealth derives, offers another possible explanation. A third hypothesis is that people of African descent extend olive branches out of an acute sensitivity to injustices visited upon Jews. However, these fail to provide a sufficient answer when one considers how blacks readily assume what others characterize as an antagonist postures, while reserving the morally correct protagonist prosture to Jews. How, all too often, people of African descent relegate themselves in the face of tensions with Jews. Further, these explanations cannot reconcile sensititivity about the Jewish plight when blacks well understand their own plight; a history, as previously mentioned, that includes Jews profiting from the enslavement of African ancestors.

Another possible source of the imbalance has theological origins. And given the significance of Christianity in the black community, our understanding of God’s history with mankind is a plausible explanation. From a Christian perspective, this God-man history is largely rooted in religious texts that tell the story of God choosing a people through whom to reveal Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Simply stated:

  At the center of people of African descent, assuming a relegated status in black-Jewish relations, is a theological premise that the Jews of today have a genetic priority in God’s plan for mankind. Such that a critique of those who call themselves Jews is in-essence a critique of God Himself. Inevitably, a greater regard for Jews, and one that necessitates capitulation in the resolution of disputes, amounts to people of African descent accepting a lesser than or 3-fifth status.  

 

The Chosen People mythology has profound standing in a broader Judeo-Christian narrative, generally, and within Christendom, specifically. However, mistreatment of this narrative, whether from a historic or theological sense, has moved mythology into a sphere of syndrome with devastation effects for blacks in America and across the globe. The very idea that people of African descent must be sensitized to the oppression of any group defies logic. Is there any other group who is more acquainted with oppression? What other people of the world is in less need of sensitivity training about injustices? Absolutely, tensions exist. But to conclude that these tensions arise out of anti-Semitism is a charge for which people of color need not to shoulder the burden given the backdrop of our experience. 

Deconstructing the 3-Fifths Problem

Overcoming the syndrome, that finds blacks readily capitulating to Jewish claims, requires an examination of underlying presuppositions. To be clear, this is not anti-Jew pursuit but rather a pro-Afrocentrism matter that affirms our equal significance in God’s design. To that end, we must address two core questions:

What is the nature of the “chosen people” in the context of religious antiquity?

According to Scriptures, God revealed himself to 99-year old Abram (later Abraham) who would become the father of many nations [Genesis 17:5]. Much can be discussed about this choosing. First, the decision rested in God’s sovereign counsel. In other words, there were nothing inate or distinctive in Abram that resulted in this peculiar relationship. Later, the Jews religious hierarchy during the earthly minister of Jesus Christ sought refuge in bloodline. “We are Abraham’s descendants”, they would proudly boast. [John 8:33] To that, the Lord would reply out of his eternal glory, “Before Abraham was, I am.” [John 8:58]

A commonly overlooked aspect of God choosing Abram is his biological and cultural membership at the time of the calling. Namely, Abram was not a Jew. Indeed, we was not Hebrew. The Hebrew people emerged as the lineage of Eber (Heber), the grandson of Noah and son of Shem. When we think about God’ engagement of Abram, we must understand fundamentally that God created man from one blood. The Apostle Paul affirms this in a revealing discourse:

And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.  [Acts 17: 26-28]

The esteem humans have as God’s most precious creation is a shared esteemed. Any religious narrative that explicitly or implicity suggests otherwise is heretical. This is not to say that God’s purpose for various groups is uniform. He remains soversign in his plans. However, an intrinsic understanding of people of African descent, in relation to Jews (and for that matter, non-Jew whites, Asians, etc), is one that boldly affirms our dignity with the same fevor as others affirm theirs. And by extension, people of African descent need not to forfeit our dignity or operate in some sub-servient posture.  The chief consideration is simply to hold to a moral, intellectually genuine matter during disputes.

What is the nature of the Old Testament “chosen people” and the Jews of today?

The previous discussion is theological in-nature. To the reader that declares The Bible is the inspired Word of God, the passages offered stand on their own merit. But can we build upon this discussion with scientific evidence? In other words, can we look purely to secular reason (i.e., science) as a basis to address the superiority/inferiority ideas that shape mind of persons like Mr. Schwartz? 

The answer is yes.

Mr. Schwartz’s comment and a wider range of issues involving today’s Jews appeal to a biological determinism to define this group as a race. Physical properties, even at a basic genetic level, that distinguish Jews from other social groups. Geopolitical issues, particluarly as it relates to the State of Israel and [religious] claims to land under Israeli jurisdiction, have heightened group identity. And to some extent, the world has conditioned itself to accept as a given that those who call themselves Jews are in-fact descendants of Jews discussed in the Pentateuch and Prophetic books of the Old Testament. On a micro-level, powerful passages such as Genesis 12:3, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”, weigh heavily even in the most mundane public disputes between blacks regarding Jews. 

And yet, the dynamics of these macro- and micro-level public dealings come with fundamental assumption that Jews today are the genetic descendants of Old Testament patriachs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

As it turns out, science refutes this most critical assumption. And while we rarely, if ever, hear what the scientific community has concluded on this question, it is established that today’s Jews have no biological basis to connect them to the Jews of antiquity. A landmark paper by Raphael Falk, professor of genetics (emeritus) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, concludes: 

In recent decades ever-increasing efforts and ingenuity were invested in identifying Biblical Israelite genotypic common denominators by analysing an assortment of phenotypes, like facial patterns, blood types, diseases, DNA-sequences, and more. It becomes overwhelmingly clear that although Jews maintained detectable vertical genetic continuity along generations of socio-religious-cultural relationship, also intensive horizontal genetic relations were maintained both between Jewish communities and with the gentile surrounding. Thus, in spite of considerable consanguinity, there is no Jewish genotype to identify.

Falk raises the various ways in which we think about who is or is not a Jew: “Are the Jews a religious community, a socio-cultural entity, an ethnic-biological classification, or what?” The question has been the source of fierce debates in the scientific community, among academicians, and even in the realm of law. Scientists have searched for facial structure, blood type, diseases (e.g., Tay-Sachs, cystic fibrosis), and DNA haplotype sequences (or markers) that are peculiar to Jews. Neither have proven successful. This work continued into the study of phylogenetic data from Jewish priest conducted by Redcliffe Nathan Salaman (1872-1955), a Jewish-British physician-virologist and eugenicist. This branch of study looked at Jews whose last names are Cohen that are supposedly the descendants of Aaron and the Levitical (or priestly) order. Salaman was unsuccessful in identifying a phenotypic [composite] marker or individual genetypic markers in Jewish priests. 

 

Implications of Genetic Myth

In a post-Nazi era, one area of grave concern is the implications of genetic mythology on the highly charged issues concerning the State of Israel. Falk cites differing views held by two retired Israeli Supreme Cout judges, interviewed by journalists Michael Sheshar for a 1998 article on the question, “Who is a Jew?” Sheshar writes:

Judge Haim Cohen responded: “the definition must be given by every single Jew for himself. If a person says of himself that he is a Jew, for me he is a Jew. This is his autonomy and nobody can decide for him or instead of him whether he is a Jew or not. There is no need in definitions.” Retired judge Menahem Alon emphatically contested this argument. He relied on the decision of the Knesset concerning the Law of Return: “The definition of the concept Jew, in this context, is: ‘He who was born to a Jewish mother, or converted, and does not belong to another religion’. This is the lawful definition in the State of Israel. And in my view this law is most essential. Otherwise we have no Jewish nation!”3

It is clear that Jewish identity in modern times is now at the cross-section of religion, politics and geopolitics, and genetics. And for all practial purposes, genetic discovery is leaving an inconvenient footprint on the broader dimensions of this question. This is a more abstract or macro-level consideration.

At a micro-level, DNA evidence that overwhelmingly disproves a genetic claim has implications on black-Jewish relations. The Scriptures are clear regarding the matter of race as a genetic context. God challenges the Prophet Jeremiah, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” [Jeremiah 13] And for this reason, black-Jewish engagements are not racial in-nature, but race-cultural or even race-political.  Therefore:

  Willing acquiesance based on the idea that Jews today have a special genetic trace to the Jews of antiquity (i.e., Old Testament) is misguided. DNA analysis, supported by the Jewish community, has concluded that no genetic marker exists to trace today’s Jews to the Jews of old. And thus, the weight of claims that disputes involving blacks are necessarily anti-Semitic and subject to the Genesis 12:3 cursings lack credibility.  

 

What does this means and what does this not mean? First, what is means is we can recognize Jewish cultural traditions and religious identity. Papers that confirm Jewish ancestry are credible. However, they are credible in regards to religious/cultural selection. That said, any assertion that we must relegate ourselves to a lesser status as a result of a biological hierarchy is specious, at-best, and deceptive, at worst. Science has concluded that our modern notions of race does not carryover to Jews. Blacks need not assign ourselves to a “3-fifths” posture, for fear of being called racist, when standing on truth, intellectual integrity, and justice. 

A Word for Christians

Momentary, let’s conclude by returning to a theological discussion. The rising political influence of so-called Christian Zionism often times appeals to Genesis 12:3 to drive political agendas through, what is in-essence, fear tactics. “You want God to bless you”, says the Christian Zionist, then bless the [political] State of Israel. From prominent clergy like John Hagee and Rob Parsely, we are constantly reminded in-effect, “Oppose Israel at that danger of God’s curses.” 

African Americans, then, face a dilemma. Do we dismiss the burden for social justice, regarding the State of Israel, that is born out of our history? Or due we stand for what is right in the face of religious influence and genetic myth? In his speech before the United Nations, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill answered the question. Justice was a burden to heavy to ignore. And whether we are discussing slavery in is widest context, that involved Jews, or debating the plight of Palestinians, we must at-least parse what is truth and what is myth. Truth is objective and lasting. Myth as in today’s Jews as the genetic descedents of biblcal Jesus, while popular, is still myth. 

Further, Christianity proclaims Jews in a very different manner, “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” [Romans 2:29]

While on the Isle of Patmos, the Word of the Lord came to the Apostle John that warned, “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” [Revelation 2:29]

The realtity is that those who call themselves Jews today, have in their sphere, some that are simply promoting evil designs. The Lord’s warning was not racist to call out wrong-doinig among Jews – who were actually genetically tied to Israelites of the Old Testament. 

In this, we cannot ignore that Palestinian Christians, inward Jews, according to the passage, also find themselves uprooted in the State of Israel. Palestinian Christian churches are bulldozed. And the oppressive conditions that Dr. Hill articulated are visited upon Christians today. If we are going to continue in the prophetic traditions of David Walker, Frederick Douglass, and Fannie Lou Hamer, we must not relegate ourselves to a 3-fifths posture in black-Jewish relations. Jewry is social, political, and religious. It is not racial. To that end, we must approach this relationship with the same standard that we apply other faiths and cultures, without beng seduced for fallacious claims of racism given Jews are not a race, technically.

 

In Closing

This edition is one of many that looks at influences that factor into blacks assuming a leser than or “3-fifths” posture when dealing with other population groups. It is imperative that we respect the whole of humanity. That includes those who call themselves Jews. However, out of God’s one blood creation of humankind, that respect extends equally to Palestinians, Muslims, whites, Asians, etc. Further, we reject fallacious claims like those by Mr. Schwartz that effectively ascribe some genetic supremacy for a group; especially on that lacks an identifiable genetic marker. We can appreciate the history of Jews, including their austrocies against modern so-called Jews. And yet, the telling of our experience and critique of the times need not be constrained by fears of be branded racist, when the telling is truthful yet controversial. Let this discussion shatter one factor in our long struggle to eradicate a “3-fifths” assignment.

Now what says ye? 


Full Article: Genetic markers cannot determine Jewish descent
. 2014; 5: 462.
Published online 2015 Jan 21. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2014.00462
PMCID: PMC4301023
PMID: 25653666

(Click if the PDF article does not appear)

embeddoc url=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4301023/pdf/fgene-05-00462.pdf” download=”all”]


Footnotes

  1. Clayborne Carson, The Politics of Relations betweenAfricanAmericansand Jews In Blacks and Jews: Alliances and Arguments, edited by Paul Berman, 131-143. (New York: Delacorte Press, 1994).

  2. Ralph Bunche, Foreword to Wedlock Lunabelle, The Raction of Negro Publications and Organizations to German Anti-Semitism (Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1942), quoted in Robert G. Weisbord and Arthur Stein, Bittersweet Encounter: The Afro-American and American Jew (New York, NY: Schocken Books, 1970), p.59.0

  3. Michael Sheshar ,Yedion Irgun Olei Merkas Europa 139, August–September 1998).

About Kenneth

As Co-Founder of LowdCrowd, I hope that we make positive societal contributions through this resource.

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