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    The Genetic Bonds Between Kurds and Jews"
    by Kevin Alan Brook

    Kurds are the Closest Relatives of Jews
    In 2001, a team of Israeli, German, and Indian scientists discovered that the majority of Jews around the world are closely related to the Kurdish people -- more closely than they are to the Semitic-speaking Arabs or any other population that was tested. The researchers sampled a total of 526 Y-chromosomes from 6 populations (Kurdish Jews, Kurdish Muslims, Palestinian Arabs, Sephardic Jews, Ashkenazic Jews, and Bedouin from southern Israel) and added extra data on 1321 persons from 12 populations (including Russians, Belarusians, Poles, Berbers, Portuguese, Spaniards, Arabs, Armenians, and Anatolian Turks). Most of the 95 Kurdish Muslim test subjects came from northern Iraq. Ashkenazic Jews have ancestors who lived in central and eastern Europe, while Sephardic Jews have ancestors from southwestern Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East. The Kurdish Jews and Sephardic Jews were found to be very close to each other. Both of these Jewish populations differed somewhat from Ashkenazic Jews, who mixed with European peoples during their diaspora. The researchers suggested that the approximately 12.7 percent of Ashkenazic Jews who have the Eu 19 chromosomes -- which are found among between 54 and 60 percent of Eastern European Christians -- descend paternally from eastern Europeans (such as Slavs) or Khazars. But the majority of Ashkenazic Jews, who possess Eu 9 and other chromosomes, descend paternally from Judeans who lived in Israel two thousand years ago. In the article in the November 2001 issue of The American Journal of Human Genetics, Ariella Oppenheim of the Hebrew University of Israel wrote that this new study revealed that Jews have a closer genetic relationship to populations in the northern Mediterranean (Kurds, Anatolian Turks, and Armenians) than to populations in the southern Mediterranean (Arabs and Bedouins).
    A previous study by Ariella Oppenheim and her colleagues, published in Human Genetics in December 2000, showed that about 70 percent of Jewish paternal ancestries and about 82 percent of Palestinian Arabs share the same chromosomal pool. The geneticists asserted that this might support the claim that Palestinian Arabs descend in part from Judeans who converted to Islam. With their closer relationship to Jews, the Palestinian Arabs are distinctive from other Arab groups, such as Syrians, Lebanese, Saudis, and Iraqis, who have less of a connection to Jews.
    A study by Michael Hammer et al., published in PNAS in June 2000, had identified a genetic connection between Arabs (especially Syrians and Palestinians) and Jews, but had not tested Kurds, so it was less complete.
    Many Kurds have the "Jewish" Cohen Modal Haplotype
    In the 1990s, a team of scientists (including the geneticist Michael Hammer, the nephrologist Karl Skorecki, and their colleagues in England) discovered the existence of a haplotype which they termed the "Cohen modal haplotype" (abbreviated as CMH). Cohen is the Hebrew word for "priest", and designates descendants of Judean priests from two thousand years ago. Initial research indicated that while only about 3 percent of general Jews have this haplotype, 45 percent of Ashkenazic Cohens have it, while 56 percent of Sephardic Cohens have it. David Goldstein, an evolutionary geneticist at Oxford University, said: "It looks like this chromosomal type was a constituent of the ancestral Hebrew population." Some Jewish rabbis used the Cohen study to argue that all Cohens with the CMH had descended from Aaron, a High Priest who lived about 3500 years ago, as the Torah claimed. Shortly after, it was determined that 53 percent of the Buba clan of the Lemba people of southern Africa have the CMH, compared to 9 percent of non-Buba Lembas. The Lembas claim descent from ancient Israelites, and they follow certain Jewish practices such as circumcision and refraining from eating pork, and for many geneticists and historians the genetic evidence seemed to verify their claim.
    However, it soon became apparent that the CMH is not specific to Jews or descendants of Jews. In a 1998 article in Science News, Dr. Skorecki indicated (in an interview) that some non-Jews also possess the Cohen markers, and that the markers are therefore not "unique or special". The CMH is very common among Iraqi Kurds, according to a 1999 study by C. Brinkmann et al. And in her 2001 article, Oppenheim wrote: "The dominant haplotype of the Muslim Kurds (haplotype 114) was only one microsatellite-mutation step apart from the CMH..." (Oppenheim 2001, page 1100). Furthermore, the CMH is also found among some Armenians, according to Dr. Levon Yepiskoposyan (Head of the Institute of Man in Yerevan, Armenia), who has studied genetics for many years. Dr. Avshalom Zoossmann-Diskin wrote: "The suggestion that the 'Cohen modal haplotype' is a signature haplotype for the ancient Hebrew population is also not supported by data from other populations." (Zoossmann-Diskin 2000, page 156).
    In short, the CMH is a genetic marker from the northern Middle East which is not unique to Jews. However, its existence among many Kurds and Armenians, as well as some Italians and Hungarians, would seem to support the overall contention that Kurds and Armenians are the close relatives of modern Jews and that the majority of today's Jews have paternal ancestry from the northeastern Mediterranean region.
    The Jewish Kingdom of Adiabene in Ancient Kurdistan
    In ancient times, the royal house of Adiabene and some of the common people of Adiabene converted to Judaism. The capital city of Adiabene was Arbela (known today by Arabs as Irbil and by Kurds as Hawler). King Izates became closely attached to his new faith, and sent his sons to study Hebrew and Jewish customs in Jerusalem. His successor to the throne was his brother Monobazos II, who also adopted Judaism. In her 2001 study, Oppenheim references the kingdom of Adiabene, but suggests that while Adiabene's conversion to Judaism "resulted in the assimilation of non-Jews into the community... This recorded conversion does not appear to have had a considerable effect on the Y chromosome pool of the Kurdish Jews." (Oppenheim 2001, page 1103). Some of the Jewish Adiabenians may have eventually converted to Christianity.
    Research has just begun into the ancient ties between Kurds and Jews. It would be interesting to see if the various Jewish groups have as strong a family tie to Kurds in the maternal lineages as they do in the paternal lineages. Preliminary studies indicate that Jewish populations in eastern Europe and Yemen have maternal origins that contain much more non-Israelite ancestry than their paternal origins. Despite this admixture with other groups, the Jewish Judean people ultimately began their existence in an area within or nearby Kurdistan, prior to migrating southwest to Israel. This exciting research showing that Kurds and Jews may have shared common fathers several millennia ago should, hopefully, encourage both Kurds and Jews to explore each others' cultures and to maintain the friendship that Kurds and Jews enjoyed in northern Iraq in recent times (as chronicled in Michael Rubin's recent article "The Other Iraq"). As Rubin indicates, the Kurdish leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani once visited Israel and met with Israeli government officials. Rubin refers to the Iraqi Kurds' "special affinity for Israel" and writes that "In the safe haven of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Jews and Israel are remembered fondly, if increasingly vaguely." Let us hope that this relationship can be renewed and strengthened.
    Brinkmann, C., et al. "Human Y-chromosomal STR haplotypes in a Kurdish population sample." International Journal of Legal Medicine 112 (1999): 181-183.
    Brook, Kevin A. The Jews of Khazaria. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1999.
    Hammer, Michael F., et al. "Y Chromosomes of Jewish Priests." Nature 385 (January 2, 1997): 32.
    Hammer, Michael F., et al. "Jewish and Middle Eastern non-Jewish Populations Share a Common Pool of Y-chromosome Biallelic Haplotypes." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS) 97:12 (June 6, 2000): 6769-6774.
    Oppenheim, Ariella, et al. "High-resolution Y chromosome haplotypes of Israeli and Palestinian Arabs reveal geographic substructure and substantial overlap with haplotypes of Jews." Human Genetics 107(6) (December 2000): 630-641.
    Oppenheim, Ariella, et al. "The Y Chromosome Pool of Jews as Part of the Genetic Landscape of the Middle East." The American Journal of Human Genetics 69:5 (November 2001): 1095-1112.
    Rubin, Michael. "The Other Iraq." Jerusalem Report (December 31, 2001).
    Siegel, Judy. "Genetic evidence links Jews to their ancient tribe." Jerusalem Post (November 20, 2001).
    Thomas, Mark G., et al. "Y Chromosomes Traveling South: the Cohen Modal Haplotype and the Origins of the Lemba -- the 'Black Jews of Southern Africa'." American Journal of Human Genetics 66:2 (February 2000): 674-686.
    Traubman, Tamara. "Study finds close genetic connection between Jews, Kurds." Ha'aretz (November 21, 2001).
    Travis, J. "The Priests' Chromosome? DNA analysis supports the biblical story of the Jewish priesthood." Science News 154:14 (October 3, 1998): 218.
    Zoossmann-Diskin, Avshalom. "Are today's Jewish priests descended from the old ones?" HOMO: Journal of Comparative Human Biology 51:2-3 (2000): 156-

  • Joyce Blau, Professor Emerita, Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales, Paris 19/06/2004
    Moti Zaken’s thesis on the "Tribal Chieftains and their Jewish Subjects in Kurdistan: A Comparative Study in Survival” is highly original and makes a significant contribution to the general history of We Jewish diaspora.
    The aim of the author of the thesis was exhaustively to describe the relations between the Kurdish chiefs and their Jewish subjects daring the first part of the 20th century in northwestern Iraqi Kurdistan... Mr. Zaken has undertaken the study of precisely this recent history of a few Jewish communities which lived in the former, prestigious principality of Bahdinan, in northwestern Iraqi Kurdistan. He did this remarkably well. His documentation is based on firsthand information, and is of the highest value. Mr. Zaken collected his data from men and women from various areas of Bahdinan, where they had lived either in cites or villages, and most of whom had immigrated to Israel in the 1950s. He interviewed more than 50 people, many more than once. These discussions, which add up to hundreds of hours of interviews, most of which were taped, were then analyzed and classified. The task of gathering and ordering all this fieldwork was immense, and the candidate is to be congratulated on the methodology that he chose. This part of Mr. Zaken’s thesis, concerning Jewish life in Bahdinan, well complements the Impressive work of the pioneer ethnologist Erich Brauer.[ Erich Brauer, The Jews of Kurdistan, First edition 1940, revised edition 1993, completed and edited par Raphael Patai, Wayne State University Press, Detroit.] Chapter II, which deals with the Jews, Kurds and Arabs between 1941 and 1952 is important because it raises the issue of the emerging conflict between the Zionist movement and the incipient national movements in the Arab countries. This problem, which was aggravated by the establishment of the Stale of Israel in 1948, was profoundly to affect the situation of the Jews in the Arab countries. However, in Iraqi Kurdistan the Kurdish chiefs, who Were concerned by the conflict only indirectly, were not willing to break ties forged with the Jewish communities over the course of thousand of years of co—existence, which on the whole were useful to them, particularly when the Jews, in contrast to the Christians, as we see later in Mr. Zaken’s thesis, could not be suspected of harboring sympathy for the “European enemy”. Many agha and Kurdish chiefs regretted the massive departure of the Jews for Israel in the early 1950s.. Note, in particular, the ties which united the Barzani dynasty to the Jewish people, which Mr. Zaken describes at length and so well in several chapters of his thesis. These were not one-way ties, for even today, in spite of the departure of nearly the whole Jewish population of Kurdistan for Israel, the links have not been definitively broken, and there are many Kurds who recognize their debt to the Jews.. In order to defame the Kurds in the eyes of the Jslamicist-milieux, a thesis is now circulating in Turkey which ‘proves the Jewish origin of the Barzani family’ [Cevat Eroglu (2004) lsrail'in beak stratejisi ve Kurtler (Israel’s everlasting strategy and the Kurds), Sayfa, Istanbul, 244 p. ] Questioned about this, an eminent member of the family, not in the least upset, told me; ‘So much the better. I am convinced of our Jewish origins.” Chapters III to VI describe in detail the daily lives of the Jewish communities of Bahdinan during the first half of the 20th century.. The candidate tried to be exhaustive: the result of his quest for oral documentation was considerable. This huge amount of information has not only been well classified, hut the candidate succeeded in making it a smooth and agreeable read. This detailed study has made a major contribution to the study of the recent history of the region of Iraqi Bahdinan..

    In sum, Mr. Zaken's thesis is highly original in both subject and method. The project he undertook is a significant one, in an academic area where there is still a dearth of knowledge, and his work complements the previous research which does exist. He made excellent methodological choices both in doing an impressive number of first hand interviews, a in the careful and detailed way he treated the material he obtained; his data is highly valuable. His work is an important contribution to the study of the Jewish diaspora, to the study of the specificities of the Kurdish Jews, to the study Jewish relations with Moslems and Christians in Iraqi Kurdistan, and to the study of Iraqi Kurdistan itself. I highly commend this thesis, and congratulate Mr. Zaken




Nasil Türkler'in Türkiye'si, Gürcüler'in Gürcistan'i, Ermeniler'in Ermenistan'ı varsa Kürtler'in de Kürdistan'i olmalidir.


Eğer tüm Kürdlerin ortak bir bağımsızlık hareketi gelişirse ki, bu şimdi mümkündür,  ABD ve AB devletleri uzun süredir sürdürdükleri Arap - Türk yanlısı politikalarını değiştirmek durumunda kalacaklardır ve böylece ilk Kürdistan devletinin ortaya çıkması sağlanacaktır.
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