Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Are Jews a "Race"?

Over at The Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh defends his categorization of Jews as a "race" in the context of both legal and practical analysis (while also noting that Jews could be equally labeled an "ethnicity," given the blurring of the two terms).

The objection came from an emailer who claimed:
Jews are not a race, any more than Anglicans or Catholics. Part of the persistence of anti-semitism lies in the thoughtless assumption that there is a race of people known as Jews, instead of a collection of individuals who have certain beliefs.

Speaking as a Jew, I am inclined to agree with Volokh. Jews are ethnically and culturally distinct from mainstream White and Christian America. Certainly, Jews are often mistaken for Whites or Christians, and often actively try and assimilate into White-Christian society. But I think that is more of a function of historical anti-Semitism on the part of the Christian community, Jews hope to dodge anti-Semitism by "passing" as White Christians. Christians simply refuse to see Jews as both unique AND equal, so Jews have been forced to choose one or the other. In many cases (understandably, considering the history of oppression foisted upon them!), Jews have chosen equality, and thus have suppressed the ethnic, historical, and cultural differences they have with the Christian community. (I realize the above is rather inflammatory AND incomplete--not a happy combination. Unfortuntately, the justification for is rather indepth and still a work in process (see below). So I'd ask patience as I try to formulate these thoughts into a broader, more coherent whole that I hope will be provocative without being offensive).

I actually have ALOT to say on this issue, and I'm in the process of writing a large paper on how the Christian construction of Jewish identity contributes to anti-Semitic oppression in general and anti-Israel policies in particular. Since I am still forming my thoughts on the matter, I'm reluctant to write further at this time. If anyone has any good resources or literature on the topic (or generic literature on Critical Theory), I'd be appreciative. So far, the ONLY book I've found on the topic is "Please Don't Wish Me a Merry Christmas: A Critical History of the Seperation of Church and State" by Stephen Feldman, I'd like to branch out a bit.

UPDATE: I should say that categorizing Jews as a "race" only makes sense if one rejects the idea of "race" as referring to something biologically determinate (which I do). Race is a social construction, and, in many of the ways Jews have been constructed, we've been constructed as racially other. Insofar as to many, labeling Jews as "White" is a way of negating their historical differentiation from the dominant White castes, I am leery of chucking out the idea of race with regards to Jews so quickly. I should note that often non-White Jews still are assumed to be White simply by virtue of their Jewishness, or vice versa -- non-White Jews as presumed to be non-Jewish by virtue of their non-Whiteness. This is another demonstration of how the refusal to deal with Jews on their own terms tends to suppress diverse and heterogeneous Jewish experience.

The fluidity and plasticity of race as a concept and category means that we should not expect to be able to lock in how Jews fit in with the concept of race across all different times, spaces, and contexts. The Supreme Court rather wisely acceded to this view in Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb, 418 U.S. 615 (1987). Obviously, applying old-school racialization schemas to Jews has led to some pretty horrific results, which is why it is understandable that many Jews are quite suspicious of the term as a whole. On the other hand, as the valence of "race" has changed, particularly in progressive circles, it is important that Jews not be caught in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't scenario. Just as Cheryl Harris complained that "at the very historical moment that race is infused with a perspective that reshapes it, through race-conscious remediation, into a potential weapon against subordination, official rules articulated in law deny that race matters",* Jews too should not be racialized only when it can hurt them, then deracialized at the precise moment where race re-emerges as a potential tool for liberal emancipation.

* Cheryl I. Harris, Whiteness as Property, 106 Harv. L. Rev. 1707, 1768 (1993).

55 comments:

Julia Rebecca said...

The question "Are Jews a race" is flawed in itself, because race is merely a social construct. PBS has a great documentary called "Race: The Power of an Illusion", and in the third section, The House We Live In (pardon the dangling preposition), they examine how the very definition of race, specifically 'whiteness', has changed over time. In the early 20th century, naturalized citizenship was reserved for "free, white person", and most immigrants were not considered white (Italians, Irish, Greeks, Jews, and many others). Their 'whiteness' had to be legally won, in long, uphill battles resulting in court cases that would often contradict themselves as the judges saw fit. The link above describes a few briefly, but it doesn't do the greatest job of getting all the ideas of the film.

Basically, I think the idea of race itself is flawed. It's not biological, it's completely socio-cultural, and it does absolutely no good in defining a person.

The best statement I could make then, in response to this, is that "Jews are Jewish".

Addition: It's not to say that we have to completely ignore race, however. Because it is such so imbedded in our social views and even our basic institutions, it has to be addressed before the problems of racial inequality can be solved. I just don't think that worrying about further defining race, more than it has been, is necessary.

Anonymous said...

personally, i believe that a lot of people, mainly white-christian america, has destroyed my people, the HEBREW peoples identity. Jews are not white, they are semitic, or middle-eastern, and geneologically related to the arab people. White (European) characteristics, such as pale skin, blonde hair and blue or green eyes are mainly contributed to inter-ethnic relations and the many rapes by the russian cossacks of the 16-1900's during pogroms. After all, if judaism was just a religion, why isn't there a christian country? Why would they pick to re-establish their "homeland" somewhere in the middle east surrounded by people who hate them? The answer: jews originated in the middle east, were kicked out into Europe, then into America, and now some live back in "eretz zion". Basically, we are the Israeli or Hebrew people, our languages include Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino and Aramaic, and our faith is mostly Judaism. That is all there is to it. Just because a government lables you as something "white", doesn't mean thats what you are. Not all African Americans are descended from Africa. Some are from the Carribean...

Anonymous said...

David,

Your site is being discussed on a blog called http://www.rachelstavern.com/?p=136

You might enjoy it. It is an anti-racism site.
or www.rachelstavern.com subject:

Bunch-o-links 7/26/06

Would appreciate your input. A somewhat academic discussion except for the occasional racist. Thanks.

Chill

Anonymous said...

According to the holy bible and marely looking @ them one will know that jewish were part of caucasoid and were almost like the arabs.....according to the holy book they were family through the great blessed father ABRAHAM....And im one of the few that pray for the peace of the sons of father abraham from smith olu akinsanmi from lagos nigeria

Anonymous said...

According to the holy bible and marely looking @ them one will know that jewish were part of caucasoid and were almost like the arabs.....according to the holy book they were family through the great blessed father ABRAHAM....And im one of the few that pray for the peace of the sons of abraham bye bye smith from africa

Anonymous said...

Jews are not a race, an ethnic group, or a nationality. Jews are a religion and nothing more. There is no such thing as an 'atheist jew' or a 'secular jew'. The myth of jews being anything more than a religion is rooted in religious mythology.

http://njatheist.org/atheismandreligiondontmix.html

circling_vulture said...

Julia Rebecca,

"race is merely a social construct" - this has to be one of the most laughable arguments i've ever heard. just because racial boundaries are diffuse, just like boundaries on a color spectrum are, does not mean races don't exist. it does not mean that whites, asians, and blacks are the same, just as it doesn't mean that red, yellow, and green are the same. nigga please!

realitybytes said...

you'll have to forgive julia.. she went to a UC school. doh!

Anonymous said...

Jews are those who believe in HaSHem and walk by faith. Jews submit to HaShems authority and live their lives set-apart unto HaShem and His ways...called out to glorify the Glorious One.

Anonymous said...

Circling vulture: This is the type of ignorant garbage that usually comes out of the mouth of people who have zero understanding of human culture or history in general. Saying that we are different races is the equivalent of saying that a Black bear and a Grizzly bear are not a part of the animal kingdom simply because one is black and the other is brown. We are all a part of the "human race", whether black, white, asian, latino, etc. What you are speaking of is a ethnic difference, not a racial difference. Not even close.

Anonymous said...

Jews are a race. The reasons why many people claim that Jews aren't a race are A: because a genetical proof of relation to their ancestors would indicate that Christians are not the chosen people and B: because usually, Jewish race has been a term used to de-humanize us.
There is a genetic proof of Jewish people as an ethnicity; even if they might have just started out as a Middle Eastern group of people with a different faith, they kept marrying in into their own communities. Therefore a new DNA pattern can be created over the course of almost 6000 years. Research has shown that Polish Jews are related to Iraqi Jews.
I believe that we are a race; it is funny that - although I am a Jew of half Romanian, half German descent - when I lived in Israel, people commonly guessed my background to be Iraqi. That is because we are Middle Eastern and the thing that baffles me the most are those little boxes on myspace, in which people put their religion as Jewish and their ethnicity as white/ Caucasian. An absolute oxymoron.

Anonymous said...

Jews a race? When most people speak in terms of Jews, the perception of this identity is mainly Ashkenazim. Jews of Europe. I have read countless books on this issue and have come to the conclusion that you are all wrong. DNA evidence cannot prove a person Jewishness. The Jews of ancient times have been identified with semites, although they fail to mention that these semetic people mixed with the Hamitic (African) people. They were a mixed ethnic people from their creation. Moses, who was Egyptian, transformed a backward,barbaric,lawless people into a group striving for civilization. I emphasize, Egyptian, because that's what he was.The Hyksos were the first semites to come in contact with Egypt and what did they do? The conquered it. They brought an invention, (check it out) the chariot. It took the Egyptians 200 years to learn the art of warfare to gain control of their country. Hwen they did, they expelled the Hyksos, and enslaved others. It is proven that the Hebrews are akin to the Hyksos. Basicly, the story in the Bible is told from a one-sided view. there was no war in Egypt before the arrival of the semites.The idea that Jews gave the world monotheism is wrong. The egyptians had achieved this long before. Pharoah Akenaton. It isnt ironic that Moses is giving these people Laws of living. they had none before. Lawless, nomads. Of the 5 hamito-semetic languanges that exists, 4 of the 5 are located in Africa. Ethiopia, Somalia,etc. These people are black. I've seen them with my own eyes. According to the evidence, Jews of European background are mostly descendants of the converted Kazarian Kingdom. This explains why Yiddish, a German language, Old Germanic, the trade language of the period, became the national language of these people. The fact that we have identified this converted people as racial Jews from ancient times is absurd and historically incorrect. It's a pity the hardships the Ethiopian Jews have faced because Israel freaked when they didnt fit into their idiotic racial Jewish theory. There was never a question about them being Jews by religion, the problem was that you cant make a black person white, unless of course, you are Michael Jackson. There existence clashed with false-history. people have even tried to classify the Ethiopians as "white". In Israel today, the term Kushi is the proper word for African. It now means "nigger" the prefered word is "shechor" this word just means literary "black". The last time I was in Israel, a man explained that the Ethiopians are just Jews that are black, but they are not kushim. The Ethiopians obviously dont see things that way. They see themselves as black. The idea of assuming Jewishness to being a race....its dangerous territory. Judging every Jew by the European perspective holding its traditions, foods and culture as superior and lying to the world that Europeanism is the center of creation is RACISM. SO if you believe that being Jewish is a race.....you are a racist. Point made.

Anonymous said...

It is a myth that the Jews descended from the mass-converted kingdom of Khezaria, but often used to disprove our caim to Israel as genetically related to the Semitic peoples around us.The language of the Khazars was Turkish not German.The theory that the majority of Ashkenazic Jews are the descendants of the non-Semitic converted Khazars was advocated by various Revisionist History and otherwise Antisemitic circles towards the end of the 20th century, especially following the publication of Arthur Koestler's The Thirteenth Tribe. Since Ashkenazi Jews make up the majority of world Judaism, such speculation is often held in conjunction with the belief that modern-day Jews are not the true descendants of the Ancient Israelites, and that contemporary Judaism has no rightful claim to the land of the State of Israel. This thesis is usually advanced in the context of the political conflict between Israel and Palestinians to promote Muslim claims to Israeli territory. Despite recent contrary genetic evidence((March 2006). "The Matrilineal Ancestry of Ashkenazi Jewry: Portrait of a Recent Founder Event". The American Journal of Human Genetics 78 (3): 487-97. PMID 16404693), and a lack of any real mainstream scholarly support, this belief is still popular among groups such as the Christian Identity Movement, Black Hebrews, British Israelitists and others who claim that they are the descendants of Israel instead of the Jews and seek to downplay the connection between the Jewish people and their Israelite ancestors.

And why exactly is calling Jews a race dangerous territory? The Tanach forbids us to intermarry. Take several million people, marry their children to each other over 6000 years and you've got yourself a race.Point made.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David Schraub said...

Misogyny gets deleted.

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous guy who added the atheist link: It is not true that there is no such hing as a secular Jew. In fact, secular Jews are mentioned in the Mishne: If Jew is so assimilated that he does not live according to any of the laws of Judaism he is not to blame, because he couldn't know any better and his status is still that of a Jew. What is a Jew? A person who was born to a Jewish mother or converted according to Halacha. And if you think that religion is the only thing connecting Jews: There are many people who believe that they are Jewish who are not cosidered Jewish according to the Halacha. So just because someone prays in Hebrew and eats kosher and keeps some mitzvot it does not just make him a Jew.

AuldSaltyDawg said...

Ok. Speaking as a geneticist that has worked on humans as well as other primates (not to mention salmon, marine invertebrates and birds), race most certainly exists, but not as most people conceive it. Human groups have varying degrees of distinctiveness and Jews are one of the most interesting cases. That's because despite what should be enough mixing to eliminate all signs of a shared history, there are still signals of a unique origin.
The prevalence of rare genetic disease in Ashkenazi populations is one signal. More interesting are signs of similarity between Ashkenazim and Sephardi and Leventine populations of Jews using SNPs and microsatellites (sorry, some of y'all gonna have to look this stuff up), Ashkenazi Jews show distinctly Mediterranean origins. Also interesting is that Samaritan populations still living in Israel are more similar genetically to Jews than to their Palestinian neighbors.
Jews share some similarities due to common origin. That makes us less distinct than pygmies but more distinct than Britons. Its only remarkable because we are scattered across the globe otherwise it would be assumed. We still have lots in common with our neighbors, be them Poles or Yemenis due to mixing. Also, no one has found any single variant that is uniquely Jewish. The picture will be more fleshed out over time as genetic tools improve.
What I take from this is, we can be Jewish to varying degrees in our bodies and in our minds.... that's up to you.

Anonymous said...

Nathan Prophet: Jewish people do not belong to a "race." Genetically speaking, there is no such thing as "race." There are Jews from all over the world, of equal standing as Jews. The original Hebrew people were Semites, but over the centuries, Semetic Jews have dispersed and inter-married with non-Semites. Over ninety percent of Jews in America come from Eastern Europe. Anyway, all people living today have a common male ancestor from Africa who lived about 100,000 years ago and probably was an "Animist."

Anonymous said...

Nathan Prophet: Again, genetically, "race" does not exist. Groups of people who have remained apart of the general population over many generations have certain characteristic genetic markers, but that does not mean they are of a certain "race."

Anonymous said...

All of you have to make a big diference between JEWS and ZIONISTS, not all the Germans are Nazis, and not all the Russian Comunists. Zionism is only another ideology.

alf hickey said...
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alf hickey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
alf hickey said...

The Jews call their father Abraham, this is a spiritual thing following the promise og God back to these times. But the homeland of the Jews is called Israel and has always had "members-citizens" who are not spritually inclined. Here is a dilemma.

In terms of the "Christian" construction of Jewish notions, a Christian is tied to two laws to love man and God, Christians understand themselves to be an extension of Judaism so hold it in high regard. Christians also inherit the words of Christ on the cross, "forgive them, they know not what they do."

As for the Nazis and Germany. A shame the Germans still feel when you go there today. While I hate murder, persecution and racism towards any one, having received much racism and religious vilification myself. The Jews must understand that in their own spiritual belief system, if they claim to be children of Yaweh, that when they are overthrown, defeated ot destroyed, it is because they have turned from God, the prophets always warned as such did this happen prior to the Holocaust (There is a question ?).

This pattern may continue forever.
Israe,'Jews are not to play victim-they are to seek God. Saying that, there are also consequences for people who persecute the Jews. God will often wipe them out.

The race of Israel has little meaning to God, if a Jew actively lives in sin according to the Torah such a person would receive judgement then and now and would be rejected from Israel, apart from God's grace, if they repent and receive forgiveness through SACRIFICE. Kind David sinned terribly, he deserved death by Jewish LAW, but God's grace covered His sin, because he repented, Like Jesus, taking the sin of us, Davids son, like a symbol of Christ, dies as consequence of His sin.

So I pray the Jews truly turn back to Yaweh as a spiritual nation and ask God to reveal once again whether many of them made a mistake in rejecting Christ in the past. Saying this it is my understanding that "Spiritual Israel" is God's chosen people, (as far as I can tell). I mourn that so many have turned away from God's plan, eg. intermarrying etc... And the loss of sacrifice for forgiveness of sin. I also appeal to them to ask whether the character, who broke Jacob's leg (God)and visited Abraham was actually Jesus (God as man) what some call a Christophany. After Jacob's fight with God, The word Israel emerges. It will always have a limp to remind it of its place to God, I pray Israel does not test God.

I ask them to look at the evidence for Christ and what He was and is. And look back to their roots to reconnect with their identity in Yeshua- their saviour and loving God. I also appeal to spiritual Jews to relook at their function in the world per the Torah. I have been on trams in St.Kilda in Melbourne, and had people kick me off seats because (I assume) because they are the chosen people. Israel was to bless the world, A HE, who is the WIFE of Israel ? The Gentiles ? There are so many questions.

As for race, souls are probably sexless, raceless etc... A Christian doesn't discriminate people, though it may on roles, though Paul in frustration had a go at Cretins etc.. The thing that defines people in God's eyes is their love, obedience and committment to Him.

I pray researchers, historians and activist stop playing victim and seek God with ever more passion, sincerity and opennness of mind, God promises that He will respond.
As Jeremiah spoke of, not physical circumcision but circumcised hearts. That is my prayer for Israel or the Jews, whom I love.

Anonymous said...

Race is a bs term manufactured by Anglo-Dutch blue-bloods over the course of the last 1000 years. I would not classify Jews as one group genetically, but many European 'Jews' have trace genetic similarities to semetic peoples of the middle east, including those found in babylon/iraq, syria, iran, etc.-->probably pointing to the fact that throughout recent history (over the course of the last two-thousand or so years), traveling semetic/arab jewish merchants, who were almost exclusively men, set up shop in europe, as well as asian and african coutries.

That being said, Judaism is like Christianity and Islam: a religion first and foremost. No one can deny, not even the 'Jews', that Muslims of the Middle East are more purely genetically Semetic than the European 'Jews' are, and therefore more ethnically and indigenously tied to the 'holyland' area of the world. Trusting any religious book, be it the Christian Bible, the Muslim Koran, or the Jewish Torah, as historic source of evidence of ethnic lineage is going to get a whole lot of people in trouble when making claims to what land is rightfully theirs.

The vast majority of Jews who live in America and Israel today are Ashkenazi Jews, or descendants of Europeans who believe in Judaism and have trace genetic ancestoral ties to the semetic peoples mentioned above. Distant, 80-generations-ago ancestors coming from the middle east and strong mythical religious beliefs do not, in my opinion of what is ethical and moral, validate the seizure of Palestinian lands and thus also do not validate the Zionist-led transformation of that land into the Israeli state of today. It's essentially analogous to China's hijacking of Taiwan or Tibet and somewhat analogous to the seizure of land by the imperial white europeans from the native americans.

In my honest opinion (which is backed by archeological history), the racist Zionist-led seizure of Palestine from its indiginous people is exactly that: racist and imperial. This is not the first seizure of this land from its indiginous peoples. The hissoc semites (forerunners of the 'tribes of Israel' in the real world), who had originally come from modern-day Iraq and eventually settled in areas of Northeastern Africa (Egypt) as craftsmen and merchants, invaded and conquered the land which at the time was Phoenicia/Canaan (land of the phoenicians/canaanites, or palestinians as later renamed by the Romans) after getting the go-ahead from their Egyptian Authoritarian cohorts. The 'tribes' changed the name to 'Land of Israel' or 'Zion'. Over the course of history, the rulers of the area changed many hands...but the only true indiginous people are of phonecian/canaanite/palestinian descent.

People who follow the Jewish religious traditions should not try to claim the land belongs to them because it has never "belonged" to them. It has never "belonged" to any relgious group. If Jews, Christians, or Muslims want to celebrate their religous heritage in the land which is really Palestine, than they should be able to do so. But I find it horrifying that people try to use religion to justify imperialism. That is racist, bigoted, and hypocritical.

The area should be designated a secular state and be run by its indigenous peoples. People from all religious backgrounds should be able to practice their beliefs there freely. No one should be made a second or third class citizen because they are not one religious heritage or another.

The "people of god" argument is pure rubbish, is elitist in nature, and should certainly not validate the disenfranchising and exploitation of indigenous peoples. Religion, in my and many other people's opinion, has been given too many allowances in the public arena. Those who follow the Jewish traditions have definitley been unjustly persecuted in the past, but this is definitely an example of a victim's complex being exploited and taken too far.

Note: for those wondering, I am ethnically Italian, German, and Irish. I followed, at one time, the traditions of the Catholic faith. I, for one, am not ethnically Catholic...that is just silly. My religious heritage is that of Catholicism. I believe that all religiously established bodies/institutions are inherently corrupt (just like the Catholic Church has been all throughout history). I do believe also, however, that the inherently good-natured side of the human spirit shines through sometimes and manifests its good-doings through moral/etics-based communities, which many times happen to coincide with religious communities.

Anonymous said...

"It is a myth that the Jews descended from the mass-converted kingdom of Khezaria, but often used to disprove our caim to Israel as genetically related to the Semitic peoples around us.The language of the Khazars was Turkish not German.The theory that the majority of Ashkenazic Jews are the descendants of the non-Semitic converted Khazars was advocated by various Revisionist History and otherwise Antisemitic circles towards the end of the 20th century, especially following the publication of Arthur Koestler's The Thirteenth Tribe. Since Ashkenazi Jews make up the majority of world Judaism, such speculation is often held in conjunction with the belief that modern-day Jews are not the true descendants of the Ancient Israelites, and that contemporary Judaism has no rightful claim to the land of the State of Israel. This thesis is usually advanced in the context of the political conflict between Israel and Palestinians to promote Muslim claims to Israeli territory. Despite recent contrary genetic evidence((March 2006). "The Matrilineal Ancestry of Ashkenazi Jewry: Portrait of a Recent Founder Event". The American Journal of Human Genetics 78 (3): 487-97. PMID 16404693), and a lack of any real mainstream scholarly support, this belief is still popular among groups such as the Christian Identity Movement, Black Hebrews, British Israelitists and others who claim that they are the descendants of Israel instead of the Jews and seek to downplay the connection between the Jewish people and their Israelite ancestors.

And why exactly is calling Jews a race dangerous territory? The Tanach forbids us to intermarry. Take several million people, marry their children to each other over 6000 years and you've got yourself a race.Point made."

The genetics argument is highly flawed. Because while there are genetic markers and genetic similarities, there are no distinguishing features that make 'Jews' uniquely 'Jewish', as they do with many other types of indigenous ethnicities. The funny thing is that Ethiopian Jews and Asian Jews have the same Jewish genetic 'traits', as European Jews like to put it. They just also have black or asian features, just like northwestern and eastern european jews have white features. These genetic 'jewish' traits seems to be the same semetic traits of people who originate from the modern day iraq, syria, and iran (hyksos 'tribes'). These Jews are cross-breeds of semite ancestors from long, long ago who practiced judaism and indigenous peoples they intermingled with. This means you, as a Jewish person, are a crossbreed like most everyone else. Get over yourself. You have no right to any land unless YOU are from there originally, which MOST OF YOU HERE are not. If you are a semetic Jew from Palestine, than you have a right to be in Palestine. But if you are not, you have no right to imperialistically claim anything. No bs mythical religious nonsense is going to validate your claim either.

Being a Zionist is being an imperial racist, whether intentionally or not. Remember that.

David Schraub said...

I'm curious how this argument is impacted given the falsity of a key point in it: that the majority of Jews in Israel are Ashkenazi. Actually, a majority are not Ashkenazi but Mizrahi and Sephardic (Mediterranean, North African, and Middle Eastern). That would seem to cut the imperialism argument off at the knees, no?

Now, there are very interesting colonialist connotations to the raging and false assumption that Israel is predominantly a "White" or "European" country and thus consists of outsiders -- colonialist in the sense that it "occupies" a people's actual history and experience and seeks to replace it with a contrary and fictive one that supports the dominant powers in the region and perpetuates the suppression of a globally marginal group. But for some reason, that angle of analysis tends to fall by the way side when putative leftist want to discuss the issue.

Of course, I don't hinge support for any nation (Israel, Palestine, France, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Chad....) on purity of bloodlines or a mythical "true" owner (the volk, as the Germans would put it). I think that sort of essentialism is inherently dangerous and is inconsistent with an agenda based on the liberation of all peoples (including Jews). It is 19th century nationalism in disguise, and it remains reactionary whether it is deployed in favor of keeping Israel around or kicking the Jews out.

Rather, liberation movements (including Zionism, and including the efforts to create an independent Palestinian state) must be analyzed within a pragmatist framework that takes at the forefront the actual needs and experiences of each group, the axes on which it has been oppressed, the viability of the tactics it has used in its struggle against oppression, and the fairest potential "end game" that allows people of all groups a place to flourish. I think (and elsewhere on this site I have defended) that a Zionist agenda that allows for a two-state solution leaps those bars easily.

Anonymous said...

I myself am jewish and get teased by classmates for it. I don't care about that, they are merely ignorant but I do hate that the common american belif is that jews are not a race. We are. How can jews have their own homeland? Own religion? own language? own phisical Features? And yet we aren't recognized as a race!

Anonymous said...

Jews are an ethnicity. The Iroquois are an ethnicity. Christians are an ethnicity. Asian-Americans of the first generation are their own ethnicity from Asian-Americans of the second generation.

There's a fine line.

Ethnic (as defined by merriam-webster): of or relating to large groups of people classed according to common racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin or background

Ethnic (as defined by www.yourdictionary.com): designating or of a population subgroup having a common cultural heritage or nationality, as distinguished by customs, characteristics, language, common history, etc.

Ethnic (as defined by oxford dictionary): 1 relating to a group of people having a common national or cultural tradition. 2 referring to origin by birth rather than by present nationality: ethnic Albanians. 3 relating to a non-Western cultural tradition: ethnic music.

Anonymous said...

I hate to mess with you who think that Jewish people are a race... but the thing is that i don't think they can be considered one.

Race is a genetic distinction, and refers to people with shared ancestry and shared genetic traits. You can't change your race; it's in your DNA. I could never become black or Asian no matter how much I might want to.

Common ancestry is not required to be a Jew. Many Jews worldwide share common ancestry, as shown by genetic research; however, you can be a Jew without sharing this common ancestry, for example, by converting. Thus, although I could never become black or Asian, blacks and Asians have become Jews (Sammy Davis Jr. and Connie Chung)

Anonymous said...

Jews are a race. The reasons why many people claim that Jews aren't a race are A: because a genetical proof of relation to their ancestors would indicate that Christians are not the chosen people and B: because usually, Jewish race has been a term used to de-humanize us.

I agree with this person. Also in the bible it states that Jews are the chosen race. Jesus is a Jew. Also a lot of different races, have their own religions. Why do you think that people who are Jewish, have dark skin, brown curly hair and brown eyes? Is that a religion to you?

Anonymous said...

Jews are not a race, even a child can notice this. Just because many Jews are decended from a common certain geneological heritage, does not mean that the Jewish group is a race. It is as absurd as claiming that Mormon Christians are a race since they are nearly all white caucasian Americans.

For starters, Jews encompass a vast range of ethnicities. Jews hold a common belief system, not a common ethnicity. Jews do not have any kind of geographical isolation. I can think of no reason to label Jews a race, other than to give them a false and unquestionable status (something all religions desire). It is a belief system, and nothing more.

Maybe it just takes an atheist to notice how farcically religious people can behave, and how weak their reasoning is.

The definition of race is indeed quite ambiguous, but it cannot be stretched to include a religion, nor must we allow religions to claim defense under racism. The difficulty in criticising religion due to alleged "racism" is a massive barrier to social progression.

Anonymous said...

"I myself am jewish and get teased by classmates for it. I don't care about that, they are merely ignorant but I do hate that the common american belif is that jews are not a race. We are. How can jews have their own homeland? Own religion? own language? own phisical Features? And yet we aren't recognized as a race!"You have a right to feel aggrieved, however your classmates are correct. Having a homeland does not mean you are a race. For starters, millions of Jews do not live in your homeland and do not even agree with the policies there. You have a language, which many Jews cannot speak. The fact that you have a religion is a nullpoint since this is what defines you. You do NOT have the same physical features. I can convert to Judaism anytime I like and I do not have the stereotypical big nose and dark curly hair. Jews have married into other cultures for many generations and stopped having a shared geneology centuries ago. You do not have an argument. Wishful thinking will never result in Jews becoming a race. Judaism is just a cult based around some backward myths that people feel allegiance towards for reasons of tradition. It is an insult to people who have suffered real racism, to claim racial persecution for believing in a certain religion. You have must lead an extremely sheltered life if you believe that all Jews look the same, and that maintaining belief in an invisible man is as strong a geneological feature as having black skin.

Anonymous said...

who ever posted this is an idiot and a hypocrite, its not antisemitism to hate jews cause according to you, jews are NOT semites..

norman said...

Personally i think the word Jewish or jew is of religeon not of race,I also find that some jewish people think they are better than none Jewish people i also think that Jewish people i-e Rothchild,and Rockerfeller families should be taken to court for mass murder,I also think they are to blame for American demise,i have come to the conclusion that these elite families may cause anti semite hatred and war against the Jewish communities throughout the world,the 2 named families above are the most vile and most corrupt and most hated Jewish families in the world far worse than Hitler,

norman said...

Hi,Julia,first of i want to say i respect all people whatever race,Here is a Quote from a Zionist Jew,I do not agree,OUR race is the master race,We are Divine gods on this planet.We are as different from inferior races as they are from insects.In fact.compared to our race ,other races are beasts and animals,cattle at best,Other races are considered as human excrement,Our destiney is to rule over inferior races.Our earthly kingdom will be ruled by our leader with a rod of iron,the masses will lick our feet and serve us like slaves,Menecham Begin,I say no to that.

norman said...

To,finish i think that last comment was the sounds of New World Order from a Zionist,who sounds just like Hitler.When millions of soldiers from the second world world war, Mainly British died for arsholes like that,If Israelis think that they can act like hitler they will have to think again,When the Jews where gassed by Nazi Germany in world war 2 it is a known fact that Zionist rockefeller family supplied money to the Nazi war machine indirectly killing these Jews,No to Zionist no to New world oder,and no to anyone acting like Hitler.

Thomas said...

what?

Anonymous said...

This is God speaking. Jews are a race because I said so.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather be a paki than a yid.

northwindfilms said...

OP: "Jews are ethnically and culturally distinct from mainstream White and Christian America."

Uhmm duh? Jews are Arabs who believe in Judaism. Simple as that.

Of course they're "culturally distinct" from Europeans. Because they're Arabs. I dont understand what the confusion is about?

Just because a Jew changed her name and dye her hair blond and gets 200k in plastic surgery so she can get a job as a TV journalist doest mean she is white.

What a silly question. So yeah. Jews are Arabs who believe in Judaism. After WWII rich jews have intermarried with Christians but thats irrelevant when describing the traditional jewish people.

northwindfilms said...

Any Jew who says he is of the Jewish 'race' is a brainwashed zionist buffoon. These people are all from LA or NYC and dont even practice Judaism. They're ARABS.

There is NO race called JEW. Semitic is a term used to describe ARABS not Jews. Again. I'll repeat. Any Jew saying he is a 'race' is a zionist buffon.

EVERY SINLGE JEWISH RABBI HAS STATED THE JEWS WERE NEVER A RACE OF PEOPLE.

So who are you going to believe? The Rabbi's or some punk street rat jewish 17yr old from da bronx?

Jews are ARABS.. they just hate to admit it.

Andrew 19yo said...

Sorry but this all seems a bit retarded. From what I've read some people think that Jewish people are genetically different from the rest of the world?! I could convert to Judaism if I wanted to couldn't I? That would make me Jewish despite me being extremely white. My opinion is that some idiot has given the same name to an ethnicity as a religion. If you we're to refer to a 'Jewish' person along with their religion, you would end up saying a Jewish Jew (according to some people). A Semite is the ETHNICITY I think we're looking for, where there are certain genetic markers and differences. We all have an ethnicity and most of us believe in something. Judaism is a religion and not an ethnicity. If you're going to argue that I can't be Jewish if I want, then you've got some hate/ignorance in you buddy. If you want to say I can't be Semitic then that's fine because it's true. Also as a bit of a footnote I believe the ideas of race are seriously flawed and anyone who tries to assign people a race these days will become a racist. pretty much. peace

Anonymous said...
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Metal Gear said...

A race means genetic category based on bone structure and pigmentation. Jews are Caucasoids as are Arabs and Europeans.

Jews descend largely from Northern Near Eastern Caucasoid (Arabs are more southern) and have mixed with Europeans to an extent. But only in intervals, then they marry each other again.

Jews are a dual ethnic group - Ashkenazi and Sephardic - but biologically, Jews are not a race. Jews are Caucasoids.

Anonymous said...

1. “Speaking as a Jew, I am inclined to agree with Volokh. Jews are ethnically and culturally distinct from mainstream White and Christian America. Certainly, Jews are often mistaken for Whites or Christians, and often actively try and assimilate into White-Christian society.”

Culture has nothing to do with RACE. They are separate issues. If Jews are assimilating then they are not “culturally distinct”, anymore than the white Christians have to assimilate with the mainstream along with everybody else.

*note “Ethnically” is another word substituted for “Racially” which is the subject in question. The fact that some people possess inherited genes rendering them taller or shorter does not constitute RACIAL or ETHNIC difference. Therefore, racial and ethnic differences are a arbitrary concepts based on arbitrary delineations.

2. “Certainly, Jews are often mistaken for Whites or Christians”.

Oh really? Are Ethiopian Jews mistaken as white? All you are saying is that white people who are Jews are mistaken, as white people, point being neither Christians nor Jews are exclusively white. The word “Mainstream” is just a foil for the fact you have said nothing. “White-Christian society” is another misnomer, because nobody claims “Christian society” exhibits any colour, apart from racists.

3. “But I think that is more of a function of historical anti-Semitism on the part of the Christian community, Jews hope to dodge anti-Semitism by "passing" as White Christians.

Firstly, the Christian community’s Holy book, the bible, includes the “Old Testament”, based on the Jewish bible.

Secendly, “Semitic” refers to a family of languages (not RACES) which include ancient and modern forms of Akkadian, Amharic, Arabic, Aramaic, Ge'ez, Hebrew, Maltese, Phoenician, Tigre and Tigrinya among others. The term Semite means a member of any of various ancient and modern Semitic-speaking peoples (populations not RACES) originating in south-western Asia, including Akkadians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Hebrews, Arabs, and Ethiopian Semites.

4. “Jews hope to dodge anti-Semitism by "passing" as White Christians.”

What you mean is, Jews hope to dodge anti-Semitism by "passing" as Christians i.e. religious practitioners hope to pass as other religious practitioners because of religious intolerance/discrimination. You still haven’t explained how Jews are “ethnically distinct”, anymore than 6 billion people on the planet are ethnically distinct.

5. “Christians simply refuse to see Jews as both unique AND equal, so Jews have been forced to choose one or the other.”

Apart from the fact that this is complete generalisation, all you are saying is that practitioners of a religion refuse to see practitioners of another religion as “both unique AND equal”. How is “refuse to see” unique to Christians and not Jews?

Anonymous said...

1. “Speaking as a Jew, I am inclined to agree with Volokh. Jews are ethnically and culturally distinct from mainstream White and Christian America. Certainly, Jews are often mistaken for Whites or Christians, and often actively try and assimilate into White-Christian society.”

Culture has nothing to do with RACE. They are separate issues. If Jews are assimilating then they are not “culturally distinct”, anymore than the white Christians have to assimilate with the mainstream along with everybody else.

*note “Ethnically” is another word substituted for “Racially” which is the subject in question. The fact that some people possess inherited genes rendering them taller or shorter does not constitute RACIAL or ETHNIC difference. Therefore, racial and ethnic differences are a arbitrary concepts based on arbitrary delineations.

2. “Certainly, Jews are often mistaken for Whites or Christians”.

Oh really? Are Ethiopian Jews mistaken as white? All you are saying is that white people who are Jews are mistaken, as white people, point being neither Christians nor Jews are exclusively white. The word “Mainstream” is just a foil for the fact you have said nothing. “White-Christian society” is another misnomer, because nobody claims “Christian society” exhibits any colour, apart from racists.

3. “But I think that is more of a function of historical anti-Semitism on the part of the Christian community, Jews hope to dodge anti-Semitism by "passing" as White Christians.

Firstly, the Christian community’s Holy book, the bible, includes the “Old Testament”, based on the Jewish bible.

Secendly, “Semitic” refers to a family of languages (not RACES) which include ancient and modern forms of Akkadian, Amharic, Arabic, Aramaic, Ge'ez, Hebrew, Maltese, Phoenician, Tigre and Tigrinya among others. The term Semite means a member of any of various ancient and modern Semitic-speaking peoples (populations not RACES) originating in south-western Asia, including Akkadians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Hebrews, Arabs, and Ethiopian Semites.

4. “Jews hope to dodge anti-Semitism by "passing" as White Christians.”

What you mean is, Jews hope to dodge anti-Semitism by "passing" as Christians i.e. religious practitioners hope to pass as other religious practitioners because of religious intolerance/discrimination. You still haven’t explained how Jews are “ethnically distinct”, anymore than 6 billion people on the planet are ethnically distinct.

5. “Christians simply refuse to see Jews as both unique AND equal, so Jews have been forced to choose one or the other.”

Apart from the fact that this is complete generalisation, all you are saying is that practitioners of a religion refuse to see practitioners of another religion as “both unique AND equal”. How is “refuse to see” unique to Christians and not Jews?

Anonymous said...

6. “In many cases (understandably, considering the history of oppression foisted upon them!), Jews have chosen equality, and thus have suppressed the ethnic, historical, and cultural differences they have with the Christian community.”

One again Christians are not an “ethnic” community. What I’m interested to know is a) what is the difference between “ethnic” and “racial”? b) How is the “ethnic difference” suppressed? I’m not taking about “historical and cultural differences” because those belong in another essay called “Are Jews a history and a culture?” not “Are Jews a Race?”

7. “(I realize the above is rather inflammatory AND incomplete--not a happy combination. Unfortunately, the justification for is rather in depth and still a work in process (see below). So I'd ask patience as I try to formulate these thoughts into a broader, more coherent whole that I hope will be provocative without being offensive).”

The trouble is the justification for the incompleteness of is always “still a work in progress” having provided zero engagement with the question, which was “Are Jews a Race?”

8. “I actually have ALOT to say on this issue, and I'm in the process of writing a large paper on how the Christian construction of Jewish identity contributes to anti-Semitic oppression in general and anti-Israel policies in particular.”

See, I think everything you have to say, or needs be said, is encapsulated in this one sentence and I wouldn’t bother with the “large paper”.

9. “I should say that categorizing Jews as a "race" only makes sense if one rejects the idea of "race" as referring to something biologically determinate (which I do).”

Okay, I’m with you here 100%, although I would rephrase it “Race is an concept relating to populations, it is not a biological determinate, as 85% of genetic variation occurs within human populations (e.g. Africans/Europeans) not between them. Therefore RACE is a social construct based on arbitrary externals i.e. skin colour rather than height and eye colour. I would also add, “Judaism and Christianity are religions, a “Jewish race” and a “Christian race” have no biological basis.

10. “Race is a social construction, and, in many of the ways Jews have been constructed, we've been constructed as racially other.”

Hmm, I not sure in whose interests it is in to do the constructing. But when it is posited that Jews themselves have been doing the constructing (especially the non-practicing ones, void or religion), this of course is conveniently greeted with howls of “anti-Semitism”.

11. “Insofar as to many, labelling Jews as "White" is a way of negating their historical differentiation from the dominant White castes, I am leery of chucking out the idea of race with regards to Jews so quickly.”

So “the idea of race with regards to Jews” you want to cling to after all? Even though you said earlier that race is a social construct and also “Christian construction of Jewish identity contributes to anti-Semitic oppression”?

I’m guessing that you are a “non-practicing Jew”, which is where the identity crisis originates. Religion is not “biologically determinate”, although someone who is non-practicing would need to maintain that it is, via some divine, miraculous means, pertaining to the religion, which they do not practice. Observation of this contradiction is of course virulent “anti-Semitism”.

Anonymous said...

12. “I should note that often non-White Jews still are assumed to be White simply by virtue of their Jewishness or vice versa -- non-White Jews as presumed to be non-Jewish by virtue of their non-Whiteness.”

Who assumes Jewishness makes a difference as to whether one is viewed as white or non-white? As you have noted by prefixing “non-White” they are already perceived as non-white, even by you.

13. “This is another demonstration of how the refusal to deal with Jews on their own terms tends to suppress diverse and heterogeneous Jewish experience.”

It is a demonstration of assumptions of whiteness and non-whiteness, nothing more.

14. The fluidity and plasticity of race as a concept and category means that we should not expect to be able to lock in how Jews fit in with the concept of race across all different times, spaces, and contexts.

So basically Jewishness pertaining to RACE is as fluid and plastic as the concept or RACE itself, but the religious precepts are fixed across all different times, spaces, and contexts. In other words unless one practices Judaism, one’s Jewishness is just a fluid, plastic concept. Which of course is anti-Semitism.

Anonymous said...

No they are not a seperate race The reason they have certain distinctive features such as a big nose is due to them not marrying outside their religion so they tend to marry into members of their own clans or tribes. The nose and in one genetic trait that seems to be inherited the most in all people. Like baldness is a genetic trait. There are only a few that have been considered to be distinctive races- Indians, Negroid, Asian, Caucasian, Germatic but we are all really 1 race that being the human race. .

Matt Bailey said...

Race is not merely a social construct. There is a genetic basis behind race & ethnicity that is more than skin deep. This can be seen in the fact that some medical disorders affect one ethnicity more than others.

The more we learn about genetics & evolution, the more race as a social construct is falling flat. It was well intentioned but simply isn't true.

Anonymous said...

Well, I think it's both a religion and a race. There is a lot of scripture backing it up. I'm no Rabbi (actually I'm only thirteen), but doesn't it say that God told Abraham his descendants would be a nation?

Don't act like there is only one meaning to the name "Jew." Have you people ever heard of homophones? Words that are the same that have different meanings. I believe this is one of them.

hasan said...
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Anonymous said...
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Channard said...

I am white and I am Jewish. The author of this article is either very uneducated, despite his degrees or he is racist. You imply that because I am white that I cannot be Jewish, since my DNA doesn't fit a certain Haplotype. Shame on you. From getting married under the Chuppah, my Bar Mitzvah to sending my girls to Jewish schools so they can learn Hebrew and Judaic studies, I repudiate your twisted comments.

bvffffdff said...

Racially ,the dominant portion of the Jews of yesterday and today are of the Caucasians. Meaning White, they are geographically and physically in between the Europeans and the Arabs in the classification of what constitutes the sub-races of Caucasian.

The Jews haven't mixed as much as the Arabs did nor there are as many .