For the past year or so I’ve been getting queries about what I think about Eran Elhaik’s preprint on the genetic character of European Jews. I found some of the conclusions frankly a little weird, but I assumed that things would be cleaned up for publication. Well, it’s been out for a while now: The Missing Link of Jewish European Ancestry: Contrasting the Rhineland and the Khazarian Hypotheses. But some reporting in The Jewish Daily Forward has brought the author and his detractors a bit into the spotlight. The reason is that as you can tell from the title of the author takes a position on the Khazarian origin model of Ashkenazi Jews (in favor). Here is a non-genetic take over at GeoCurrents, the thrust of which I basically concur with.
In any case, many of the problems with the paper remain. Really it all begins and ends here:
A few people have asked me about a new paper on arXiv, The Missing Link of Jewish European Ancestry: Contrasting the Rhineland and the Khazarian Hypotheses. Since it is on arXiv you can read the preprint yourself. And, since it is a preprint it is not quite polished, so keep that in mind when evaluating it. After a fashion we are part of the polishing process. So what do I think?
First, it seems to me that the author has a sense of humor about this, and I don’t know how seriously to take some of his assertions. Consider this passage: Such an unnatural growth rate (1.7-2% annually) over half a millennia, affecting only Jews residing in Eastern Europe is commonly explained by a miracle (Atzmon et al. 2010). Unfortunately, this divine intervention explanation poses a new kind of problem – it is not science. Taken literally this seems rather bizarre. In the paper referenced the author refers to the “so-called demographic miracle of population expansion,” alluding to another scholar’s observation. It seems obvious that miracle in this context simply means an inexplicable phenomenon, not a genuine supernatural intervention. There are also plain factual problems which I assume will get cleared up in the final draft. Romania and Hungary are referred to as Slavic nations which were targets of migration by Khazars fleeing the collapse of their polity. Neither of these nations were then, or are now, Slavic. In general I have to say that the historical framework of the paper is very skeletal, verging on incoherent (at least to me).