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Anti-Semites Insist Modern Jews Are Not Descendants Of Abraham, Isaac, And Jacob

Are Modern Jews Descendants of the Khazars?

Olivier Melnick Author

The world continues to distance itself from Israel and the Jewish people, giving increasing credence to the prophecies of Zechariah 12.  The weed of Jew-hatred has found fertile soil in the various conspiracy theories spun about the Jewish people, spanning over centuries.  Post-modernism has also added a challenge to debunking conspiracy theories since truth has become relative in many people’s minds.  As a result, we are seeing an exponential increase in global antisemitism, and once again, the Jewish people are paying a high price as the ultimate scapegoats of humanity. 

The tragedy of October 7, 2023, in Israel, has also helped to increase the momentum that certain conspiracy theories had over time. As global antisemitism now seems to be completely out in the open with no restraining in sight, those who are friends of Israel and have a genuine love for the Jewish people must equip themselves on how to debunk the main conspiracy theories against the Jewish people.

I want to look at the theory that modern Jews are descendants of the Khazars and have no ties to the original Judean Jews. Some people call it a theory, and others call it a hypothesis. How about calling it a conspiracy theory? The Khazars and their connection to the Jewish people continue to be shrouded in mystery, and yet, the theory exists that modern Jews are descendants of the Khazars and not of biblical Jews from the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 

Khazaria was located between Turkey and Russia in the northern Caucasus region. At the beginning of the 7th century, the Khazars became independent of the Turkic empire. They settled and dominated an area between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. Their independence and existence lasted for about two centuries after that. A campaign was launched against them from Kyiv in 965, and by 969, Russia had fully conquered Khazaria. 

Around 740, King Bulan, the ruler of the Khazars at the time, is said to have led his country to convert to Judaism. Desiring to embrace a religion, the king is said to have invited three spiritual leaders—a Christian, a Muslim, and a Jew—to his palace and entered dialogue with each one individually, inquiring about the virtues of each religion. At the end of the meetings, the king chose Judaism, converted and influenced others within His realm to do likewise. How many others were converted has never been determined.

Rabbi Yehudah Halevi’s book The Kuzari: A Book of Argument in Defense of a Despised Religion, written in the twelfth century, details that story in detail. The book is a novel in which Halevi reconstructs the events that might have transpired, obviously preferring Judaism over the other two religions. It is important to consider that The Kuzari was written 500 years after the events it describes took place. 

Another line of evidence corroborating the Khazars’ conversion to Judaism was the letters of Hasdai Ibn Shaprut in the 10th century. He was aware of the Khazars’ story and decided to send emissaries to that region to investigate its Jewish connection. While they never got to meet any Khazars, they received letters from someone known as King Joseph of the Khazars. Though very detailed about the conversion, the letters are widely believed to be forgeries. There is no doubt that there was, to some degree, a Khazar conversion to Judaism at some point in history, but details of that event remain unknown or unverifiable. They are not mentioned in any documents from the large community of Jews of Mesopotamia. Unfortunately, that has not stopped conspiracy theorists from claiming that modern Jews are descendants of the Khazars. Some would claim that they were converted by Karaites, but there are no Karaite records of such an event either. 

In the mid-seventies, in his book “The Thirteenth Tribe,” Arthur Koestler posited that modern Jews are all descendants of the Khazars and no longer have any connection to biblical Jews. His theory quickly became a convenient approach to delegitimizing Israel and the Jewish people’s right to the Land since, according to Koestler, the Jews of today are not descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 

Koestler writes, “The large majority of surviving Jews in the world is of eastern European – and perhaps mainly of Khazar – origin. If so, this would mean that their ancestors came not from the Jordan but from the Volga, not from Canaan, but from the Caucasus, once believed to be the cradle of the Aryan race, and that genetically, they are more closely related to the Hun, Uigur and Magyar tribes, then to the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Should this turn out to be the case, then the term antisemitism would become void of meaning, based on a misapprehension shared by both the killers and their victims. The story of the Khazar Empire, as it slowly emerges from the past, begins to look like the most cruel hoax that history has ever perpetrated. “

Koestler’s claim assumes that Eretz Yisrael’s existence owes nothing to the Bible record. His understanding is that Israel exists because of a United Nations partitioning that took place in November 1947. He further states, “I am aware of the danger that it may be maliciously misinterpreted as a denial of the state of Israel’s right to exist. But that right is not based on the apathetic origins of the Jewish people, nor on the mythological covenant of Abraham with God; it is based on international law – i.e., on the United Nations decision in 1947 the Israeli citizens, racial origins, and whatever illusions, they entertain about them, their state exist de jure and de facto, and cannot be undone, except by genocide.”

Koestler saw no biblical roots in Israel, and thus, no harm was done by proposing that modern Jews all descended from the ancient Khazars. He gets further validation from Shlomo Sand in “The Invention of the Jewish People.” In his book, Sand defends Koestler while finding him a bit naïve. Sands writes,“ In the 1970s, Israel was caught up in the momentum of territorial expansion, and without the Old Testament in its hand and the ‘exile of the Jewish people’ in its memory, it would have had no justification for annexing Arab Jerusalem and establishing settlements in the West Bank, the Gaza strip, the Golan Heights, and even the Sinai Peninsula.” 

The Khazar/Jewish theory has become–at least in the mind of antisemites–a viable way to delegitimize Israel’s right to the biblical land given to her by God, as delineated in Genesis 15:18-21. Despite some pseudo-scholarly explanations, that theory stands on very shaky grounds. The Khazar theory can be debunked when disconnected from any antisemitic agenda.

Undoubtedly, the country known as Khazaria existed between the seventh and tenth centuries. It has also been established that the country’s history includes a conversion to Judaism, at the very least by the royal family and possibly beyond that realm. Various studies have taken place, trying to link modern Jews to the Khazars, with little admissible historical, anthropological, or genetic evidence. The results of one such study, published in 2013 in The Journal of Genome Biology and Evolution, explained that the Rhineland hypothesis (Middle Eastern Jewish ancestry) and the Khazarian hypothesis (Khazarian/Jewish ancestry) both presented valid arguments, at least partially, but no conclusion could be drawn in favor of one hypothesis over the other. 

Furthermore, Kevin Alan Brook–a leading researcher on the Khazars– concluded that Y-DNA patterns found in Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Kurdish, and Indian Jews cannot be explained by Khazars.  Brook’s conclusion about the connection between Jews and Khazars was that modern Jews are indeed the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and not the Khazars, as he stated, “By this analysis, we can show that the dominant ethnic element among Eastern European Jews is Judean — the ancient Jewish people of Judea in the Middle East.” 

The Khazar hypothesis has been refuted by history and DNA research beyond the shadow of a doubt. The Khazar conversion to Judaism is a true story, albeit very fuzzy in details. It has even been attractive, historically speaking, but the minute that antisemites figured out they could hijack it to fuel their agenda of delegitimization of Israel, it lost most of its luster. 

When interacting with proponents of that antisemitic view, a few questions might help debunk the theory. An honest handling of these questions will show that they yield no answer:

• Why is there complete silence from the Jews of Mesopotamia regarding the Khazar’s conversion? 
• Who converted the Khazars?
• Was it a Rabbinic conversion or a Karaite conversion? 
• How many Khazars converted?
• What happened to them? 

The Khazar Theory is just that…A theory lacking too much evidence to be proven true. In our age when the truth is no longer the essential component for any discourse or dialogue, if a theory seems to fit a specific narrative, it BECOMES TRUTH. If modern Jews were descendants of the Khazars, then Israel would instantly become stolen land, colonized and occupied by a bunch of impostors. Unfortunately, in the age of the normalization of antisemitism, that concept sells very well!


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