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July 24, 2008

Is Middle Eastern Politics Creeping Into Science?

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Scientific American is renowned for its captivating coverage of advances in science and technology. The July 2008 edition contains an article on how recent advances in DNA mapping are being used to trace the worldwide migration of humans. A chart in the piece illustrates the chronological genetic branching of humans as they dispersed geographically. It contains 51 ethnic groups, each indigenous to a particular geographic locale. One group included is "Palestinian."

The chart's caption explains that genetic sequencing "lets researchers compare genomes drawn from distinct populations around the globe." The ethnic groups also possess another characteristic: they are indigenous to a specific geographic locale. This allows a genomic migration path to be constructed.

This is where science and contemporary political mythology intersect. The Palestinian identity is a relatively new phenomenon, no more than a century old, emerging out of a political conflict. One element of this conflict are the competing claims of Arabs and Jews over the land. To counter the Jewish connection to the land from biblical antiquity, Palestinians maintain their descent from the indigenous inhabitants of Israel/Canaan. The article implicitly accepts this claim by their inclusion in the chart.

But are the Palestinians a distinct geographic population in the same way as the other groups included in the chart? Today's Palestinians are an admixture of recent migrants from Egypt, Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Turkic regions, and Albania, on top of a pre-existing population descended from Europeans from the Crusades and a remnant of the pre-Islamic population. The choice of Palestinian as one of the four middle eastern groups is a curious one considering the availability of longstanding distinct groups within the region, like Copts, Arabs in Arabia or Yemen, Chaldeans in Iraq or for that matter Jews of Middle Eastern heritage. The other three middle eastern groups shown in the chart, the Druze, Mozabites and Bedouin also can claim distinct identities going back centuries.

Was politics involved in the selection of the Palestinians? There is scant evidence of political ideology in the rest of the piece, although it does include the somewhat out of place assertion that people of European ancestry have a "higher proportion of harmful genetic changes... than the African-Americans did." But the inclusion of an ethnic group formed only recently as a consequence of a contemporary political conflict, raises the question as to whether politics is interfering with sound science.

Posted by SS at July 24, 2008 10:13 AM

Comments

This concept of a "Palestinian" nationality is one of a number of carefully crafted, blatant lies, engineered by Yassir Arafat et al.

As the CAMERA comment indicates, these "Palestinians" originated mostly in Egypt, and other local Arab states.

An equally blatant lie is that these people must have a state. There already is a Palestinian state, Jordan. Remember the UN Partition?

Another blatant lie that has been accepted as "common knowledge", is that Israel expelled the Palestinians. It was the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who ordered the Palestinians to leave, to make the process of killing all the Jews easier. The Jews asked them to stay, promising them full rights if they did.

They not only chose to leave, they formed paramilitary groups that attacked and killed Jews.
In other words, they became terrorists.

Thus, they lost any rights they might have had, in Israel; however, they should return to their homes - their true homes, in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, etc., and especially, Jordan.

Posted by: Gedaliah at July 24, 2008 09:50 PM

This is the second time I have seen this type of comment on this blog. I don't believe the term "Palestine" or "Palestinian" are always political. These terms existed before Israel and before the modern Palestinian terrorist movements. People often use these terms to refer to regions and to the people living there in general, not to the modern movements. So for example, you can read articles and scholarly works on the "Palestinian Talmud" or "Palestinian Aramaic" and so forth, and it has nothing to do with the contemporary "Palestinian" identity which is, as you correctly point out, an invention.

Posted by: Yoni at August 6, 2008 05:24 PM

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