Palestinian PM Shtayyeh: Today’s Jews, Israelis Have ‘No Connection’ with Real Jews

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh gestures as he talks to reporters during a press conference in Ramallah on May 5, 2020, about the decision announced a day earlier to renew the state of emergency in Palestinian-ruled areas of the occupied West Bank. - The Palestinian Authority renewed the coronavirus lockdown …
ABBAS MOMANI/AFP via Getty Images

There is no connection between today’s Israelis and historical Jews, according to recent remarks by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in an attempt to deny the ancestral roots of today’s Jews, and thus strengthen Palestinian claims to the Holy Land. 

In a public address aired on Palestine TV recently, Palestinian PM Shtayyeh stated that Israeli Jews are “Khazar Jews” who converted to Judaism in the sixth century CE and are unrelated to those Jews who descended from the biblical patriarch Jacob.  

“The Hebrews, the Jews, and the Israelis are not the same thing,” he said.

He added:

Israel is Jacob; the Israelites are the sons of Jacob. Thirteen hundred years separated between Jacob and Prophet Moses. Therefore, thirteen hundred years separated between the ancient Israelites and Judaism. So there is no connection between [today’s] Israelis and the [ancient] Jews.

Arguing that today’s Jews are not real Jews, having no relationship to ancient Jews, Shtayyeh then cited a common, discredited notion promoted by antisemites which purports that present-day Jews are all “Khazar” converts.

“The other key to the research is the Jews of today. Who are they? Without going into detail, they are the Khazar Jews who converted to Judaism in the sixth century C.E.,” he said.

“This issue requires research [and] there are many sources and books about the Khazar Jews,” he added.

In addition, Shtayyeh stated that Israel constitutes a “function” rather than a state. 

“[A ‘function state’] is what was said and desired by Oliver Cromwell in 1652, by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799, by the American consul in Jerusalem, and by [then British Foreign Secretary Arthur] Balfour,” he continued, adding that Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism, wrote to Balfour of his willingness to serve as a “function state” serving Britain’s interests.

“[Herzl] said, ‘Do you want us to be a function state for the protection of Britain’s interests in the Middle East and in the Suez Canal? We are prepared to be a function state,’” Shtayyeh claimed.

The “Khazar” narrative, pushed by many Palestinians, claims that European Jews are descended from Khazars, a semi-nomadic Turkic people who formed an empire in Russia from the 6th to 10th centuries, rather than from Jews who originated in the Middle East.

Though the theory has been publicized by antisemites to discount Jewish claims to the land of Israel, scholars have discredited the theory.

In 2018, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delivered a speech in which he claimed Jews were descended from the Khazar Kingdom of converts, while attributing ages of antisemitism to their social behavior, banking, and usury. 

According to Abbas, the modern state of Israel grew out of a European colonial project, unrelated to Jewish history.

This week, U.S. envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Hady Amr met with Shtayyeh and Abbas, as well as Israeli officials, as the Biden administration continues to pressure Israel to aid and strengthen the Palestinian government.

Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein

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