From The Telegraph two weeks ago:
Experts at Mumbai’s National Institute of Immunohaematology believe Pashtuns could be one of the ten “Lost Tribes of Israel”.
The Israeli government is funding a genetic study to establish if there is any proof of the link.
An Indian geneticist has taken blood samples from the Pashtun Afridi tribe in Lucknow, Northern India, to Israel where she will spend the next 12 months comparing DNA with samples with those of Israeli Jews.
The samples were taken in Lucknow’s Malihabad area because it was regarded as the only place safe enough to conduct such a controversial project for Muslims.
Shanaz Ali a senior research fellow, will lead the study at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Tel Aviv.
There are an estimated 40 million Pashtuns around the world including more than 14 million in Afghanistan and 28 million in Pakistan, mainly in the North West Frontier Province and Tribal areas but also with a strong presence in Karachi.
Many have grown up with stories of their people being “Children of Israel”. According to legend, they are descended from the Ephraim tribe which was driven out of Israel by the Assyrian invasion in around 700BC.
Evidence of ancient Jewish settlement has been found in Herat, close to Afghanistan’s border with Iran, where a graveyard contains tombs inscribed in Hebrew. The Afghan capital Kabul also has a centuries-old synagogue which has long been abandoned.
A couple of years ago, the University of Chicago had a small genetic study to test these claims, and they found no links at all.
The news is being reported in the Arabic press as trumpeting that the Taliban might be Jews (actually, Ha’aretz said that first) and that it makes sense, since both groups have “genetic aggressive behavior.”
I remember reading a pamphlet quite a few years ago which was published by the Amishav institute (Now known as Shavei Israel) called The Lost Tribes of Assyria. In it, the author, Rabbi Eliyahu Avihail seeks to prove that the Pashtun (Pathan) tribesmen of Afghanistan and Kashmir are descended of the 10 lost tribes of Israel. Their Hebrew sounding names and Israelite-like customs convinced Avihail of the veracity of the claim. (Read an excerpt from the book ).
Several years ago, a Canadian Jewish filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici reached the same conclusion. In a video documentary called Quest for the Lost Tribes he travels halfway around the world interviewing Indo-Chinese and Bucharian Jews-among others untill he arrives in Afghanistan, then as now a war-torn region. There, he meets with several Pashtun tribesman who relate to him a tradition of Jewish origin. That and their “unmistakeably Semitic faces” leaves Jacobovici with the belief and certainty that he stumbled upon the real thing.
I must confess, that I too strongly belived in this and eagerly awaited for science to dispel any lingering doubts. Well, science has now spoken and I’m afraid that I (as well as many others) was wrong.
While the scientific DNA study was not 100 percent conclusive, there are very strong indications that the bulk of the Pashtuns are in fact not of Hebrew or Semitic descent.
“Two populations, the Kashmiris and the Pathans also lay claim to a possible Jewish origin. Jewish populations commonly have a moderate frequency of haplogroup 21(20%) and a high frequency of haplogroup 9(36%). The frequencies of both of these haplogroups are low in both the Pathans and Kashmiris so no support of Jewish origin is found, although again this conclusion is limited both by the small sample size available from Kashmir and by the assumption that the modern samples are representative of ancient populations”.
Click here to read more of the University of Chicago study.