When Ancient DNA Gets Politicized | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

When Ancient DNA Gets Politicized

The logic here for those who had read the study was confusing. The new research had nothing to say about the genetic history of Jews or Palestinians or the connection those modern populations have to the land. (Though the word "Palestinian" comes from "Philistine," Palestinians are not thought of as the descendants of Philistines; it appears that Netanyahu was using this unrelated point to launch into his argument.)

“To me it seemed like it just provided another opportunity—even if it's just tangential—to take a swipe at Palestinians,” says Michael Press, an independent scholar who studies the presentation of archaeology in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. “It's hard to blame the authors much here since Netanyahu's use of the study really was a non-sequitur.” (The authors of the study did not wish to comment but are preparing a formal response.)

Despite evidence that Jews and Palestinians are genetically closely related, Press and others were also torn about even addressing such inaccuracies in Netanyahu’s comments. Tom Booth, a researcher in the ancient genomics laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute in London, worried that picking apart what the prime minister got wrong about the study would suggest that, in an alternate reality, where his interpretation was scientifically sound, Netanyahu would be justified in using such a study to support his claims about Palestinian rights. “You just need to condone any attempt to use a study on the past in this way,” Booth says. “The way our ancestors were 4,000 years ago does not really bear on ideas of nation or identity, or it shouldn't in modern nation states.”

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