I’m not, as it happens, Jewish.
In religion … I can do no better than to paraphrase Will Rogers: I’m not a member of any organized denomination, I’m an Anglican. My ancestors of record have, preponderantly, been Anglicans since the Elizabethan, though not necessarily the Henrician, Settlement. Before, and in some cases after, as recusants, they were RC. Despite a fair number of Scots Piscies, a few, sadly, were members of the Kirk. Some were so Low Church as to become Methodists in the modern sense. During the lead-up to, and during and just after, the civil war – the “King, Cromwell, and Cavaliers” one, not the “Lee and Lincoln” one – and the Interregnum, some were so traumatized as to become for a few generations Friends, though most of these drifted back into the C of E. And, of course, once safely in North America, they experienced a bit of a free-for-all.
Some of my ancestors have been, rather than RC, Orthodox.
And before all that, they followed whatever local paganism was popular for their time and place.
Owing to some intermarriages in the past few generations, I have cousins who are in part ethnically Jewish and, in some cases, religiously so, having returned to the faith of, if not their fathers, their grandfathers. But this is not my case.
I’m not Jewish. Ethnically, I have no recorded Jewish ancestors. (And my people, even in America, long antedate, and never went through, Ellis Island or anything of the sort, so it’s not a case of changed names.)
Please note that statement carefully: I have no Jewish ancestors of record. I am not interested in DNA tests, because the point of DNA is genetic recombination, such that it is a complete crapshoot as to what ancestral DNA one inherits, and how much; and this often is different from one sibling to another. I am interested in records, and I draw the line mostly in the 11th Century, or, sometimes, in very well-attested cases, mostly involving stable polities in the Mediterranean, in the 9th Century. I have a good deal of Welsh and Irish ancestry, and, with all due respect to Welsh and Irish genealogists, I am disinclined to go beyond the 8th or 9th centuries into the mists and myths of Celtic kin- and king-lists. This is true also of the pleasant, flattering fantasies of ancestry so dear to the West Saxons, the Norse, the Franks, and the Normans.
(Naturally, where power or privilege or prestige or land or money is an issue, there is a motive for the making of false claims to lineage and relationship. But for that very reason, those tend to be contested by others seeking the same benefits, and thrashed out. It is an adversary process. For that reason, beginning in the 10th Century at least, one can trust the records sufficiently to put them up as evidence, in the full, lawyerly meaning of evidence, in any stable society and amongst people who understand the difference between political reality and pious myth.)
I am as a matter of record descended from Warulfe Ier “le Loup,” “le Garoux,” Seigneur of Uxelles and of Brancion; from Hugh d’Avranches, Earl of Chester, nicknamed “the Wolf;” from Trayan of Bulgaria; and from the viscounts of Millau … and Gévaudan. None of that makes me a God-damned werewolf. (That’s not swearing, that’s a theologically accurate qualifier.)
Regardless of the sycophantic claims made for various petty kings in the sub- and post-Roman and Early Medieval periods, and after, depending upon place and level of culture, I am no more descended of the House of David than I am descended of Odin: although David and the House of David existed, and Odin did not.
Remember: ancestors of record. Reliable record. I am content to rest provably descended of Brian Boru, of Malcolm III of Scots, of Alfred the Great, of Harold Godwinson, of Robert Guiscard, of Billy the Conk; of Charlemagne and Charles Martel, of Olof Skötkonung, of Henry the Fowler and the Ottonian emperors, of the Komnenoi, of Grimoald of Lombardy, of Baldwin and Fulke and the Kings of Crusader Jerusalem; of the Houses of Barcelona and Trastámara, the Elder Welfs, the Cometopuli, the Gedminids, and the Houses of Holland and Hainault and Capet; of Bolesław the Brave and of the House of Árpád, of Elisabeth the Cuman and Khan Köten her father, of Henry II of England; and of Rhodri the Great and Hywel the Good, of Rhys ad Tewdwr and of the Lord Rhys, and of Llewelyn Fawr ab Iorwerth. I feel no need to try to determine the lineages, historicity, and correct floruits of such legendary or semi-legendary figures as, e.g. and inter alia, Niall of the Nine Hostages, Harald Fairhair, Ivar the Boneless, Kenneth McAlpin, Cerdic and Eoppa, Ganger-Hrolf, the Merovingians, Macsen Wledig, Coel Hen, Padarn, various Halfdans, Rurik, Rorik of Dorestad, Scyld Scefing, Piast, and some asserted daughter of Pybba of Mercia. I’m an Eppes, not an Eopping. Nor, no matter what the Bulgarians say, do I claim descent from Attila.
As a matter of record, owing to Byzantine and Middle Eastern and West Asian politics of the time, I could claim Timur – Tamerlane – as a connection.
Owing to the situations both in Byzantium, the Eastern Roman Empire, and in Iberia, I could at least survive a 12(b)6 motion, if not summary judgment, in asserting descent from the caliph Marwan and from the Hamdanid emirs of Mosul and Aleppo. If this were so, if it be so, I could claim descent of the Quraysh.
There is colorable, prima facie evidence, based upon such near-contemporaneous historians as al-Tabiri, that the Eastern Roman Emperor Nikephoros I, an ancestor of mine, was descended of a Christian Levantine Arab tribe ultimately originating in the Yemen. And then, of course, there are Spain and Portugal, or, rather, what are now Spain and Portugal.
Musa Ibn Musa lbn Qasaw, Walí de Tudela y Huesca y Zaragoza, was the half-brother of my ancestor, the great Basque leader Íñigo Arista, Eneko Aritza, the founding king of Pamplona. No one knows anything of the origin of their mother, but Musa’s father seems to have been Musa ibn Fortun ibn Qasi, one of the Banu Qasi, a dynasty purportedly descending from one Cassius, a Visigothic convert to Islam. (I am myself, separately, descended of the Spanish Visigoths, in the person of Wilfred the Hairy, Count of Urgell, Cerdanya, Barcelona, Girona, Besalú, and Ausona.) The descendants of these two half-brothers, Musa and Eneko, intermarried.
And of course the history of the Iberian peninsula is such that even those claiming limpieza de sangre – such as my ancestor 32 generations back, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, el Cid Campeador, might have done had it been necessary – are and have always been, even since before Hannibal came through with an army, a mixed lot: since the fall of Rome in the West, a mix of Celtiberians, Visigoths, Carthaginians, Berbers, Moors, and, in many cases, sub-Saharan Africans. (Of course, as I am human, I have, as do you, sub-Saharan African ancestry, as the entire species originated in the Great Rift Valley of East Africa. But we are talking here of historic times. We could all “go back to where we came from,” as various ethnicities have demanded of other ethnicities who are their neighbors, but Olduvai Gorge’d get right crowded, right quickly.)
The point here is that I could colorably claim a fair quantum of Arab, North African, Middle Eastern, steppe, and Southwest Asian ancestry: which ancestors were in many cases Muslim.
I, however, am Anglican. And almost all my immediate descent is derived from the British Isles. This was certainly the case when we got to this continent, before we and various kinspeople of ours made it a country; and this has not materially changed a right smart since. Once here, we picked up a German wife, a Dutch wife, a few Huguenots, and a couple of wives who were legally Swedish, but in one case, at least, ethnically Finnish.
But my considerable descent from the Eastern Roman Empire and its territories, from the steppe, from Asia Minor and Southwest Asia, from the Balkans, from Eastern Europe, from Middle Europe, from Russia, from the Baltic, from the Nordic states, from Germany, the Low Countries, France, Italy, and the Iberian Peninsula, and almost certainly from the Maghreb, all long predates our leaving Blighty and Eire. And this is precisely because we were British. Crossing the Channel is not always comfortable to the tummy, but it’s easily done. El Cid, for example, is an ancestor of mine because Iberian and French royalty intermarried, and the jockeying princelings of the Low Countries married who they might; and so, through such conduits as the Plantagenets, the Hollands of Upholland, the Lumleys, the Tyrwhitts, the de Mohuns, the Newenhams, the Woodhulls, and the Elkingtons of Elkington, we eventually reach me. I am descended of the khans of the Cuman-Kipchaks, and of the West-Asian-steppe-origin Árpád dynasty, and the Turco-Hunnic Dulo clan, by similar routes; I am descended of a startling number of Eastern Roman Emperors (a shocking number of them at least partly Armenian), and of doges of Venice, in a number of ways: amongst these, their marriages into the Houses of Montferrat and Saluzzo … whose daughters married into the Percys and the Lacys and the FitzAlans of Arundel. The same sort of pattern repeats in my very British descent from various Polish, German, Holy Roman Imperial, Italian, Serbian, Bulgarian, and Bohemian figures.
And, in any era, once the genes of the great and the good, or at least of the royal and renowned, cross the Channel, they are subject to the British system: such that, within three to six generations, the unlanded sons even of peers are reduced to being gentlemen farmers on a small scale, vicars or (if lucky) rectors, barristers, MPs, officers of the Forces, or merchants in the less grubby sorts of trade. (I suggest, based on ancient family experience, the Worshipful Company of Mercers, the Worshipful Company of Drapers, the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, and the Worshipful Company of Vintners.)
Admittedly, bar agriculture, the church, and trade (unless one becomes Lord Mayor of London), these – especially the Bar and the Commons – do offer routes back into the peerage, baronetage, and knightage.
So long, that is, that they, their fathers, or their wider family do not put a foot wrong during the Conquest, the Anarchy, the Deposition of Richard II (which did for the Lumleys, the Greens of Drayton, and plenty of others), the Wars of the Roses, the Reformation (another tricky period for us), the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, the supposedly Glorious Revolution, the ’15, or the ’45. If they do, a man who is by descent a gentleman entitled to coat armor may be glad to be on the first ship for the New World, even at the cost of becoming there the village blacksmith or an indentured servant, so long as the ship sets sail before the High Sheriff of the shire can make it to the quay.
I have the blood and genes of half the world in me. But I am not provably Jewish. Indeed, Jewish is one of the few things I, on the record as it stands before us, am not.
It is of course quite probable that I am in part of Jewish descent; but it cannot be proven. The probability and the lack of proof alike rest in substantial part upon my descent from the Dukes of Aquitaine and from the Houses of Rethel, Montdidier, Dammartin, and Roucy. The latter four, despite being at the other end of France from Aquitaine, part-descend from William, Duke of Aquitaine, whose grandfather was Ebles, Duke of Aquitaine. As was not uncommon at the time, Ebles was the bastard son of his predecessor, but managed to take and hold the dukedom all the same. What was uncommon at the time is that, though William of Normandy and a right smart of others in the same situation were content to be known as William (or what have you) the Bastard, Ebles of Aquitaine was known as Ebles the Mamzer. This suggests, but does not prove, that his unknown mother was Jewish. Equally suggestive is the remarkable and repeated appearance of his forename and that of Manasses in his descendants over many generations in the House of Aquitaine and the cadet Houses of Rethel, Montdidier, Dammartin, and Roucy.
And then there was my landed Anglo-Norman ancestor William Bisset “Carpentarius,” whose son became Steward to my ancestor Henry II “Curtmantle,” and whose Christian name was Manasser Bisset. There is no certainty of the origins of that family, or of any connection with the Houses of Aquitaine, Rethel, Montdidier, Dammartin, and Roucy, though it is certainly possible.
If we knew who was the mother of Ebles the Mamzer, Duke of Aquitaine, we might have an answer to part of the overall question. We don’t, and we don’t.
Thus, I can state with confidence and with evidence that I am by descent an Angevin and a Plantagenet, a (or, “an”) Hauteville, a Robertian and a Rurikid, a Comnenus and a Cantelow, a de le Zouche, a Green of Drayton, a de Vere, a Shaw of Rothiemurchus and Tordarroch, a Schaw of Sauchie, a Lindsay, a Ludlow, a Beauchamp, a Neville, and a member of Clann an Bháird, the Wards of Ballymacward, Abbeyknockmoy, and Inis Mór. And I cannot, in the face of the evidence, allege, without risking Rule 13 sanctions, that I am a Warszawski, a Nathans, a Benveniste or Benjamin, a Lewis, a Schneersohn or a Salomon, a Davidman, a Greenberg, a Zuckerman, a Cohen, a Rumper or a Rothschild, a Hirsch, or an Abrahams, Abravenel, Pinto, or Penzig.
I’m not Jewish.
Nor, you will have gathered, am I an Evangelical. I’m a High Churchman.
And therefore this very Gentile, Conservative – not merely Blue-Dog – Southern Democrat, Anglo-Catholic Anglican, who might be presumed to have no dog in this fight, tells you this. I support the State of Israel. I do so because I am not a fool or a Leftist or a progressive (but I repeat myself). I do so because in any fight between civilization and barbarism, I am on the side of civilization. I do so because Israel has conducted itself not only in conformity with, but to a standard higher than that required by, the law of arms, and international law. I do so because the only people working, and with some prospect of success, truly to free Palestine are the IDF. I do so because the Geneva Conventions specifically exempt from their protections, as an intended deterrent to illicit acts, unlawful combatants, and those engaged in such war crimes as hiding military installations and forces amidst the general public: which the Palestinians have been doing for decades, with impunity.
And this warning I am making goes double for anyone who, religiously or politically, claims to be on my side.
I do not need to have a dog in this fight to know which dog is fighting fair.
I try very hard not to judge people who differ from me and religion, politics, and view. I acknowledge that there are people who are simply wicked; others who are deluded; others who are flat ignorant; and others still who have been propagandized. I try not to judge others for folly. (My fielding percentage in this regard should be woeful even for Rookie League ball, but I do try.)
But let me be very clear indeed. Those – including anyone who, religiously or politically, claims to be on my side – who knowingly, or stupidly, out of malice or for political gain, out of mere tribalism or out of invincible and willful ignorance, whether pop stars or politicians, range themselves on the wrong side – the putatively “Palestinian” side; the anti-Israel and objectively antisemitic side – of one of the great moral issues of our time, neither deserve nor shall receive my respect. They deserve and shall receive both barrels of my contempt and my disdain, openly and fiercely expressed.
The Jews generally, and the State of Israel in particular, are, as commonly, the canaries in the moral coal mine. As ever, their opponents and persecutors are poison. And I have neither time nor respect for morally verminous gasbags.
Why so, when I have no dogs in the fight? Because I do have a dog in this fight, as has every decent person. As Terence said, Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto.
The only question is whether you are a decent person or not. Your position on this moral issue shall give me and all others the answer to that question. No excuses shall be accepted.