The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Israel, Islam and Endogamy

Posted on | April 13, 2011 | 16 Comments

Is heredity destiny? At least one rabbi says so:

‘Gentile sperm leads to barbaric offspring’
Rabbi Dov Lior, a senior authority on Jewish law in the Religious Zionism movement, asserted recently that a Jewish woman should never get pregnant using sperm donated by a non-Jewish man –- even if it is the last option available.
According to Lior, a baby born through such an insemination will have the “negative genetic traits that characterize non-Jews.” . . .
Lior addressed the issue during a women’s health conference held recently at the Puah Institute, a fertility clinic. His conservative stance negated a ruling widely accepted by rabbis, which states that sperm donated by a non-Jew is preferable to that of an anonymous Jew, who might pose a genealogical risk.
“Sefer HaChinuch (a book of Jewish law) states that the character traits of the father pass on to the son,” he said in the lecture. “If the father in not Jewish, what character traits could he have? Traits of cruelty, of barbarism! These are not traits that characterize the people of Israel.”
Lior added identified Jews as merciful, shy and charitable – qualities that he claimed could be inherited. “A person born to Jewish parents, even if they weren’t raised on the Torah – there are things that are passed on (to him) in the blood, it’s genetic,” he explained. “If the father is a gentile, then the child is deprived of these things.
“I even read in books that sometimes the crime, the difficult traits, the bitterness – a child that comes from these traits, it’s no surprise that he won’t have the qualities that characterize the people of Israel,” he added.

You can go read the whole thing and feel free to argue with Rabbi Lior if you wish. However, to quote Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof: “Tradition!”

A conservative ought always to respect tradition, and I find it remarkable that even so widespread a tradition as the preference for marriage within one’s own ethno-religious group — which inevitably strikes some modern minds as barbaric tribalism, if not indeed hatefully “racist” — should be so controversial. Is it really bigotry for Jewish parents to prefer Jewish sons-in-law and daughters-in-law? But I digress . . .

We note from this article that the Jews are a group sufficiently small and consanguinous, afflicted with a number of distinctively Jewish hereditary disorders, that the reproductive union of two Jews whose genealogy is unknown poses a distinct medical risk to the offspring. That’s why this article about Rabbi Lior’s controversial opinions, which I first read a few days ago, came to mind today when I read Ann Barnhardt’s American Thinker article about the mating habits of Muslims:

In the Muslim culture, marriage and breeding between first cousins has existed since day one. Mohammed himself married Zaynab, who was his father’s sister’s daughter. Mohammed and Zaynab were direct first cousins.
Marrying your first cousin is the genetic equivalent of marrying your half-sibling. . . .
First cousin marriage for just one generation is extremely risky in and of itself. . . . Now, understanding that single-generational risk, understand that Muslims have been marrying their first cousins over and over again for 1,400 years. . . .

Barnhardt’s article — and please go read the whole thing — cites studies showing very high levels of inbreeding in Muslim nations due to marriages between cousins. It is reported by no less credible authority than the BBC that 55% (!) of Pakistanis living in Britain are married to their first cousins.

Now, one may attribute this to the Islamic religion, per se, or to the culture of specific nations. (We often see this argument about “honor killing,” which some Muslims insist is not so much Islamic as it is representative of certain tribal or ethnic cultures.) Nevertheless, Barnhardt is certainly correct in saying that the high frequency of cousin marriages in the Islamic world should be seen as highly significant.

Barnhardt mainly highlights the negative aspects of Islamic endogamy, but I would point out that there are cultural advantages. People whose preference for members of their own group is so strong that they would prefer to marry a first cousin, rather than marry outside the group, are self-evidently xenophobic, culturally chauvinistic and imbued with ethnic pride.

To the modern Western mind, these are bad traits. But if the problem we mean to examine is how two groups are positioned to prevail in a long-term political or military struggle, the advantages of xenophobia, chauvinism and ethnic pride should not be dismissively derogated. All of these traits encourage group solidarity and cooperation with members of one’s own group, while presenting to any potential adversary a tendency toward suspicious hostility.

In a battle between modern cosmopolitans and tribal traditionalists, the advantages of the former will not necessarily ensure their triumph over the latter. We see for example how “multiculturalism” tends to divide and weaken American society in its confrontation with radical Islam. While the 9/11 attacks provoked Islamic crowds to dance in the streets of Cairo, Americans almost immediately divided themselves into pro-war and anti-war camps, so that President Bush just barely won re-election in 2004, with a margin of less than 3 million votes out of some 120 million.

Neoconservatives love to boast that America is a “propositional nation,” but this is a distinct disadvantage when we are so deeply divided as to what that defining “proposition” should mean.

One other thing, and quite relevant: Today I noticed Instapundit highlighting Bryan Douglas Caplan’s new book, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think. The “civilized” Western world has in recent decades eschewed large families, mainly because having lots of babies tends to get in the way of the pursuit of the upper-middle-class consumer-oriented lifestyle which modern culture offers as the presumed goal of all intelligent people.

The result of this anti-baby mentality, however, has put the West at a distinct disadvantage in its collision with the Islamic world, where birth rates are much higher. The most recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics found: “The birth rate for [U.S.] women ages 20 to 24 was the lowest ever recorded for that age group” and “Fewer families are having more than two children. Almost 75% of births in 2009 were first or second births.” (Read the full report here.)

One inescapable fact of human history is that the future belongs to the fertile. The total fertility rate (average lifetime births per woman, based on current birth rates) is remarkably high in the Islamic world: 7.1 in Afghanistan, 5.5 in Yemen, 4.3 in Iraq, 3.5 in Pakistan — while even with an influx of high-fertility immigrants, the United States struggles to maintain the “replacement rate” of 2.1 babies per woman. In Europe, birth rates are well below replacement and, as Mark Steyn has repeatedly observed, this is a very dangerous trend that bodes ill for the West in its geopolitical struggle with the Islamic world.

Knowing this, then, how can we justify the way media reported the most recent official news about U.S. birth rates? A sample headline:

Teen birth rate lower than ever, but still too high

Good Lord! How many times do I have to explain this? Any population group with a high birth rate will tend also to have a relatively high teen birth rate. (This was true of the United States in the 1950s, when the median age at first marriage for women was about 20 or 21, and nearly half of first-time brides were teenagers.) Given that U.S. birth rates are barely at replacement level, more strenuous efforts to discourage teenage motherhood will only accelerate demographic decline. Maggie Gallagher has explained how the media narrative misconstrues this problem:

“What we have called our `teen pregnancy’ crisis is not really about teenagers. Nor is it really about pregnancy. It is about the decline of marriage. . . . What has changed most in recent decades is not who gets pregnant, but who gets married. . . . The majority of unwed births in the United States today are to adult women in their 20s.”

We ought to encourage marriage, rather than discourage motherhood, but when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The liberal hammer when it comes to teen pregnancy is “family planning” or “reproductive health” or “safe sex” — i.e., contraception and abortion. Heaven forbid we should tell young people to keep their britches on, or tell them to consider marriage as a feasible alternative to fornication and bastardy.

The traditional customs of my own people are summarized by an old joke, the punchline of which is, “Paint the shotgun white, Pa — it’s gonna be a formal wedding!”

Perhaps you think the shotgun wedding is a custom as barbarous as Muslims marrying their first cousins, or rabbis telling Jews to avoid insemination with “gentile sperm,” but as for me, I agree with Tevye.


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