Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

"The Descendents of Asian Nomads": Scottish PSC chief gets a bee in his bonnet

Some time ago Mick Napier, who heads the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, brought to the attention of his followers on Facebook (who include my trusty informant reader P) a Palestinian coin of some sort dated 1927, which he, in common with a number of anti-Israel activists (see left) seemed to think proved the existence of a sovereign Arab entity at that juncture minting its own coinage.  I blogged about this strange misconception here.

Now, Mr Napier has waxed fantastical on Facebook regarding the fur hat, or shtriemel, worn by many Chasidim.

Hat tip (no pun intended): reader P
He evidently believes that since this item of apparel originated, according to one source, among the Tatars, the Jewish wearers themselves are of similar origin with no biological claim to Eretz Israel: as he writes on Facebook:
"Zionist project to 'return' Jews to Palestine (and expel the natives) is mad, but it is also based on 'returning' the descendents of Asian nomads to the shores of the Mediterranean. The Jewish hat widely seen in Jerusalem - of Asian steppe or Palestinian/Mediterranean origin? Compare it to the examples at bottom of Mongol and Tatar headgear. Encyclopedia Britannica states the obvious - that the Jewish headgear (called a shtreimel) is of Asian Steppe, Tatar, origin.
Scots should equally 'return' to Brazil."
It's widely believed that the fur hats and black caftans associated today with members of Strictly Orthodox sects both in and outside Israel mimics the costume of the Polish and Russian nobility of two centuries and more ago.

Jews similarly attired can be seen in depictions of the Holy Land in the nineteenth century.

But equally, so can Jews attired like the denizens of the Ottoman Empire, of which Palestine was then a mere and rather backward province.

What headgear Jews wore in Biblical times, the Jewish Encyclopedia (New York, 1904; online), tells us, is largely unknown:
'Neither the monuments nor the written documents of Biblical times give any information of value concerning head-gear. On the marble relief of Sennacherib the Israelites appear uncovered; and while on the Shalmaneser stele Jehu's ambassadors have head-coverings, these are evidently patterned after the Assyrian fashion. Only one passage of the older literature (I Kings xx. 31) makes mention of "ḥabalim" that are wound around the head; these recall the Syrians on Egyptian monuments, who appear with a rope coiled around their long, flowing hair, as is still the custom here and there in Arabia. This custom, probably a very ancient one, did not long obtain, since it afforded no protection against the sun. It may be assumed, therefore, that even the ancient Hebrews had a style of head-covering still used by the Bedouins. This consists of a square woolen cloth ("kaffiyyah"), folded triangularly, and laid upon the head, over which one corner depends to protect the nape of the neck, while the two side corners are crossed under the chin and also hang down the back. A heavy woolen cord ("'aḳal") holds the cloth firmly on the head. In later times both men and women wore a covering more closely resembling the turban of the modern fellaheen of Palestine.
The cap (ṭaḳiyyah), often the only head-covering worn by boys, is generally made of two or three thicknesses of cotton cloth, intended to protect the rest of the head-covering against perspiration; over this are placed one, and often two, felt caps ("lubbadah"), and then the Turkish national head-covering ("ṭarbush"); finally a fringed cloth of unbleached cotton, a colored figured mandil, a yellow and red striped kaffiyyah, a black cashmere shawl, a piece of white muslin, or a green cloth is wound around this. This style of head-covering not only protects against the sun, but is also an admirable pillow, and serves as a repository for valuable documents (compare "Zeit. Deutsch. Paläst. Ver." iv. 57 et seq.). The use of a similar head-covering among the Hebrews seems to be indicated by the noun "ẓanif" (from the verb "ẓanaf"; Job xxix. 14; Isa. iii. 23), as well as by the verb "ḥabash," applied to the act of arranging the "ẓanif"; for the verb "ḥabash" means literally "to wind around," and the verb "ẓanaf" similarly signifies "to wind into a ball." It is possible that the various classes gradually came to use different forms of the turban.'
In the Diaspora, Jews wore various types of head coverings, dependent on time and place: 
'In Eastern countries both law and custom compel a distinct difference in costume between Jew and Moslem, which difference was also enforced by Jewish law....  In Egypt, Jews were obliged to wear yellow turbans....
.... The native Algerian Jew wears a "ṭarbush" or oblong turban with silken tassel, a "ṣadriyyah" or vest with large sleeves, and "sarwal" or pantaloons fastened by a "ḥizam" (girdle), all being covered by a mantle, a burnus, and a large silk handkerchief, the tassels of which hang down to his feet....The costume of Tunis ... was described by Mordecai Noah as follows ("Travels in the Barbary States," p. 311, New York, 1819):
"The Barbary Jews wear a blue frock, without a collar or sleeves, loose linen sleeves being substituted, with wide drawers of the same article, no stockings, excepting in winter, and black slippers, a small black skull-cap on their head, which is shaved, and around which a blue silk handkerchief is bound; they are permitted to wear no colors. The Italian Jews dress like Christian residents, with the addition of a haick, or bournouse, thrown over their heads...."
Whatever the costume, in almost every case the outer garment is supported by a belt or girdle. This has Biblical authority, and besides enables the ultra pious to carry a handkerchief as a girdle on Sabbath; on other occasions the handkerchief is tucked inside the girdle, as is seen in a curious caricature of an English Jew of the Stock Exchange, as well-as in a figure after Hans Burgkmair showing a Jewish pedler of the sixteenth century wearing a relatively modern felt hat.... In the eighteenth century the Jew generally wore the ordinary three-cornered hat of the time, and even had his hair powdered...
 In Turkey the costume of the Jews was mainly distinguished by the black turban, but the outer garment was an "'antari," a robe opening in front, of silk or figured calico, reaching a little below the knee and fastened round the waist by a sash passing twice round the body; over this was a "jubbah" lined with cats' fur. Some wore the "bunneṭah," or conical hat; some the "meminah," a cap of dark cloth round which a piece of silk was twisted several times like a turban. The modern Turkish Jew adopts mainly European dress with a fez. An especially dignified dress is that of the Jew of Salonica.... His 'antari is covered by a "kundi," a long, showy, varicolored mantle lined with fur. The 'antarireaches to his feet, and the sleeves are longer than that of the jubbah, under which is to be seen the "salṭah" or cloth fur-lined vest. The Jews of Brusa wear a high cap of pasteboard covered with black material, resembling the cylindrical hats worn by Greek priests. Around this is wound a piece of light-colored cotton to form a turban. This is the only distinction between Jewish and non-Jewish dress in Brusa....
The Jews of the Caucasus are distinguished mainly by their head-dress, the men wearing a kind of busby, mushroom-shaped and made of fur.... The men carry weapons freely, which is quite exceptional among Jews.
The Jews of Cochin are in no way distinguished in their dress from the Hindus of their district.... [B]oth classes [black Jews, and white] wear a cap resembling a smoking-cap. In earlier times the men used to wear the gored pantaloons and white turbans of the Mohammedans of India....
The Ḥasidim of Galicia tend to distinguish themselves in dress as well as in customs; besides the fur hat and the old-fashioned "paletot" reaching to the ankles, the modern Ḥasid is invariably to be recognized by the pair of white socks into which the trousers are tucked....'
Whether Mick Napier considers all Jews "the descendents of Asian nomads" or just the ones who wear the shtriemel is unclear.

By  "the descendents of Arab nomads" he is perghaps thinking of the Jews-are-Khazars myth, beloved by anti-Israel elements; I have blogged about that particular nasty piece of Israel demonisation and the nonsense it is here

To try to deny the Jewish origins of those whose forefathers and mothers have lived, died, and in many cases suffered martyrdom as Jews is exceedingly distasteful and mean-minded, and whether those who do so are consciously antisemitic or not their strategy has, by placing the Jews' ancient genetic ancestry above their recorded  history, religion, and tradition, unpleasant racist overtones.

In any case, scientific investigation is on the shtriemel-wearers' side, not that of Mr Napier and his ilk (see, for instance, here and here).


  1. What is shows is that Jews, wherever they have lived, have always been part of the local fashion industry. For example, Levi Strauss. No doubt something to do with jeans. ;-)

  2. Glasgow should be the 'palestinian' homeworld. We all agree.

    1. And the Glaswegians can go to hell to make room for them :-)

  3. Yes, very peaceful: