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Jews and Arabs United by Genes

taken from The Times 9 May 2000


Jews and Arabs are extremely closely related, a new genetic survey has shown.

Wherever in the world they now live, Jewish men carry the same Y chromosome as Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese.

"Jews and Arabs are all really children of Abraham and all have preserved their Middle Eastern genetic roots over 4,000 years," said one of the scientists involved. Harry Ostrer, director of the Human Genetics Programme at New York University School of Medicine. The team analysed regions of the Y chromosome in 1,371 men from 29 populations worldwide. The Y chromosome passes largely unchanged down the male line.

The results, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that the difference between Jewish and Arab populations is extremely small, considerably smaller than that between North and South African populations, for example. The study confirms that both Arabs and Jews owe their genes to a common ancestor population that predated the Jewish religion.

A second conclusion is that the Jews have maintained their genetic heritage to a remarkable degree, given the Jewish diaspora and the long isolation of small Jewish populations in many places.

"Because Jewish religious affiliation is assigned maternally, our study afforded the opportunity to assess the contribution of non-Jewish men to present-day Jewish genetic diversity," said Michael Hammer, the study leader. "It was surprising to see how significant the Middle Eastern genetic signal was in Jewish men from different communities in the diaspora," he said.

The latest human chromosome to be deciphered in full suggests that human beings may have many fewer genes than previously supposed. Chromosome 21 contains only 225 active genes. The finding suggests that the entire complement of human genes may total nearer 40,000 rather than the previous estimates of between 70,000 and 140,000.

Huge areas consist of apparently worthless DNA. In one stretch of seven million base pairs (the letters of the genetic alphabet), a stretch longer than the entire genome of E.coli, there is only a single gene. The full sequence of Chromosome 21 is published online today by Nature.

Scribe: It is now clear that the Arab is our brother, and we have no other.



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