The Khazars were a semi-nomadic Turkic people from Central Asia who settled in the Caucasus between the 6th and 13th centuries.
Since the 19th century, intellectuals like Ernest Renan, Arthur Koestler or Shlomo Sand have presented the Khazars as the distant ancestors of the Ashkenazi Jews from Central and Eastern Europe. This contested theory, which is based on the presumed conversion of the entire Khazar population to Judaism in the eighth or ninth century, is considered by other historians (Chimen Abramsky, Hyam Maccoby, Bernard Lewis, Shaul Stampfer...) as well as by linguists and geneticists to be a legend with no factual basis.
The term "Khazars" is regularly employed in contemporary antisemitic propaganda to stigmatize a small group of Jews alleged to be the source of all the greatest evils of humanity and the worst tragedies of history, and who tirelessly seek to undermine the social order of non-Jewish societies (see: Protocols of the Elder Zion). The main representatives of this diabolical "Khazarian mafia" are Rothschild, Kissinger, Soros or any other Ashkenazi-sounding name. The word has thus become an encoded term, synonymous with "Jew", "Zionist" or "Israeli".
Several conspiratorial and antisemitic authors use the term. Among them are Alfred M. Lilienthal, Benjamin H. Freedman, William Guy Carr, David Icke and Henry Makow, who describes the Khazars as a satanic sect pulling the strings of the New World Order.
Subscribing or not to the false notion that the Jewish population of Eastern Europe was descended directly from the Khazars has high political stakes, notably in the context of Arab-Israeli antagonism in the Middle East. Indeed, the idea that Jews, and by extension all the Jews of the world, may in fact be genetically Khazars has been used and continues to be used - notably at the United Nations - to deny any link between the Hebrews of biblical times and the contemporary Jews. This "historical" theory is therefore cited to deny the Jewish people any historical legitimacy with regard to the land of Israel (see: Anti-Zionism). In August 2019, for example, the high-profile Al-Jazeera host Ghada Oueiss tweeted that “this Holy Land belongs to Palestinians Because they are Semitic unlike the Israeli Khazars who are occupiers!!”
Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine some antisemitic conspiracy theories have resurfaced, including around the “Khazarian mafia”. The myth has been used to justify and even celebrate Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in some far-right and QAnon circles.
(Last updated on 12/15/2023)