Iraqi Kurds, Armenians, and Modern-Day Jews
Many Kurds have the "Jewish" Cohen Modal Haplotype
In the 1990s, a team of scientists (including the geneticist Michael Hammer, the nephrologist Karl Skorecki, and their colleagues in England) discovered the existence of a haplotype which they termed the "Cohen modal haplotype" (abbreviated as CMH).
Cohen is the Hebrew word for "priest", and designates descendants of Judean priests from two thousand years ago. Initial research indicated that while only about 3 percent of general Jews have this haplotype, 45 percent of Ashkenazic Cohens have it, while 56 percent of Sephardic Cohens have it.
David Goldstein, an evolutionary geneticist at Oxford University, said:
"It looks like this chromosomal type was a constituent of the ancestral Hebrew population."
Some Jewish rabbis used the Cohen study to argue that all Cohens with the CMH had descended from Aaron, a High Priest who lived about 3500 years ago, as the Torah claimed.
Shortly after, it was determined that 53 percent of the Buba clan of the Lemba people of southern Africa have the CMH, compared to 9 percent of non-Buba Lembas.
The Lembas claim descent from ancient Israel; and they follow certain Jewish practices such as circumcision and refraining from eating pork, and for many geneticists and historians the genetic evidence seemed to verify their claim.
However, it soon became apparent that the(((( CMH is not specific to Jews or descendants of Jews.))) In a 1998 article in Science News, Dr. Skorecki indicated (in an interview) that some non-Jews also possess the Cohen markers, and that the markers are therefore not "unique or special".(((((( The CMH is very common among Iraqi Kurds, according to a 1999 study by C. Brinkmann et al.))))))))))
And in her 2001 article, Oppenheim wrote:
"The dominant haplotype of the Muslim Kurds (haplotype 114) was only one microsatellite-mutation step apart from the CMH..." (Oppenheim 2001, page 1100).
Furthermore, the CMH is also found among some Armenians, according to Dr. Levon Yepiskoposyan (Head of the Institute of Man in Yerevan, Armenia), who has studied genetics for many years.
Dr. Avshalom Zoossmann-Diskin wrote:
"The suggestion that the 'Cohen modal haplotype' is a signature haplotype for the ancient Hebrew population is also not supported by data from other populations." (Zoossmann-Diskin 2000, page 156).
In short, the CMH is a genetic marker from the northern Middle East which is not unique to Jews. However, its existence among many Kurds and Armenians, as well as some Italians and Hungarians, would seem to support the overall contention that Kurds and Armenians are the close relatives of modern Jews, and that the majority of today's Jews have paternal ancestry from the northeastern Mediterranean region.