Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Bit and All

If you haven't stocked up in irony lately, you should definitely check out this poor sap. Once the leader of a right-wing political party in Hungary that was widely regarded as anti-Semitic, he recently learned that his grandparents were Jewish.

It's quite dramatic with an incredible plot twist: One of the leaders of Hungary's Jobbik Party, which the Anti-Defamation League says is one of the few political parties in Europe to overtly campaign with anti-Semitic materials, has discovered that he is himself a Jew.

[...] in June, [Csanad] Szegedi conceded that his mother was a Jew. According to Jewish law, that makes Szegedi Jewish, too.
What strikes me as interesting about this is that it is, in effect, a self-imposed variation of the "One Drop Rule."
[...] meaning that a single drop of "black blood" makes a person a black. It is also known as the "one black ancestor rule," some courts have called it the "traceable amount rule," and anthropologists call it the "hypo-descent rule," meaning that racially mixed persons are assigned the status of the subordinate group.
Now, this facet of Jewish law, I think, isn't quite that intense, given that it works down the female side of the family, and perhaps this is what allows the one drop rule to be unique to the United States. But still one wonders how many "unknowing Jews" there are out there, people who can trace their descent through their mothers and grandmothers to a Jewish woman, as well as why the gender differentiation is there.

I'm going to point out that of the news coverage, only NPR states flatly that Szegedi is Jewish. Even the Jewish Telegraphic Agency avoids refering to Szegedi as "Jewish." Instead they say that he has "Jewish ancestors" and "Jewish roots." Perhaps because Jewish law would effectively be a religious stricture, and Szegedi's "Jewishness" would be purely ethnic. So clearly not everyone buys into this.

I'm curious to know how much politics plays into this sort of thing. "Subordinate groups," as anthropologists would call them, are often keen to find powerful or well-placed people who can be claimed as one of their own. (And then perhaps then pressured into advancing group causes.) Perhaps this trait simply goes back father than we would have thought.

For his part, Szegedi seems to be embracing his new identity, although perhaps he doesn't have much choice in the matter.

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