Intercultural dialogue with the Taliban: Between Xi Jinping Thoughts and the Taliban as Lost Tribe of Israel
China had contacts and negotations with the Taliban for a long time, even before the Taiban take over. China made the Taliban clear that if it wanted to be successful it had to stick to the interests of China as preventing the three evils ( terrorism, seperatism, extremism) and maybe integrate in the New Silkroad. Otherwise China in concert with the international community would bring the Taliban to the abyss of a doomed and isolated pariah state. Therefore the basis of these relations are not trust, but an appeal for the selfinterest of the Talian. Threat of international isolation, economic incentives and intercultural dialogue shall be the basis of these relations. However, the Chinese think they have better understood the concept of added value, especially under material and economic aspects and especially as materialistic Marxists trained in political economy. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen to what extent the Taliban are now also sophisticated in state arts and interested economically or if the religious-ideological factor is more dominant. And to what degree the Taliban want a modernization and be part of the New Silkroad, infrastructure projects, mining industry, be a transit country with transit fees as income and maybe interested in oil and gas pipelines as once the US oil company UNOCAL tried to build under the Taliban goverment in the 90s or even the old TAPI project (Turkmenistan- Afghanistan- Pakistan- India) or maybe now TAPC( Turkmenistan- Afghanistan- Pakistan- China), the Chinese still don´t know exactly yet either, but hope for it.
The Chinese hope to convince the Taliban of the advantages of their alleged win-win situation of the BRI, to promise the Taliban economic and geopolitical advantages, and act according to Lenin’s motto: “The capitalists will also supply us the ropes by which we hang them “, will try to economically involve and corrupt the elites, especially since China also have a holistic and comprehensive development project for Afghanistan that the West did not have. But the Taliban are neither capitalists nor Western, they could also perceive the Chinese lifestyle as godless and Western, even if the Chinese claim to be Eastern or Eurasian and how Ummah idea and Taliban values fit to the diversity of civilizations, the great human society for common goods, the Xi Jinping thoughts, Confucianism and Socialism with Chinese characters.
It is not for nothing that Beijing has started an intercultural dialogue with the Taliban, probably in the hope of softening the ideological superstructure a little bit for the economic substructure.It will be interesting to see if and when a Confucius Institute will be opened in Kabul, and whether the Taliban will then rebuild the Buddha statues in Bamyan along the old and new Silk Road. Also how atheist-secular Xi thoughts and Islamism and Ummah get along – perhaps under the general formula of dialogue and the diversity of cultures for a common good of humanity. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt would leave the pyramids standing ala AKP Islamism, also because of the tourism income, but Islamists ala Taliban or Islamic State would blow them up like the Buddha statues in Bamian, the old library in Timbuktu in Mali or the sites in Palmira . One can almost be glad that the Buddha grottoes of Dunhuang are under Chinese and not ETIM rule, even though the Red Guards would have destroyed them during the Cultural Revolution if Zhou Enlai hadn’t intervened.
And it will also be important to which the extent a possible modernization does not lead to dissatisfaction, conflicts with traditional and religious values, polarization and new internal struggles, especially since there is also the question of whether there is a kind of Taliban Deng or if the Taliban are more interested to remain a dominantly medieval feudalistic agrarian society with strict Sharia laws. Or become some sort of Wahhabist Saudiarabia with economic development, but strict religious laws, but for sure not as advanced as Muhammed Bin Salmann and his Vision 2035 with woman at universities, driving cars and founding start-ups. The Khmer Rouge of Pol Pot had a seat in the UNO during the Cold War supported by China and the West and the question is if the Taliban also wants that and what influence this has on itself and if they what it and who supports it besides China and Russia. At the moment China and Russia make all this dependent on the practical conduct of the Taliban in the hope for an educational , cultivating and moderating effect.
With their Islamic Emirate Afghanistan, the Taliban could create something like a unified Afghanistan without warlords and corruption, as Mao’s CP China did at the time through communism and also exterminated the Chinese warlords, corruption, western imperialist urban decadence and minority seperatism and also liberated China from civil wars and imperialist rule. Mao also promised a New Democracy, as the Taliban are now officially more moderate, but then came the Hundred Flowers Movement, the anti-Right campaign, the Great leap forward, the Cultural Revolution against the capitalist roaders Deng Xiaoping and Liu Shaoqi and after all that China decided by means of the opening policy and the 4 modernizations that excluded the fifth modernization of a democracy. became an economically strong and well-established country. The Taliban and its various factions may experience a similar future, if between Taliban leaders who want a medieval feudalist society without foreign economic invasion and cultural imports and perhaps more moderate Taliban-Deng and then arguments about the direction break out. And the CCP was always more centralized and more materialistic than the Taliban. But China apparently believes that it recognizes many parallels between its totalitarianism and that of the Taliban, perhaps mediating this through the intercultural dialogue and the offer to be united against the West. But whether the new Taliban regime will be so stable and can create a new beginning after the war with its Stone Age Islamism, moderating its Islamism, this exactly remains the question. Mao made the same promises about communism in 1949 and Deng took 30 years. And Erdogan-Turkey, Pakistan and Qatar will also try to bring the Talban to a more moderate Islamist position in direction of the AKP or the Muslimbrotherhood for a new Ummah. Saudiarabia which sponsored Pakistan and the madrassas which created the Talibs will also try to bring them in the direction of Muhammed Bin Salman´s neo Wahabbist version of a Vision 2035. It remains to be seen if all this will work out.The Chinese try to support this with an intercultural dialogie of civilizations and it remains to be seen if and when the first Confucius Institute opens in Kabul.
But not only the Chinese have the idea of a intercultural dialogue with the Taliban. Even in Israel there are now voices who think about some weird form of such an intercultural dialogue with the Taliban which might moderate and soften their attitude to the Jewish state. However the author Micheal Freud thinks in an artcile in the Jerusalem Post that such the reference to the Pashtuns as a lost tribe of Israel won´t impress the Talibs too much, but it could be useful to get some sympathies from the other Pashtuns:
“Are the Taliban descendants of Israel?
Pashtun practices include circumcision on the eighth day and refraining from mixing meat and milk — Is there a connection to ancient Hebrews?
By Michael Freud
September 9, 2021 04:16
With the fall of Kabul into the hands of the Taliban just shy of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the world’s attention has once again turned to Afghanistan.
Tucked away in south-central Asia, with unsavory neighbors such as Iran to the west and Pakistan to the east, the landlocked country, which once served as a base of operations for al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, is as beguiling as it is complex.
And yet amid its turbulent past, in which it has served as a flashpoint for the British Empire, the Soviet Union and now the United States, Afghanistan has long been home to one of the more intriguing unsolved mysteries of Jewish history: the fate of some of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
Periodically over the past two decades, newspaper headlines have raised the tantalizing question of whether the Pashtun tribes who make up most of the Taliban are in fact our long-lost relatives, descendants of the Israelites who were cast into exile by the Assyrian empire more than 2,700 years ago.
While the possibility of such a connection may strike some as fanciful, a cursory look at the evidence suggests that it cannot and should not be dismissed out of hand.
The Pashtuns, or Pathans, are said to number in the tens of millions, with the bulk living in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. They consist of several hundred clans and tribes that have fiercely preserved their heritage amid waves of foreign conquest and occupation.
Prior to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the region, many of the Pashtuns declared themselves to be what they referred to as Bani Israel (Sons of Israel), an oral tradition that their ancestors passed down through the generations.
This was noted by various Islamic travelers and historians, stretching as far back as the 13th century, when there was hardly any advantage to be gained by asserting an ancient Israelite identity in Central Asia. Over the next 400 years, other Islamic scholars and writers noted the persistence of the tradition.
In the 19th century, a number of Westerners who visited the region became convinced that the Pashtuns were in fact descendants of the Israelites.In his 1858 work, History of the Afghans, Joseph-Pierre Ferrier wrote that the chief of one of the main Pashtun tribes, the Yusefzai (Sons of Joseph), presented the Persian shah Nader Shah Afshar “with a Bible written in Hebrew and several other articles that had been used in their ancient worship and which they had preserved.”
Similarly, Major Henry W. Bellew, who served in the British colonial Indian army, in his 1861 work The Lost Tribes, wrote regarding the Pashtuns that, “The nomenclature of their tribes and districts, both in ancient geography, and at the present day, confirms this universal natural tradition. Lastly, we have the route of the Israelites from Media to Afghanistan and India marked by a series of intermediate stations bearing the names of several of the tribes and clearly indicating the stages of their long and arduous journey.”
More recently, the late president of Israel, Yitzchak Ben-Zvi, in his 1957 study about far-flung Jewish communities The Exiled and the Redeemed, devoted an entire chapter to “Afghan tribes and the traditions of their origin.Basing himself on scholarly research, as well as on interviews he conducted with numerous Afghani Jews who made aliyah in the 1950s, Ben-Zvi wrote, “The Afghan tribes, among whom the Jews have lived for generations, are Moslems who retain to this day their amazing tradition about their descent from the Ten Tribes.” While he cautiously notes that, “the evidence in our possession is, of course, insufficient for practical conclusions to be drawn therefrom,” he nonetheless correctly asserts, “The fact that this tradition, and no other, has persisted among these tribes is itself a weighty consideration.”
MODERN-DAY scholars have added greatly to our stock of knowledge on this subject. Dr. Navraz Aafreedi, an Indian academic in Kolkata who hails from a Pashtun background, has written extensively and persuasively about the evidence of an Israelite connection, and Dr. Eyal Be’eri, the leading Israeli scholar on the Pashtuns, has recorded a series of their customs and traditions that are identical to those of Jews.These include practices such as circumcision on the eighth day after birth, refraining from mixing meat and milk, lighting candles on the eve of the Sabbath and even levirate marriage.Other scholars have noted similarities between the Pashtun’s ancient tribal code, the Pashtunwali, and Jewish traditions.
While DNA studies have provided limited evidence to back up these assertions, a 2017 article in the journal Mitochondrial DNA did find there to be “a genetic connection of Jewish conglomeration in Khattak tribe,” one of the Pashtun clans.
And although the Taliban have done a great deal to erase any trace of their pre-Islamic history, the tradition refuses to die.
As Hebrew University anthropologist Dr. Shalva Weil has noted regarding the Pashtuns’ link with the lost tribes of Israel, “There is more convincing evidence” about them than anybody else.
This fascinating historical curiosity, however, should not blind us to the fact that the Taliban are viciously anti-Israel and no Pashtuns are known to have shown any public interest in returning to their Jewish roots.
Indeed, as Dr. Be’eri has argued, even if the Pashtuns are biologically and historically connected with the people of Israel, it still does not mean that “tomorrow they will convert to Judaism and come to live in the Land of Israel.”
Merely talking about “mass conversion and migration of millions of Pashtuns from Afghanistan and India into the State of Israel,” he has written, could damage prospects for building greater regional cooperation and understanding.
There are, of course, other theories regarding the origins of the Pashtuns as well as scholars who discount or reject the contention of an ancient Israelite connection. But given the Pashtuns’ ancient civilization and far-flung diaspora, and their key political and demographic role in various parts of the Asian subcontinent, it would seem prudent for the Jewish people to seek out avenues of dialogue with them if and wherever feasible.
The mere possibility of a shared historical identity could serve as a basis for discussion between Jews and Pashtuns, one that could lead to a dampening of hostility and suspicion and perhaps lay the groundwork for a stronger relationship in the future.
In light of their fanatical theology, the Taliban are of course not an address for such efforts. But there are plenty of other Pashtuns worldwide with whom we should seek to build bridges, whether or not one believes them to be our long-lost cousins. <
The writer is founder and chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which reaches out and assists the Lost Tribes of Israel and other hidden Jewish communities.