By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

Jews, Arabs are brothers,
genetic study shows

WASHINGTON, May 8 (Reuters) - They may be enemies but Jews and Arabs really are brothers, a genetic analysis published on Monday shows.

The comparison of groups of Semites also shows that Jews have successfully resisted having their gene pool diluted, despite having lived among non-Jews for thousands of years in what is commonly known as the Diaspora -- the time since 556 B.C. when Jews migrated out of Palestine.

Michael Hammer at the University of Arizona in Tucson and colleagues studied and compared the genes of more than 1,300 males from 29 different populations.

These included seven different Jewish groups -- the Ashkenazi (European), Roman, North African, Kurdish, Iraqi and Iranian, Yemenite and Ethiopian Jews. They compared their genes to samples from Arabs such as Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians, Israeli Druze and Saudis, and then compared the Semitic group to groups such as Russians, Germans, British, Austrians, Egyptians, Gambians, Ethiopians, Turks and others.

The researchers looked at the Y chromosome, which only males have and which is passed down with little change from father to son. These small changes can be tracked and provide a kind of molecular roadmap to the genetic past.

They found that grouping Jews and Arabs together -- both are Semites -- is based on genetic and well as historical and linguistic reality.

"Jews and Arabs are all really children of Abraham," Dr. Harry Ostrer, director of the Human Genetics Program at New York University School of Medicine, who worked on the study, said in a statement.

"And all have preserved their Middle Eastern genetic roots over 4,000 years."

They also found that Jews had remained remarkably similar on the genetic level over the millennia.

"Despite their long-term residence in different countries and isolation from one another, most Jewish populations were not significantly different from one another at the genetic level," Hammer's group wrote in their report, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Very few non-Jewish European genes have gotten into the Ashkenazi and Roman Jewish populations, they said.

"The results support the hypothesis that the paternal gene pools of Jewish communities from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East descended from a common Middle Eastern ancestral population, and suggests that most Jewish communities have remained relatively isolated from neighboring non-Jewish communities during and after the Diaspora," they wrote.

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