When physical anthropologist Prof. David Abergil decided to do his next research program on a community of settlers he had no idea that his findings would spark a furious debate in the scientific community, a debate which has caught the attention of the public and may even cost him his job.
"All I wanted to do was to study this phenomenon," said Abergil, who is an expert on primates and spent years following in the footsteps of Dian Fossey, studying gorillas in their native environment in Africa.
Now back in Israel, Abergil decided to study a settler community, "Like any other good scientists I came to this research with no preconceptions" said Abergil, "I knew that settlers were a species of primates and all I wanted to do was to study their habits."
However, after living among the settlers and studying them in the field for six months, Prof. Abergil was struck by the similarities between settlers and human beings, "Settlers are diurnal, just like humans," says Prof. Abergil, "And their eating habits closely resemble ours." Abergil also noticed that settlers will often watch TV or read newspapers, just like humans, "I have no doubt that they picked this up from us humans – they are great imitators, just like other primates," says Abergil, "But of course, they understand nothing of what they read."
But the professor is quick to point out that the settlers do communicate with each other in a rather complex language made up of vocal signals as well as gestures, "Combining the two, the settlers can communicate effectively with each other," says the Professor, who admits that he has yet to decipher the language, "Their language may be more subtle than has previously been thought."
But the most astounding finding concerns the appearance of the settlers. By chance, Abergil discovered that the hairy facial appendages, dangling from the ears, are removable and do not serve any obvious function, "Like the human appendix, they may be a throwback to a different age where they served, perhaps, as part of the courting ritual among settlers," says Abergil who determined that the odd-looking appendages can be removed without harm to the settler, "The result is a settler that appears nearly human, except for a round patch of fur surrounding the center of the skull on the male of the species."
However, Abergil found that this too can be removed, and in fact, settlers seem to remove it at various times, "Again, the function of this patch of fur is not yet known and obviously requires more research," said Prof. Abergil.
Nevertheless, his preliminary findings have been enough to convince the Professor that the settlers are of human origin, " I am not saying that I found the famous 'missing link' all I'm saying is that there is no doubt in my mind that they are homonids - closely related to humans - and that we cannot consider them like we do chimpanzees and other primitive primates," said the Professor.
Genetic testing, which is being done at the Weizmann institute seems to prove that settlers and humans have similar DNA to the extent that they can interbreed, "No one knows what would happen if such a thing occurred," said Abergil, "And most likely the result of such an unnatural union would not be able to survive in the wild but who knows – nature has given us the mule, so perhaps a combination of human and settler genes will produce a similar, semi-viable creature."
Meanwhile, the Professor's findings, published in the current issue of the Israeli Anthropology Association are being attacked from every direction possible.
Head of the Anthroplogy Department in the Hebrew University, Uri Neged said the finding are preposterous,
"Everybody knows that settlers are animals," said Professor Neged, "And when I want to read anecdotes about settler life I will open my copy of Haaretz."
The Head of the Department said that he suspects that Abergil does not read Haaretz and that he is out of touch with Israeli reality, "After years in the mountains in Africa there are many things that we take for granted in this department that Abergil simply has no clue about."
Others accused Abergil of getting too close to his subjects , "After six months in the wild, spending every single minute with the settlers, it is no wonder that Abergil lost his mind," said one anthropologist on condition of anonymity, calling Abergil's suggestion of a union between a settler and human, "Downright perverse."
Calls have been heard to strip Professor Abergil of his credentials. An editorial in the Israeli paper of record "Haaretz" called the research "irresponsible" pointing out that the public would be better served by other research projects such as investigating Israeli racism or the poor living conditions of the Palestinians, "Everyone knows that the settlers are the worst kind of pest imaginable – there is no need to study them further unless it is to find a way to exterminate them completely," said the editorial, "Academia would do well to remember that the research is publicly funded and direct their efforts accordingly."
But despite the attacks on his credibility, professionalism and sanity, Professor Abergil remains steadfast in his conviction, "Galileo was imprisoned and Darwin was ridiculed so the conflict between prejudice and science is nothing new. I know what I saw," says Abergil, "And I intend to stand by my research. Hopefully, one day, the public will realize that I am right and the settlers will be treated as they deserve to be – like humans."
Proponents of settler's rights, such as Orit Struk welcomed the research saying that it is about time that science set the record straight on this issue, "Anyone who spends some time with the settlers, and keeps an open mind about the experience, cannot help but be convinced that they are human," said Struk, "They are as gentle and caring with their young as any human and they can be quite intelligent too."
In the photo: A settler: Are they human?
Photo courtesy of Haaretz.
State accused of trampling human rights of settlers - from Jpost.
Mildly related, from yours truly:
Head of Settler Terrorist Cell Nabbed in Hebron