There are different theories and opinions regarding the actual historical connection of the Beta Israel to the Jewish people. From what I have read and seen, I think this was tenuous at best. After covering this issue closely, I don’t think the Falashmura still in Ethiopia have any claim to Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return.
I am reminded of a year and a half-old article by Nicholas Wade that appeared in the New York Times describing a series of genetic studies on Jewish populations:
A major surprise from both surveys is the genetic closeness of the two Jewish communities of Europe, the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim… Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews have roughly 30 percent European ancestry, with most of the rest from the Middle East, the two surveys find. The two communities seem very similar to each other genetically, which is unexpected because they have been separated for so long.
More relevant to the issue at hand, Wade writes that
The shared genetic elements suggest that members of any Jewish community are related to one another as closely as are fourth or fifth cousins in a large population, which is about 10 times higher than the relationship between two people chosen at random off the streets of New York City.
I would be interested in whether that study included Ethiopian Jews, and if not – would that be racist? or just good science? – how that data might change the results. The danger, of course, is that if the results do not show a heightened level of genetic similarity between Ethiopian and other Jewish communities, they could be used to further exacerbate existing tensions in Israel.
But I sure am curious.