From Tablet, October 13, 2009, by Evan R. Goldstein*:
...Shlomo Sand [from Tel Aviv university] argues that ‘Jewish peoplehood’ is a myth
...a new book, The Invention of the Jewish People , by Tel Aviv University historian Shlomo Sand, ...argues that the Jews were not in fact exiled from Israel, and that the bulk of modern Jewry does not descend from the ancient Israelites. Rather, he claims, they are the children of converts—North African Berbers and Turkic Khazars—and have no ancestral ties to the land of Israel.
Zionism is not a return home, Sand writes, it is the tragic theft of another people’s land. As such, Israel is not the political rebirth of the Jewish nation—it’s a complete fabrication. [Follow this link to hear him interviewed talking about his “theories” - SL]
Predictably, The Invention of the Jewish People generated a torrent of controversy when it was published in Hebrew last year ...with Tom Segev, the post-Zionist “new historian,” acclaiming it as “one of the most fascinating and challenging books” to arrive in Israel in a long time, while Alexander Yakobson, a professor of history at the Hebrew University, called it a “pack of lies.”
In March, the French translation, which has sold 45,000 copies—a large number for an academic historian—received the prestigious Aujourd’hui Award, which is given to the year’s best non-fiction book.
...the real test of the book’s significance will take place October 19, when the left-wing publisher Verso Press brings out the English edition of The Invention of the Jewish People. ...“America will be the real battle,” said Sand, who arrives on these shores this month for a series of appearances in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and elsewhere.
...“Sand is not publishing this book at a dignified conference in Bern at which scholars of the Middle East debate the origins of the Jews,” said Goldberg, also a Tablet Magazine contributing editor. “He is dropping manufactured facts into a world that in many cases is ready, willing, and happy to believe the absolute worst conspiracy theories about Jews and to use those conspiracy theories to justify physically hurting Jews.” Goldberg views The Invention of the Jewish People as part of a growing body of work designed not only to discredit the idea of Jewish nationalism, but also the idea of Jews themselves. “It is nothing new,” he added ...we can survive this.” ...
...Sand describes himself as a post-Zionist, but his politics are eclectic. “I am not a Zionist because I am a liberal democrat,” he said. “It is not possible to have a Jewish and a democratic state. It would be like America defining itself as a Protestant state. It makes no sense.”
In the late 1960s, Sand joined Matzpen, a now defunct radical group that advocated the de-Zionization of the Israeli state...
... in the Israeli academy Sand’s book has not been received as good news. Yakobson, the Hebrew University professor, said that Sand’s interpretation of Jewish history “gives a bad name to flimsiness.” To him, even if Sand had made a compelling argument about Jewish origins, it would have no bearing on whether the Jews can be considered a nation. “In order to be a people in the modern sense you do not have to be a descent group,” Yakobson said. “What makes a people is their self-determination to regard themselves as a people.”
Israel Bartal charged Sand with “intellectual superficiality” and “twisting the rules governing the work of professional historians.” Sand’s alleged sins include the use of misleading citations, disrespect for historical details, and a slippery tendency to present extreme theories as though they reflect the scholarly consensus.
Anita Shapira, a professor of history at Tel Aviv University, wrote what many believe was the definitive take-down review of Sand’s book for The Journal of Israeli History. In it, Shapira wrote that she found something “warped and objectionable in the assumption that for Jews to integrate into the Middle East they, and they alone of all the peoples in the region, must shed their national identity and historical memories and reconstruct themselves in a way that may (perhaps) find favor with Israeli-Palestinians.”
Yet this barrage of criticism has done little to dampen interest in The Invention of the Jewish People. Translations are underway in a dozen languages, including German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Russian. Sand signed a contract with a Palestinian publisher to release an Arabic-language edition, but the translation was so sloppy that Sand halted publication. “I am very depressed about it,” he said. “I want to write in the preface that I am waiting for an Arab historian to have the courage to write about Arab history in the same way that I wrote Jewish history.”
But at the moment, Sand has his eyes set on America. “I know there are a lot of organized Zionists that cannot accept the sort of criticism I can voice in Israel,” he said. “But I want you to know I am not afraid of Alan Dershowitz.”
[Sand is on a tour of the USA promoting his book. An anti-Semitic US radio announcer Khalil Bendib (gleefully) interviewed Shlomo Sand earlier this year, and once again more recently. Another Jew damaging Israel ...for what? - SL]
*Evan R. Goldstein is an editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education.