The rise and fall and vindication of Jewish anti-Zionism

Israel/Palestine
on 130 Comments

Editor: Jack Ross’s new biography of the anti-Zionist rabbi Elmer Berger, Rabbi Outcast, performs two hugely-important tasks: It painstakingly recovers a noble tradition of anti-Zionist thought inside American Jewish life that few of us know anything about, and it situates that tradition religiously, as a fulfillment of prophetic Judaism, a mode that Ross himself adopts in predicting the near-times collapse of the Israel lobby. We’ll be running a review of the book soon. Meantime, Ross is flogging his book, and here is the “stump speech” that he will be taking to bookstores, shuls, bookfairs, you name it, in the coming weeks.

What do American Jews believe? This is the question that set me on the path to write this book. Old clichés speak of two Jews having three opinions, and stereotype has it that American Jews are among the most avowedly secular of all Americans. Yet beneath the surface, probably a majority of American Jews do believe, in Maimonides’ phrase, with a perfect faith in something called “Jewish peoplehood”, really a more benign term for Jewish nationalism or Zionism. A sacred story has emerged equal to if not greater than any biblical narrative, of the exile culminating in the Holocaust followed by literal redemption in the founding of the State of Israel. It was Will Herberg, the earliest and most thorough interpreter of Martin Buber, who first compared this to the doctrine of Charles Maurras, the French fascist intellectual who called for an avowedly atheist Catholic traditionalism.

It is not only American Jews who are enrapt to this set of beliefs. For the sacred story of Jewish nationalism is also the sacred story of American nationalism. The State of Israel is, to America, the ultimate symbol of itself as a force for good in the world, representing the salvation of the Jews as the heroic outcome of the Second World War, the founding myth of the American empire. Having come of age in the wake of the September 11 attacks and all they wrought, the question nagged at me for years – can one have an affirmative American Jewish identity while being unambiguously on the side of peace and non-intervention?

Thus was the discovery of the history of Reform Jewish anti-Zionism a revelation. As the definitive statement of belief by the founders of the American Reform movement put it – “We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore, expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any laws concerning the Jewish state.” Just before his death in 1900, the father of American Reform Judaism, Isaac Mayer Wise, denounced the nascent Zionist movement as “a prostitution of Israel’s holy cause to a madman’s dance of unsound politicians” – a more perfect description of the modern Israel lobby there never could be.

Zionists began to make their presence known in the Reform rabbinate by the 1920s, after the issuance of the Balfour Declaration by America’s wartime ally made the establishment of a Jewish state official policy for the western democracies. The changing politics of American Jewish identity were therefore inextricably linked to America’s rise as a world power.

At the same time, Reform Zionists such as Stephen Wise were pushing for the establishment of an official governing body of American Jewry. This was looked upon by Classical Reform with horror, seeing in it the rabbinical despotism backed up by princes of the old order which Reform Judaism had been founded in rebellion against.

The American Council for Judaism was founded over several months in 1942, after several Reform rabbis dissented from their movement’s endorsement of the Zionist scheme to raise an army of “Palestinian and stateless Jews” to be granted the status of the Free French and Belgian forces. The following year, there was held an elaborate “American Jewish Conference” that codified the existence of an “official” Jewish community constitutionally committed to Zionism. It was in response to this that the American Council for Judaism released its official platform, with its vision for a future Middle East that should be heeded now more than ever – “a democratic government in which our fellow Jews shall be free Palestinians whose religion is Judaism, even as we are Americans whose religion is Judaism.”

Elmer Berger, the ostensible subject of my book, was hired as the Executive Director of the American Council for Judaism upon its founding, having spent the preceding decade as a humble congregational rabbi in Michigan. He had been mentored by his boyhood rabbi, Louis Wolsey, who had been the driving force behind the founding of the ACJ. Berger initially became opposed to Zionism after being put off to the aggressiveness and duplicity of the major Zionist fundraising apparatus, the United Jewish Appeal, which beginning in the late 1930s came to completely dominate all American Jewish philanthropy and direct it toward a Zionist agenda. It was also the heavy-handedness of the UJA which produced the most important lay leader of the American Council for Judaism, the philanthropist Lessing Rosenwald.

Before there was AIPAC, there was the United Jewish Appeal, established when the older United Palestine Appeal was able, in the panic of the onset of the Second World War, to absorb into itself the philanthropic arm of the American Jewish Committee, known as the Joint Distribution Committee. After the founding of the State of Israel, the ACJ soldiered on in great measure because the UJA would not separate its Zionist funds from general philanthropic funds. Not only did this arrangement facilitate the complete Zionist takeover of all Jewish organizational life in America, confirming the ACJ’s worst fears, but for a whole generation after the founding of the State of Israel, a religious devotion to fulfilling the quotas of the UJA was rigorously enforced.

A viewer of the modern sensibility could be forgiven for mistaking this phenomenon for the transparent money-making rituals of certain religious cults. Indeed, in 1956, when the Reform movement finally issued what effectively amounted to a herem or writ of excommunication against the ACJ, the first and foremost charge listed was “impairing the vital work of the United Jewish Appeal in a time of dire emergency.” Earlier banishments had occurred even before the founding of the State of Israel, when the ACJ, led by Lessing Rosenwald, insisted that the idea that the Jews had to be settled into a state of their own after World War II was an insult to all the war had been fought to achieve. The successor to the American Jewish Conference, the National Community Relations Advisory Council and today the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, issued its herem in 1950 after Rosenwald and the ACJ had spoken out for the Palestinian refugees.

Even before the end of World War II, Elmer Berger was the face of the ACJ and all it represented in the Zionist imagination. Though all but forgotten today, there was a time when the very mention of his name could be expected to elicit hysteria. Berger was not the most intellectually impressive of his anti-Zionist colleagues, nor the most charismatic or accessible. A three-times-married heavy smoker and drinker, and reluctant to enter the limelight, he was not a natural candidate for the mantle of prophet. What made Elmer Berger stand out was the simple moral force of his speaking the truth as he saw it, consequences be damned. The title he gave to a published book of his travel letters from the Middle East in 1955 says it all – “who knows better must say so.”

Yet, it must be said, in his preferred policy prescriptions for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Elmer Berger was remarkably moderate. His views essentially remained throughout his life those which had been the official policies he even personally had a hand in helping craft during the early years of the Eisenhower Administration. This was simply that Israel offer a reasonable settlement of the refugee problem in exchange for Arab recognition within the borders of the 1949 armistice, and that Israel become integrated into an anticommunist regional bloc anchored in Saudi Arabia. In fact, one of Berger’s closest friends in the U.S. government was Kermit Roosevelt, who achieved certain infamy in recent years as the CIA architect of the restoration of the Shah of Iran in 1953. These policies thus bear at least as much responsibility as Israel for the crisis which began with the September 11 attacks. 

The true heresy of Elmer Berger was his rejection of Zionism’s first principles, that is, that the essence of Judaism should be the political imperatives of a transnational entity called “the Jewish people”. As American Jewish life became dominated in the postwar era by institutions committed to putting that principle into practice, Berger and his colleagues became objects of unmitigated hysteria in the Zionist imagination because, believing as it does in an idealized “Jewish collective”, any individual Jewish opposition to that collective is viewed as a mortal threat. The legacy of this pathology in the controversies roiling American Jewry today is unmistakable. While the hysteria of the American Jewish establishment is most often directed toward those such as J Street, who believe in and desperately want to save Zionism and the “Jewish collective”, the greater number of progressive rabbis and Jewish youth are joining groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace, which seriously question, if not flatly reject, the first principles of Zionism and the American Jewish establishment.

For history has rarely presented such an unambiguous example of prophetic dissenters who were viciously attacked and reviled in their time, only to be completely vindicated in their warnings a generation after they passed away, as Elmer Berger and his colleagues in the American Council for Judaism. Few now deny that at the heart of both the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the twin crisis of American Jewry is the persistent belief, with a perfect faith, in “Jewish peoplehood”, brilliantly described by the late Tony Judt as “a characteristically late-19th century separatist project in a world that has moved on.” Indeed, this is self-evident in the increasingly erratic demand of the current Israeli government, that both the Palestinians and the world at large recognize it as “the national home of the Jewish people”, and that the threat to “the world” of such countries as Iran be viewed through this prism.

An extraordinary series of events over the last decade has served to vindicate the life’s work of Elmer Berger, but perhaps none stands out more than the publication in 2009 of Shlomo Sand’s groundbreaking work The Invention of the Jewish People. Comprehensively deconstructing Jewish nationalism with both contemporary theories of nationalism and sources with which Berger would have been very much familiar, it is probably a book that Berger himself wished he had written at the end of his life. Yet it may also be a book that shows the way forward. Before he was seized by the controversy of Zionism, the great youthful aspiration of Elmer Berger had been to use the sources on antiquity cited by Sand to prove the empirical validity of the anti-nationalist narrative of Judaism which the Classical Reform movement had trained him in. 

Berger would have been stunned enough to see there has yet emerged at this late hour a progressive alternative of Jewish religion to that of the American Jewish establishment. To continue building this alternative with the knowledge of history provided by Sand, and its corollary in American Jewish history I hope to have provided with my humble book, is the most fitting tribute that can be paid to the legacy of Elmer Berger and the American Council for Judaism.

130 Responses

  1. Elliot
    June 22, 2011, 10:26 am

    The true heresy of Elmer Berger was his rejection of Zionism’s first principles, that is, that the essence of Judaism should be the political imperatives of a transnational entity called “the Jewish people”.
    Jack, as you say elsewhere, the anti-Zionism of the ACJ in the 40s and 50s was not about Palestinian self-determination but about the identity of American Jews. In fact, the whole point of anti-Zionism back then was to not invest Jewish identity in what was happening on the other side of the globe.

    Today, the debate about I/P in America is still about American and Jewish identity and Jewish but it is expressed in terms of justice for the Palestinians. Zionism succeeded in making Israel central to American Jewish identity and Jewish questions are framed by the Israel question.

    Actually, compared to Berger’s day, the tables are now reversed. Your run-of-the-mill Jewish American has checked out of the Israel issue. It is leftwing activists such as yourself and Mondo community who spend a lot of time and energy on the subject and invest their identity in what is happening there.

  2. seafoid
    June 22, 2011, 10:45 am

    “The changing politics of American Jewish identity were therefore inextricably linked to America’s rise as a world power.”

    This is what happens to small Eastern Mediterranean outposts of powerful empires when history does as it always has :

    link to haaretz.com

    “Thus was the discovery of the history of Reform Jewish anti-Zionism a revelation”

    Reform Jews aren’t Jews, say Shas
    link to haaretz.com

    • patm
      June 22, 2011, 3:53 pm

      seafoid: “This is what happens to small Eastern Mediterranean outposts of powerful empires when history does as it always has :

      You mean when the centre doesn’t hold and powerful empires fall apart and their small outposts are left to fend for themselves.

      link to haaretz.com

      • seafoid
        June 22, 2011, 4:28 pm

        PatM

        I don’t think Zionism will last as long as the Crusaders did.

        Israel is on the wrong side of the Med, attached to the wrong land mass.
        The reconquista managed in Spain but the crusaders couldn’t do it on the other end.

        Even if the Israelis all concentrate really hard I can’t see them pulling it off.

      • patm
        June 22, 2011, 4:37 pm

        “Thus was the discovery of the history of Reform Jewish anti-Zionism a revelation” “Reform Jews aren’t Jews, say Shas”

        seafoid: I had to do some heavy googling to get the hang of Haaretz’s article, “Interior Minister [Shas party stalwart Eli Yishai] plans to return ‘nationality’ clause to ID cards.”

        In the end I went to the article’s ‘comments’. Here are a few of them.

        “Nationality Jewish? I thought that would come under religion.”

        “Certain Israelis who may pass as foreigners or minorities have claimed they want to keep the “Jewish” clause in order to “pass security checks more easily.”

        “Most North American Jews that support Israel are either Reform or Conservatives and anything to alienate their support would be a massive mistake for Israel.”

        Only one “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS !!! You’re absolutely correct” comment.

  3. American
    June 22, 2011, 11:40 am

    “The State of Israel is, to America, the ultimate symbol of itself as a force for good in the world, representing the salvation of the Jews as the heroic outcome of the Second World War, the founding myth of the American empire.”

    Here we go again.
    Israel is the ultimate symbol of America?
    To who? Who says so except Jews and zionist?
    No Americans that I know.

  4. hophmi
    June 22, 2011, 11:52 am

    Gee, it’s nice to know that the writer approached his subject with non-partisan detachment. NOT.

    There are so many books written on Jewish history. And there’s only one anyone seems to care about here on Mondoweiss; it’s Shlomo Sand’s widely panned book which rehashed old nonsense about Khazars, was written by a man with no expertise on the subject, and was a political polemic more than a serious study written by a political extremist.

    Sand’s claims were called “baseless” by Israel Bartal, dean of the humanities faculty at Hebrew University, who called the book “bizarre and incoherent.”

    Anita Shapira, an expert on Jewish history and certainly no right-winger, wrote that “”Sand bases his arguments on the most esoteric and controversial interpretations, while seeking to undermine the credibility of important scholars by dismissing their conclusions without bringing any evidence to bear.”

    DNA analysis conducted in 2010 refutes Sand’s central thesis.

    link to en.wikipedia.org

    So I am mystified as to how a widely-panned discredit political polemic could vindicate someone.

    • Mooser
      June 22, 2011, 1:08 pm

      “Sand’s claims were called “baseless” by Israel Bartal, dean of the humanities faculty at Hebrew University, who called the book “bizarre and incoherent.””

      No!?! Really? Why, who could have seen that coming? I’m flummoxed!
      Non-plussed by cracky!

      • hophmi
        June 22, 2011, 1:17 pm

        “Why, who could have seen that coming?”

        Anyone with half-a-brain and an appreciation for facts rather than political spin.

      • Mooser
        June 22, 2011, 1:54 pm

        “Anyone with half-a-brain and an appreciation for facts rather than political spin.”

        I agree completely!

      • LeaNder
        June 22, 2011, 5:22 pm

        DNA analysis conducted in 2010 refutes Sand’s central thesis.

        Mooser, should we suggest to segregate the comment section according to DNA too? Or one for the diverse racially pure kind, the other for the hybrids and “hypridophil”?

      • hophmi
        June 22, 2011, 5:31 pm

        Again, in his book, which Ross called “groundbreaking” and the event that most vindicates Elmer Berger, Sand claimed that Ashkenazi Jews were mostly descended from the Khazars, a discredited theory further disproven by DNA analysis showing most Jews originated in the Middle East.

      • Shmuel
        June 22, 2011, 6:01 pm

        DNA analysis conducted in 2010 refutes Sand’s central thesis.

        Did they check to see if members of Turkic tribes also have Middle-Eastern markers?

        Like Koestler before him, Sand makes a very good case for why it is unlikely that Eastern European Jews originated in the Rhinelands, but fails to bring home the bacon (so to speak) when it comes creating a solid link between the Yiddish-speaking Jews and the Khazars. Of course Sand only offers a summary of the literature on the subject, but if there is more convincing evidence in there somewhere, he fails to produce it.

        My question is, who cares? And if Ostjuden were direct descendants of ancient Judeans, would that make their stealing Palestinian land OK? Koestler (a Hungarian Jew) was proud of his perceived Khazar forebears. I really couldn’t care less.

      • Shingo
        June 22, 2011, 7:55 pm

        Did they check to see if members of Turkic tribes also have Middle-Eastern markers?

        No they didn’t, but if you read Hophmi’s own link, it is anything but conclusive. From his link,

        geneticist Noah Rosenberg of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, states in an article in Science that although the study “does not appear to support” the Khazar hypothesis, it “doesn’t entirely eliminate it either.”[15] The genetic study is consistent with the view promoted by Sand that, “from the time of the Hellenistic Jewish writers in the second century BCE to Philo Judaeus of Alexandria in the first century CE, not only was conversion favorably received, but some of the writings actually promoted it.”[16] Thus the study states:

      • Shingo
        June 23, 2011, 4:38 pm

         Anyone with half-a-brain and an appreciation for facts rather than political spin.

        Don’t you wish you had one of those Hophmi?

      • hophmi
        June 23, 2011, 4:44 pm

        “Don’t you wish you had one of those Hophmi?”

        LOL. I just thank G-d I’m not braindead like you are, Shingo.

      • Woody Tanaka
        June 23, 2011, 4:55 pm

        My question is, who cares? And if Ostjuden were direct descendants of ancient Judeans, would that make their stealing Palestinian land OK?

        That is exactly the point. The fact that someone in the twentieth Century has ancestors who, in say 69A.D., lived in Palestine, doesn’t give that twentieth Century person any rights to any land.

      • Cliff
        June 23, 2011, 5:50 pm

        Shingo makes actual arguments and cites sources. He’s also not a tinfoil-hat-wearing cult-member like you, hophmi.

        Shouldn’t you be proclaiming another Holocaust in the latest thread? Or screaming at Phil and Adam about how they are debasing Judaism?

        Get a life, putz.

    • lysias
      June 22, 2011, 2:47 pm

      Tony Judt, in praising Sand’s book (Israel must unpick its ethnic myth.) was mildly critical of the book, not for saying things that are untrue, but for saying things that everybody already knows to be true:

      Even I, dependent for the most part on second-hand information about the earlier millennia of Jewish history, can see that Prof Sand – for example in his emphasis upon the conversions and ethnic mixing that characterise the Jews in earlier times – is telling us nothing we do not already know.

      Even Simon Schama, in a much more critical review (The Invention of the Jewish People, makes basically the same point, that Sand’s supposedly controversial points are in fact just common knowledge:

      Sand’s sense of grievance against the myths on which the exclusively Jewish right to full Israeli immigration is grounded is one that many who want to see a more liberal and secular Israel wholeheartedly share. But his book prosecutes these aims through a sensationalist assertion that somehow, the truth about Jewish culture and history, especially the “exile which never happened”, has been suppressed in the interests of racially pure demands of Zionist orthodoxy. This, to put it mildly, is a stretch.

      To take just one instance: the history of the Khazars, the central Asian kingdom which, around the 10th century, converted to Judaism and which Sand thinks has been excised from the master narrative because of the embarrassing implication that present day Jews might be descended from Turkic converts. But the Khazars were known by every Jewish girl and boy in my neck of Golders Greenery and further flung parts of the diaspora, and celebrated rather than evaded.

      When the unfortunately recently deceased Tony Judt (and, backhandedly, Simon Schama) agree with a book, I wouldn’t say that it is discredited.

      • hophmi
        June 22, 2011, 3:36 pm

        Jack Ross called Sand’s book “groundbreaking” and said no other event more vindicated Berger than publication of Sand’s book. So far, I have shown that the scholars in the field think Sand’s book is crap, and in response, you quote scholars outside of the field whose chief criticism is that Sand is completely unoriginal.

        Once again, a book widely panned as unoriginal, “baseless” and “bizarre and incoherent” by scholars with no particular political axe to grind is embraced by you folks as “groundbreaking” and a bunch of other predictable superlatives you can be counted on to utter whenever something polemical about Jews comes off the presses.

        Schama’s criticism is echoed by the others, which is that no one actually argues that the Jewish people are all descended from the original Hebrews. Moreover, no one denies the Khazars either. The idea that MOST Jews today are descended from the Khazars is an old discredited tale.

        Schama: “Rabbinical arguments may rest on an imaginary definition of ethnicity, but the legitimacy of a Jewish homeland does not. ”

        Schama: “[I]t is a long time since any serious historian argued that following the destruction of the Second Temple, the Romans emptied Judea. But what the Romans did do, following the Jewish revolt of AD66-70 and even more exhaustively after a second rebellion in AD135, was every bit as traumatic: an act of cultural and social annihilation – mass slaughter and widespread enslavement.
        But there was also the mass extirpation of everything that constituted Jewish religion and culture; the renaming of Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina, the obliteration of the Temple, the prohibition on rituals and prayers. . .
        And don’t get me started again on the Khazars. No one doubts the significance of their conversion, but to argue that the entirety of Ashkenazi Jewry must necessarily descend from them is to make precisely the uncritical claim of uninterrupted genealogy Sand is eager to dispute in the wider context of Jewish history.

        His assumption that the Jewish state is an oxymoron built on illusions of homogeneity is belied by the country’s striking heterogeneity. How else to explain the acceptance of the Beta Israel Ethiopian Jews or the Bene Israel Indians as Israeli Jews? Certainly that acceptance has never been without obstacles, and egregious discrimination has been shown by those who think they know what “real jews” should look like. Sand is right in believing that a more inclusive and elastic version of entry and exit points into the Jewish experience should encourage a debate in Israel of who is and who is not a “true” Jew. I could hardly agree more, and for precisely the reason that Sand seems not to himself embrace: namely that the legitimacy of Israel both within and without the country depends not on some spurious notion of religious much less racial purity, but on the case made by a community of suffering, not just during the Holocaust but over centuries of expulsions and persecutions. Unlike the Roman deportations, these were not mythical.

        Sand would counter that such a refuge for the victims could have been in China, or on the moon, for all that Palestine had to do with the Jews. But since his book fails to sever the remembered connection between the ancestral land and Jewish experience ever since, it seems a bit much to ask Jews to do their bit for the sorely needed peace of the region by replacing an ethnic mythology with an act of equally arbitrary cultural oblivion.”

      • lysias
        June 22, 2011, 4:29 pm

        If Sand’s long first chapter deriving Jewish national history from 19th century German romantic national history is not original, it was certainly news to me.

        Oh, and I take it you agree with Schama and Judt that much of what Sand says, far from being untrue, is old hat. Doesn’t that mean it’s not discredited?

      • Shingo
        June 22, 2011, 6:21 pm

        Oh, and I take it you agree with Schama and Judt that much of what Sand says, far from being untrue, is old hat. Doesn’t that mean it’s not discredited?

        Bingo!  If what Sand published was unoriginal, then why was it not already discredited?

        Hophmi and his fellow travelers are so desperate to attack Sand that they don’t even stop to consider the contradictions in their own attacks on him.

      • Shingo
        June 22, 2011, 8:08 pm

        Jack Ross called Sand’s book “groundbreaking”

        Insofar as the book became a best seller in Israel, Ross has a point.

        So far, I have shown that the scholars in the field think Sand’s book is crap

        No, you’ve shown that some scholars disagree with some of his findings, but not all of them.

        Once again, a book widely panned as unoriginal, “baseless” and “bizarre and incoherent” by scholars with no particular political axe to grind

        ..apart from the fact they all happen to be Israeli scholars.

        The idea that MOST Jews today are descended from the Khazars is an old discredited tale.

        No one made that claim. The claim is that very few are descendents of he Hebrews.

        Schama: “Rabbinical arguments may rest on an imaginary definition of ethnicity, but the legitimacy of a Jewish homeland does not. ”

        What exactly is that supposed to mean? That the Hebrews came from ancient Israel and that this somehow legitimizes the state of Isrel that was created in 1948?

        That’s absurd.

        Schama admits that the Romans did not remove all the Jews from Palestine, but tries to argue that teh destruction of the area in Judea was suffiently trasumatic as if they had.

        Ironic indeed as this is the argument your Zionist hacks have dismissed relative to what the Zionists did to the Palestinians.

        Sand never disputed this. Wahat Sand has argued is that those who remained converted to Christianity or were converted to Islam.

        But there was also the mass extirpation of everything that constituted Jewish religion and culture; the renaming of Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina, the obliteration of the Temple, the prohibition on rituals and prayers. . .

        Wow, doesn’t that sound familar? The erasure of someone’s existence and history, the remaning of streets and villages and the prohibition on rememberance of parts of history!!

        How else to explain the acceptance of the Beta Israel Ethiopian Jews or the Bene Israel Indians as Israeli Jews?

        That was done for purely pragmatic reasons. First of all, the Ethiopian and Arab Jews hjave hardly been accepted into Israeli socieity, other than to be exploited to make up immigrtion numbers and povide cheap labor.

      • tree
        June 22, 2011, 9:28 pm

        …..apart from the fact they all happen to be Israeli scholars.

        Its an even smaller group than that. Both Bartal and Shapira are Israeli Zionist scholars of Jewish History. Since one of Sand’s points in his book is the insularity and political co-optation of “Jewish History” studies in Israel, they both most definitely have political axes to grind in relation to his criticisms of their field of study.

      • Shingo
        June 22, 2011, 9:49 pm

        Its an even smaller group than that. Both Bartal and Shapira are Israeli Zionist scholars of Jewish History.

        Very good point Tree. Hophmi is clearly trying to play a game of bluff here by citing 2 or 3 scholars who take some issue with Sadn’s thesis and trying to sell the idea that thyey are representative of a widely accepted view in academia.

      • tree
        June 22, 2011, 9:54 pm

        Schama apparently had a change of heart and praised Sand’s book and called it “his book of the year”.

        It was the year’s biggest helping of humble pie. Less than a month after a heated takedown of Shlomo Sand’s “The Invention of the Jewish People” in the Financial Times, the very same reviewer, writing in Italy’s respected business daily Il Sole 24 Ore, offered the book qualified praise, calling it his book of the year. So distinct was this follow-up appraisal, it could have been written by a different person.

        Though the critic in question, British historian Simon Schama, did not offer a reason for this about-face, for anyone following the tempestuous reception of the English edition of the Israeli scholar’s book, it testified to the possibility of a conscience among his detractors. Or in the case of Schama, as Sand fiercely charged in reply to his initial review, that he hadn’t fully read the book. So, he was apologizing. In Italian, of course.

        link to forward.com

      • tree
        June 22, 2011, 10:02 pm

        … calling it his book of the year.

        As did Eric Hobsbawn, prominent British (and Jewish) historian:

        Shlomo Sand’s The Invention of the Jewish People (Verso) is both a welcome and, in the case of Israel, much needed exercise in the dismantling of nationalist historical myth and a plea for an Israel that belongs equally to all its inhabitants. Perhaps books combining passion and erudition don’t change political situations, but if they did, this one would count as a landmark.

      • hophmi
        June 23, 2011, 9:43 am

        Cite one scholar that review the book favorably who is not on the radical left or is actually an expert on the subject matter. I’m well familiar with the game of scholars with similar political backgrounds backslapping each other.

        I read the Forward article. It’s simply not accurate. The article suggests that the only negative reviews came from “American neo-cons.” Anita Shapira is neither American nor a neo-con. Israel Bartal is neither American nor a neo-con.

        Since the premise of the Forward article is largely incorrect, I’d like to see a translation of Schama’s actual Italian article. I have searched and can only find a blurb that translates as:

        “Shlomo Sand, a professor of history at Tel Aviv University, in his book The Invention of the Jewish People (The invention of the Jewish people) develops several controversial points about the history, identity and culture of the Jewish people and attack the old legends. For example, to those who argue that all Jews are descended from the same group of ancient founders. According to the author, the antidote to a national identity based on what he sees as fairy tales, is to highlight the fantasies contained therein and to interpret them as a common Jewish identity independent of religious practices. A book definitely provocative, not necessarily in the sense intended by the author.”

        Not exactly glowing or remotely like what the Forward article suggests.

        Sand’s publisher, Verso, is not above misleading quoting highly negative reviews like Shapira’s and casting them as positive.

        So their website for Sand’s book quotes Shapira:

        ““a sharp, pointed polemic drawing on much varied historical material.”

        link to inventionofthejewishpeople.com

        Here is the full paragraph:

        “I have no intention of arguing with Sand’s version of a ‘state of all its citizens.’ I would like to examine the attempt to drag history into a topical argument, and with the help of
        misrepresentations and half-truths to adapt it to the needs of a political discussion, and all this, ostensibly, under an academic mantle. Sand has written a sharp, pointed polemic
        drawing on much varied historical material which he re-kneads at will in order to prove that there is not and never was a Jewish nationality. If we were to remove Sand’s long discourse on the essence of nationalism, which is not essential to the basic discussion, as well as his meandering discourse on Zionism’s ostensibly racist nature, which looks like little more than a sideways dig, Sand’s main thesis is: there is no such thing as a Jewish people, there are only Jewish-religious communities which were formed mainly by mass conversions throughout Jewish history.”

        Hmm. Seems pretty dishonest to me. Perhaps the Forward author thought the reviews were mostly positive because he read the blurbs on the website rather than the actual reviews.

        Shapira’s review is quite extensive and can be found here:

        link to inventionofthejewishpeople.com

      • hophmi
        June 23, 2011, 10:07 am

        “Oh, and I take it you agree with Schama and Judt that much of what Sand says, far from being untrue, is old hat. Doesn’t that mean it’s not discredited?”

        If I say that the sky is blue and the grass is green, and I say that these facts prove that the sky was designed by Cookie Monster and the grass was designed by Oscar the Grouch using “Sesame Street theory” does that mean my theory is not discredited since it relies on the well-known facts that the sky is blue and the grass is green?

      • Shingo
        June 23, 2011, 5:50 pm

         Anita Shapira is neither American nor a neo-con. Israel Bartal is neither American nor a neo-con.

        First of all, you claimed that Sand was widely dismissed in the academic community, and do far, we have produced mire scholars supportive of the book than criticized it.

        So you are wrong on that point.

        Secondly, as has bern explained to you, both Bartal and Shapira are Israeli Zionist scholars of Jewish History.  Sand’s attacks the  insularity and political co-optation of “Jewish History” studies in Israel. Both Bartal and Shapira both have an agenda because  they have political axes to grind in relation to his criticisms of their field of study.

        Neither are impartial I’m that regard.

        Third, you dismiss the scholars who praised the book as leftwing ( as though that is supposed to
        mean anything), though you had no problem citing a shill like Schama, who flip flopped on his position anyway.

         Shapira’s review is quite extensive and can be found here:

        Some scholar she turns out to be. She doesn’t even try to refute Sand’s findings or evidence, with her own argument effectively boiling down to the idea that the facts don’t matter – it’s what Jews believe (true or otherwise) that defines their identity.

        You really are making a fool of yourself Hop. Keep it up – it’s not as though you ever had any credibility to begin with anyway.

         Just admit it. You like the book because it validates your opinions, not because it’s a valid piece of scholarship

      • Shingo
        June 23, 2011, 5:58 pm

         If I say that the sky is blue and the grass is green, and I say that these facts prove that the sky was designed by Cookie Monster and the grass was designed by Oscar the Grouch using “Sesame Street theory” does that mean my theory is not discredited since it relies on the well-known facts that the sky is blue and the grass is green?

        That ladies and gentlemen, is an example of Hophmi  having a meltdown. Apparently, the side effects of Zioncaine are much like LSD.

      • American
        June 22, 2011, 4:56 pm

        I agree…Sand’s book is common sense…any observer of the Jewish claims can see that there was never anything such as ‘Jewish people’ in any way except the Religious sense.
        Claiming that Jews are some kind of distinct People making up a Nation or ‘Nation of People” when you have Arab jews, Asian jews, European jews, Africian Jews and etc.. is so bizaare it isn ‘t even worth the discussion.

    • LeaNder
      June 22, 2011, 5:12 pm

      DNA analysis conducted in 2010 refutes Sand’s central thesis.

      Brave new world. Let’s segregate along DNA lines again, all the mixed races out there.

      • tree
        June 22, 2011, 8:38 pm

        DNA analysis conducted in 2010 refutes Sand’s central thesis.

        Hophmi was a bit disingenuous about that as well. From the Wiki article he selectively quoted from and linked:

        Nevertheless, geneticist Noah Rosenberg of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, states in an article in Science that although the study “does not appear to support” the Khazar hypothesis, it “doesn’t entirely eliminate it either.”[15] The genetic study is consistent with the view promoted by Sand that, “from the time of the Hellenistic Jewish writers in the second century BCE to Philo Judaeus of Alexandria in the first century CE, not only was conversion favorably received, but some of the writings actually promoted it.”[16] Thus the study states:

        The Middle Eastern [Jewish] populations were formed by Jews in the Babylonian and Persian empires who are thought to have remained geographically continuous in those locales. In contrast, the other Jewish populations were formed more recently from Jews who migrated or were expelled from Palestine and from individuals who were converted to Judaism during Hellenic-Hasmonean times, when proselytism was a common Jewish practice. During Greco-Roman times, recorded mass conversions led to 6 million people practicing Judaism in Roman times or up to 10% of the population of the Roman Empire.[17]

        And the “central thesis” of Sands work is more accurately summarized by Tom Segev, in the same hophmi linked Wiki article:

        Tom Segev wrote that Sand’s book “is intended to promote the idea that Israel should be a ‘state of all its citizens’ – Jews, Arabs and others – in contrast to its declared identity as a ‘Jewish and democratic’ state” and that the book is generally “well-written” and includes “numerous facts and insights that many Israelis will be astonished to read for the first time”.[8]

        And, BTW, its obvious that hophmi hasn’t even read the book. The Khazars are discuss in just 40 pages of the book, with the first 30 pages devoted to the historical record, the nest 10 pages devoted to the silence in Israeli academic circles about the Khazars, including the fact that there had been no book or academic paper written in Hebrew about the Khazars since the 1950’s. Only in the last 10 pages or so does he discuss the origins of Eastern European Jewry, including a discussion of Koestler’s The Thirteenth Tribe. (The Khazar’s don’t even get a chapter of their own, since Sand spends the first 20 pages of chapter 4, “Realms of Silence: In Search of Lost (Jewish) Time” discussing the Jewish Himyar and Berber Kingdoms.

        I’ve got to say, though, that hophmi’s response to Sand is by comparison somewhat measured in contrast to the over the top idiotic Jeffrey Goldberg form the same Wiki link:

        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 … 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. … It is nothing new … We [the Jews] survived … The Thirteenth Tribe; we can survive this.[12]

        …because a book by an avowed Zionist (Koestler) on the possible ethnic origins of European Jews in ancient Khazaria is just like an attempted genocide! Its crap like this that makes me want to laugh out loud, if it weren’t for the fact that people are being horribly mistreated because of this type of overindulgent victim mentality by those in positions of prestige and power.

      • Shingo
        June 22, 2011, 9:52 pm

        Superb response again Tree.

        I suspect Hophmi was hoping no one would call his bluff and read his own links.

        What a clown!

      • hophmi
        June 23, 2011, 9:50 am

        No one disputes that conversion was much more common in Roman times and that Judaism’s position on it was different at that time.

        I recommend Shapira’s review for a categorical dismemberment of Sand’s arguments and methods.

      • Shingo
        June 23, 2011, 7:08 pm

        The argument made by sadn was that conversion erached a zenith long after Roman rimes.

        I recommend Shapira’s review for a categorical dismemberment of Sand’s arguments and methods.

        Not unles you have 20 minutes to waste reading an argument that goes nowhere.

    • Shingo
      June 22, 2011, 6:28 pm

      Sand’s claims were called “baseless” by Israel Bartal, dean of the humanities faculty at Hebrew University, who called the book “bizarre and incoherent.”

      Bartal actually agreed with Sand’s main argument.

      And how can Sand’s arguments be  esoteric and controversial
      if they are not original? Anita Shapira is not terribly coherent. If anything, it’s the existing narrative that is esoteric.

      Her accusation that Sand brings no evidence to bear is laughable considering that there is little evidence to support that status quo.

      DNA analysis conducted in 2010 refutes Sand’s central thesis.

      No it doesn’t.

      • hophmi
        June 23, 2011, 9:52 am

        “And how can Sand’s arguments be esoteric and controversial
        if they are not original?”

        Really?

        Sand’s facts are unoriginal. The controversial methods he uses to interpret them and the ways in which he pulls them out of context to make his argument is controversial.

        Shapira says that Sand dismisses the work of other historians in the field while bringing little evidence to support his own argument against theirs.

        It’s typical of polemical writing on both sides of the political spectrum; the author states his conclusions and summarily dismisses the serious work of others without much analysis.

      • Donald
        June 23, 2011, 6:02 pm

        “Sand’s facts are unoriginal. The controversial methods he uses to interpret them and the ways in which he pulls them out of context to make his argument is controversial.”

        I haven’t read the book, mainly because I don’t think arguments about the ancestry of modern day Jews have any relevance to the conflict. But anyway, what are the controversial methods he uses to interpret them and what are the ways in which he pulls facts out of context?

        Anyone can pitch in here. I don’t get what the argument about real or alleged Khazar ancestors has to do with anything. The claim that modern day Palestinians might be descended from 1st century Israeli Jews is, well, fun to contemplate, but not actually relevant either. (I don’t know if Sand makes that argument or not.)

      • tree
        June 24, 2011, 12:08 am

        Donald,

        If I may take a stab at explaining my take on the book, having actually read it, instead of just reflexively regurgitating selective negative reviews of it like hophmi is doing, in hopes of discouraging anyone from taking it seriously.

        As Tom Segev wrote, quoted in the Wiki article that hophmi cherry-picked, Sand’s book “is intended to promote the idea that Israel should be a ‘state of all its citizens’ – Jews, Arabs and others – in contrast to its declared identity as a ‘Jewish and democratic’ state.”[11] Segev adds that the book is generally “well-written” and includes “numerous facts and insights that many Israelis will be astonished to read for the first time”.[11]

        I found the most compelling part of the book to be the Introduction, where he tells the stories of several Israelis, all related to him by blood, or friendship, or as students and teachers, whose identities do not comfortable fit in an Israel that identifies itself solely as a “Jewish state”. It is a very eloquent plea for Israel to be a “state of all its citizens” .

        The rest of the book really deals, not directly with the ethnic and geographical origins of Jews throughout the world, but with the particular Israeli historiography about the origins of the world’s Jews, which he believes has been politically co-opted by the Zionist myths of “exile and return”. His critique has to do, not only with the higher and more esoteric academic discussion of that history, but, even more importantly in his eyes, with the general education of the average Jewish high school student in Israel. Thus when he talks about “widespread myths” he is not talking primarily about higher academic historiography, but about the general education system in Israel, and, as he mentions, even the Declaration of Independence of Israel, which claims an exile, which even many Zionist historians don’t believe in, and yet little is done to correct the false myths allowed to flourish in the Israeli education system.

        I would point out to hophmi, here, that Tom Segev is not considered a “radical historian” and yet his was a positive review, and as I pointed out earlier Anita Shapira does indeed have an academic axe to grind as Sand does specifically call out the Israeli bastions of “Jewish history” for what he sees as their “very insular and conservative world where they are not touched by modern developments in historical research.”

        There is, as far as I can tell, NOTHING controversial about his methods. Hophmi, having admitted that he hasn’t read the book, something that is patently obvious to anyone who has, was simply regurgitating negative talking points, as is his wont. Comparing Shapira’s critique to my copy of Sand’s book, I think that Shapira that is setting up strawmen. (Note to hophmi here, too: You found Shapira’s full critique at Sand’s book’s site. Its a little silly of you to claim that Sand or Verso is trying to obscure what Shapira says when they linked to the entire criticism in English. Especially when you yourself cherry picked the Wiki article on Sand for negative comments.)

        (In case anyone is interested, Norman Finkelstein critique’s Shapira’s work, Land and Power, in the 2nd edition of his book, “Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine conflict. His point is similar to Sand’s, but in regards to Israeli myths about the origins of the conflict rather than ancient Jewish history.)

        In her critique, Shapira says

        “Sand “uncovers” the well-known fact that during the Second Temple period, a Jewish diaspora emerged throughout the Roman Empire. Menachem Stern, a historian of the period, cited several causes for its emergence at that time, from expulsions to economic reasons and conversions. Sand comments: “The technique of spreading information in national-history studies finds pointed expression
        here” (p. 145). In other words, the fact that Stern listed conversions at the end of his series of causes is interpreted by Sand as a ploy to conceal what he, Sand, regards as the decisive
        factor. Stern may have listed conversions at the end of his series of causes because he differed from Sand in his assessment, or by pure chance, with no hidden agenda whatsoever, but Sand sees secret motives everywhere.

        And yet, this is verbatim from Sand’s book, first quoting Stern:

        “Various factors cause the geographic spread and numerical increase of the Jewish dispersal ;deportations form the country; political and religious pressures in Judea’ economic opportunities discovered in prosperous countries, such as Egypt in the third century B.C.E.’ and a proselytizing movement that began in the early days of the Second Temple and reached its climax in the first century C.E.”(end of Stern’s quote)

        Note the descending order of factors-deportations naturally first, followed by displacement caused by hardship, then voluntary emigration, and finally proselytizing. This is the clearest example of how information is disseminated in the study of national history, and it is replicated repeatedly in the narratives of other Israeli historians, as well as all the textbooks of the state educational system.

        Nevertheless, all these dispersal stories contained an unresolved conundrum. How could a farming people that had turned its back to the sea and had never produced a far-ranging empire produce so many emigrants?…

        Sand then goes on to discuss why its much more likely that the large numbers of Jews outside of Eretz Israel were indicative of converts in other lands, rather than Hebrew emigrants. This is in his chapter called “The Invention of the Exile”, specifically on page 148 and beyond. (Differences in language and page number can be accounted for by differing translations from Hebrew and the differing language editions of the book, I believe.)

        Shapira’s critique seems dishonest and an attempt to smear Sand with implications of detecting “secret motives” and conspiracy theories he is not professing.

        Likewise, Shapira says this about Sand’s discussion of the Jewish Himyar Kingdom in Arabia(dealing with the origins of the Yemenite Jews):

        In much the same way, Sand treats the historians Haim Ze’ev Hirshberg and Israel Ben Ze’ev, who wrote on the Jewish kingdom in Himyar and on Berber tribes that converted in North Africa, and from whom Sand drew his knowledge about the converts. Hirshberg claimed that most of the converts to Judaism became Muslims upon the Islamic conquest. Sand does not accept this assertion, as he wishes to claim that North African Jewry stemmed from these converts. So he lambasts the historian for “not having understood” this “fact” (p. 200).

        But Sand does not dispute that most of the converts to Judaism became Muslims. What he disputes is Hirshberg’s insistence that the Yemenite Jews were all direct descendents of the Hebrews, despite the fact that Hirshberg gives absolutely no historical basis for this assertion of a Hebrew immigrant population in Yemen, and despite the fact that clearly not all the Jewish converts of Himyar later converted to Islam. From Sand:

        At the end of his fascinating description of the Judaized kingdom, Hirschberg, perhaps the best-known historian of the Jews in the Arab world, asked the following questions: “How many Jews lived in the Yemen? What was their racial origin- were they of the seed of Abraham, or Judaized Yemenites?” Needless to say, he could not answer these questions but, unable to stop himself, continued:

        “Nevertheless, the Jews who had come from the Land of Israel, perhaps also from Babylonia, were the living soul of the Jewish community in the Yemen. They were not too few, their importance was considerable, and they decided every issue; when the persecutions began, they remained faithful to their people and their faith. In fact, many of the proselytized Himyarites could not withstand the suffering, and converted to Islam. The Christians vanished altogether from the Yemen, but the Jews remained as a distinct element, apart from the Arabs. They cleave to their faith to this day, despite the contempt and humiliation surrounding them…Other proselytes, such as the Khazars, assimilated and integrated among the nations, because the Jewish element among them was scanty, but the Jews of Yemen remained a living tribe of the Jewish nation.” (end of Hirschberg quote)

        Compared withe the meticulous description of Himyar’s history, and the strict use of original sources at every stage of the work, this concluding paragraph seems out of place, even somewhat absurd. Yet it deserves to be quoted, because it demonstrates the nature and thinking of Zionist historiography on the subject of proselytizing. Hirschberg had not the slightest evidence concerning the number, if any, of “born Jews” in the different classes of Himyarite society, nor about the origins of those who clung to the Jewish faith. But the ethnocentric imperative was stronger than his historical training, and demanded that he conclude his work with the “call of the blood.” Otherwise, the readers of this respected scholar’s work might fall into the error of thinking that the Jews of Yemen were descendants of Dhu Nuwas and his hardened nobles, and not of the peaceable Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the purported patriarchs of all the Jews in the world.

        This last paragraph of Sand’s is the crux of his criticism of Israeli Jewish historiography. Its not that the historians don’t know better and can’t elucidate Jewish history, its that they are unable to decouple it from Zionist myths of “one people” and “return from exile” and insist on declaring, despite the historical record to the contrary, that all the square pegs fit perfectly in the smaller round holes.

        Sorry, this was way too long an answer for a place like this, but hopefully it will be of use to someone.

        And as I said before, the Khazars are but a small part of the book, even though the very mention of them seems to drive certain Zionists crazy. Interestingly enough, Koestler, a Zionist Hungarian Jew, thought that by genetically connecting European Jews with an earlier continental kingdom, he was providing an argument against anti-semites who claimed that Jews did not belong in Europe. Of course, now Zionism produces its own home-grown anti-semites who insist that all Jews have an ethnic “homeland” in Israel, apparently oblivious to the fact that if rights to live in a country(or the lack of rights) are determined by where your genetic ancestors lived thousands of years ago, and all Jews trace their ancestry back to Israel, then they only have rights to live there and nowhere else and can just as legitimately be thrown out of everywhere else as they seem to think they can dispossess Palestinians. In other words, some of them are stupid or unthinking enough to legitimize Hitler’s beliefs. Zionism is the new anti-semitism.

      • Woody Tanaka
        June 24, 2011, 3:03 am

        “Shapira says that Sand dismisses the work of other historians in the field while bringing little evidence to support his own argument against theirs.”

        LMAO. Shipira also called the Copenhagen School “extreme.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Ms. Shipira’s scholarship. LOl.

  5. Mooser
    June 22, 2011, 11:54 am

    Someday soon, I hope, all the Jews in America will be singing Elmer’s tune.

    • MRW
      June 22, 2011, 12:44 pm

      They could start by reading the excellent stuff that Brownfeld publishes at the ACJ.

    • patm
      June 22, 2011, 4:49 pm

      Mooser, can you imagine the size of the file at Hasbara Central on Shlomo Sand’s “The Invention of the Jewish People”?

      Look at the masterful way hops was able to pull his materials together. In the twinkling of an eye! HC file keepers are a busy lot, I’m sure.

      I’m looking at my copy of Sand’s book. I will read it again soon.

      • hophmi
        June 23, 2011, 9:55 am

        “Look at the masterful way hops was able to pull his materials together.”

        It’s not hard. One could pull them together simply by going through the links on the book’s website, which misleading quotes negative reviews as if they were positive. It’s like the movies. If Roger Ebert reviews an action movie and writes “Lots of action and big explosions, but the movie is a bore and there is no plot” and the ad says “Lots of action and big explosions!” says Roger Ebert, it’s not accurate or honest.

      • patm
        June 23, 2011, 11:27 am

        hops, you’ve quoted me selectively. You forgot this line: “HC file keepers are a busy lot, I’m sure.”

        I suspect, my hasbarabrat friend, that you’ve never even cracked Sand’s book, let alone read it carefully.

      • hophmi
        June 23, 2011, 12:23 pm

        I’m more than willing to admit that I haven’t read it. But it doesn’t really matter. Anita Shapira did, and she knows the subject better than you or I. You, as far as I know, are not in a position to judge the validity of Sand’s work in the field.

        It’s pretty clear that you like the book because it validates opinions that you held when you read it. That’s the same for virtually everyone here. There’s little other explanation for why everyone in the pro-Palestinian community calls a polemical book “groundbreaking;” they loved it before they did (or in most cases probably didn’t) read it. It’s a certainty that if the book had concluded that if a Jewish state were justified, you and all of your friends would pan it.

        I’m not sure what the relevance of your “HC file keepers” comment was. Wikipedia is not Hasbara Central; anyone, including the pro-Palestinian community which vastly outnumbers the pro-Israel one, can post there. But again, there’s nothing I said that can’t be gleaned from reviewing the links on the book’s own disingenuous website.

      • annie
        June 23, 2011, 1:11 pm

        you like the book because it validates opinions that you held when you read it. That’s the same for virtually everyone here. There’s little other explanation for why everyone in the pro-Palestinian community calls a polemical book “groundbreaking;” they loved it before they did (or in most cases probably didn’t) read it.

        and in another comment Just admit it. You like the book because it validates your opinions

        first of all nobody speaks for “virtually everyone here”. second of all claiming people ‘like something’ because it resonates with them is like like claiming someone likes ice cream because it tastes good.

        i don’t ‘like’ the book, i have not even read it. i’ve heard about it and heard about his theories (which sound logical) but i don’t know enough about history to know if they are correct. but this is irrelevant to me because personally, i don’t think it really matters wrt the ethnic cleansing going on there.

        but here’s the thing hophmi, your same arguments can be made against you. maybe you just do not like the book because it conflicts with your opinions.

        do not lump us all into one pot. regardless of zionism ‘goals’ or ‘ideals’ it has mainly operated as a colonialist project from day one. you know it, i know it, everyone knows it. the expansion has not stopped. it’s zionism that’s used the ‘jewish homeland’ excuse (get that? EXCUSE) to justify this unjustifiable ethnic cleansing all along. it’s you and yours who depend on this group peoplehood thingamagig to justify this ethnic nationalism on land belonging to another ethnic group for all those years. so it doesn’t really matter to me whether sands is right or wrong or whether i ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ the book or even give a crap about the book. it challenges your EXCUSE, an excuse you’ve used and polished and nurtured and coveted and protected because you need it. because without it the mask drops away and everyone sees israel for what it is, colonialism. well guess what? people see that without sands book. so you can pan the book til kingdom come and it won’t make one iota of difference. get it? it is irrelevant to me if some european had a great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great X 100 grandparent who was one of the original hebrews.

        totally irrelevant to me.

        zionism keeps expanding. stop the expansion. homeland shlomland i could give a fuck.

      • hophmi
        June 23, 2011, 1:23 pm

        “homeland shlomland i could give a fuck.”

        I know you feel that way Annie. That’s why you really have no role to play. You care about one side, but not the other. You could give a fuck if there’s a one state solution and lots of Jews get killed in the process, because you show absolutely no recognition that this is a distinct possibility and that after the last century, Jews cannot take those kinds of chances. You could give a fuck about Jewish history, you could give a fuck about the homogeneity of Christian Europe, you could give a fuck about despotism and antisemitism in the Arab world. You could give a fuck, which is why people like me could give a fuck about what you think.

      • Woody Tanaka
        June 23, 2011, 5:00 pm

        “That’s why you really have no role to play. You care about one side, but not the other.”

        And how the hell is that any different from you? You don’t give a shit if the Palestinians are wiped out or spend the rest of their existence as second class citizens or holed up in the Gaza ghetto. You could give a fuck about Arab, Palestinian and Islamic history, about the oppression and theft of their land by European Jews with the aid of European and American guns and money. You could give a fuck about your victims, which is why people like me could give a fuck about you and what you think.

      • Shingo
        June 23, 2011, 6:59 pm

        You could give a fuck if there’s a one state solution and lots of Jews get killed in the process, because you show absolutely no recognition that this is a distinct possibility and that after the last century, Jews cannot take those kinds of chances.

        Good point Hop. Inspite fo the 500 F16’s,200 nukes, 4 subamrines, 5000 tanks etc. there is always the distinct possibility that a palestinian could throw a rock that manages to wipe Israel from the map.

      • tree
        June 24, 2011, 12:48 am

        …you like the book because it validates opinions that you held when you read it. That’s the same for virtually everyone here.

        Look in the mirror, dude. You just spent a post insisting that the Forward author MUST have misunderstood what Schama said in Italian, and MUST have simply read the shortened reviews at the books website, despite the fact that you have no proof of that, and in fact the Forward article discusses reviews not available on the book’s website. In other words just made up a whole bunch of fairy-tale suppositions because you couldn’t refute an article you didn’t agree with, but of course it MUST BE WRONG .

        I read the Forward article. It’s simply not accurate. The article suggests that the only negative reviews came from “American neo-cons.” Anita Shapira is neither American nor a neo-con. Israel Bartal is neither American nor a neo-con.

        Clue for you. Try to improve your reading comprehension. This may help (note the bolded all-caps words). From the Forward article:

        Though the critic in question, British historian Simon Schama, did not offer a reason for this about-face, for anyone following the tempestuous reception of the ENGLISH EDITION of the Israeli scholar’s book, it testified to the possibility of a conscience among his detractors.

        Shapira and Bartal are Israelis. They reviewed the earlier HEBREW edition. The Forward article is comparing the British reviews, mostly positive, with the American reviews, mostly negative, which is the normal thing to do when gauging the reception to the ENGLISH EDITION.

        Here’s another clue from reading the Forward article:

        Schama’s initial review was sincerely surprising, as it broke ideological ranks with the otherwise positive reception “The Invention” had received in the UNITED KINGDOM.

        and, to end this lesson in reading comprehension, in response to this from you

        Not exactly glowing or remotely like what the Forward article suggests.

        May I suggest you re-read this, again from the Forward article:

        (Schama) offered the book QUALIFIED praise, calling it his book of the year.

        “Qualified” and “glowing” are not synonyms, and your short “blurb” is not in and of itself inconsistent with “qualified praise”. I see no reason to think that the Forward article is “inaccurate” as you claim and plenty to believe that your arguments are invalid.

  6. clenchner
    June 22, 2011, 12:18 pm

    What about the Bundists? A group of anti-religious, fiercely anti-Zionist communist activists who organized around a transnational Jewish identity. Are they guilty of this original sin as well?

    • Mooser
      June 22, 2011, 1:05 pm

      “What about the Bundists?”

      Look, Clench, if you want to drive a tank for the Bundists, I’m sure nobody will stand in your way.

    • Shmuel
      June 22, 2011, 4:07 pm

      Clenchner,

      Were the Bundists really transnational in the sense of “Jewish peoplehood”? Or was it more of an Eastern-European, Yiddish-speaking cultural nationalism?

      I was actually wondering about pre-modern concepts such as “knesset yisra’el” or “klal yisra’el” – which Solomon Schechter translated “Catholic Israel”, and which have very little to do with modern nationalism. The founder of Jewish Reconstructionism, Mordecai M. Kaplan, although a Zionist (a very very liberal one by today’s standards), viewed Schechter’s “Catholic Israel” (which he called “Jewish peoplehood”) as subsuming “Palestinian Jews” and their nationalist project, but by no means saw them as its focal point.

      • clenchner
        June 22, 2011, 8:19 pm

        That’s the direction I was hinting at. There are ways of making Jewish peoplehood into something closely linked to 19th Century European nationalism. But… alternatives exist that celebrate peoplehood, along with regional and other distinctions.
        I see the drive among North American Jews to address the plight of Ethiopian Jews in the 70s, or the mini campaign that exists to address a very small community of Ugandan Jews, and think that (pushing Zionism aside for a moment) there is something quite nice about Jewish peoplehood. Part of my motivation for wanting to end/resolve the I/P situation is so that the main energies of that national project can be diverted to more worthwhile efforts.
        A-la Bey, one could argue that Jewish peoplehood is a kind of situationist conspiracy to be a permanent bone in the throat of any state, any nationality, any kind of top down power structure. it’s a stretch, I know.

      • RoHa
        June 22, 2011, 10:06 pm

        I don’t get the “celebrating peoplehood” idea. What’s to celebrate?

        The most sensible comment on “peoplehood” I have heard was on a TV program about a small group in Northern Pakistan. An interviewer asked a man “Are you proud of being a Brahui?”

        He replied, “Why would I be? Everybody’s something.”

  7. seafoid
    June 22, 2011, 12:34 pm

    “The Hebrew renaissance offers a painful choice to Jews. They can live in the diaspora, often facing isolation, persecution and ambivalent identities, or they can return to their ancient land and face perils, but with a chance for honorable self-fulfillment and an end to wandering…”

    Yitzhaq Ben-Ami, father of Jeremy Ben-Ami, on page 544 of his book.
    Years of Wrath, Days of Glory.

    And what a crock of fulfilment through oppression and hatred Israel turned out to be.

  8. MRW
    June 22, 2011, 12:45 pm

    I hope Jack’s giving this stump speech in Miami and Vegas.

  9. Les
    June 22, 2011, 12:54 pm

    Is it not the case that for many American Jews, their recently discovered oppostion to Israel’s occupation and ethnic cleansing is part of a restoration of their Jewish identity?

  10. Mooser
    June 22, 2011, 1:16 pm

    Let’s get serious. You take the number of Jews kicked out by the Romans or whoever in the Diaspora from the Holy Land. And then you take the number of Jews, oh, just in Europe and Asia around, say 1800-1900, up til the mass murder of the Holocaust. And they did this, turning up in pretty good numbers all over, and sharing a lot of characteristics with the local population, with only a bare minimum of conversions, no whole sale proselytising, and only a little intermarriage. Wow!
    Just show how phony Israel fears of Palestinian demographics are. That has to be the biggest population increase in history.

    • hophmi
      June 22, 2011, 1:37 pm

      Let’s get serious. Plenty of people have studied this subject. Sand’s thesis is not new. It is also not widely accepted. It is also widely panned by scholars in the field. It is also scientifically contradicted by DNA studies suggesting that Jews originated in the Middle East.

      I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. This is your movement. You have plenty of reasonable arguments. Why you insist on embracing things like this and discrediting yourselves is beyond me. It serves no purpose, except to fit all of you with an agenda that is antisemitic, not pro-Palestinian. Not only that, but by promoting literature that denies any Jewish connection with the land, you strongly suggest that your vision of “one democratic state” is aligned with those extremists who want a Palestinian state without Jews. This kind of thing suggests that the left will do what it has done for a long time – excuse antisemitism in the Islamic world, and at times, openly validate it.

      • American
        June 22, 2011, 6:23 pm

        “It is also scientifically contradicted by DNA studies suggesting that Jews originated in the Middle East.”‘

        O.K….so Jews originated in the ME……that gives you the choice of claiming to be descended from the European Neanderthals or the African Homo Sapiens..because those are the only ancient skulls discovered in the ME…..so which do you want to be?

        And if you want to claim the Jews were original inhabitants of Palestine you would have to choose Neanderthals as your ancestors because their skulls date back further than the homo sapiens skulls.

        The whole DNA thing is misleading because everyone can be linked back to the Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens that eventually replaced them…..in fact Nat Geo had a project some time back where you could pay to have your DNA analyzed as to what region and whether you originated from hunter or gather tribes.
        Jewish DNA in any exclusive sense today is related to inbreeding over a period of time for religious reasons more than anything else. Inbreeding and the inability to draw from larger and more diverse mating pools is why certain groups have genetic diseases that only show up in their group like Tay- Sacks, which shows up only in Jews and no one else.

      • tree
        June 22, 2011, 8:56 pm

        Inbreeding and the inability to draw from larger and more diverse mating pools is why certain groups have genetic diseases that only show up in their group like Tay- Sacks, which shows up only in Jews and no one else.

        Correction here: Tay-Sachs is just as prevalent among French Canadians as it is among Ashkenazi Jews( Sephardic Jews don’t suffer from Tay-Sachs.) Its also prevalent among Cajuns in the Louisiana area. In all cases, being an autosomal recessive disorder, it is linked to genetic isolation and endogamy in small populations.

        link to en.wikipedia.org

      • Shingo
        June 22, 2011, 9:46 pm

        Wow, you’re really kicking butt today Tree, though if truth be said, Hophmi is a soft target.

        Great work.

      • American
        June 23, 2011, 2:04 pm

        Interesting, I didn’t know there were two other pockets of Tay-Sacks…but I suppose there are still groups of inbreeding out there in certain areas, strange as it seems in modern times.

      • Robert Werdine
        June 22, 2011, 8:03 pm

        Bravo, Hophmi.

      • Shingo
        June 22, 2011, 9:47 pm

        Double bravo Tree for eviscerating Hophmi’s BS.

      • hophmi
        June 23, 2011, 9:56 am

        Triple Bravo Shingo for being a transparent shill for the pro-Palestinian point of view, no matter how ridiculous he looks doing it.

      • Shingo
        June 23, 2011, 7:06 pm

        Quadruple Bravo Hophmi, for providing linsk that refute the argument he was tryign to make, while providing much needed comic relief on this forum.

      • Shingo
        June 22, 2011, 9:45 pm

        . Sand’s thesis is not new. It is also not widely accepted. It is also widely panned by scholars in the field. It is also scientifically contradicted by
        DNA studies suggesting that Jews originated in the Middle East.

        True, false, false, false, and false.

        1. it is true that it is not new
        2. Sand’s book was a best seller in Israel
        3. It is panned by a handful of scholars. Hophmi only cited 2.
        4. Hophmi’s own wiki links stated that it is not contradicted by DNA studies.

      • hophmi
        June 23, 2011, 9:59 am

        1. It is widely panned.
        2. Best-seller means that people bought the book, not that it’s reliable or accurate. Sarah Palin writes best-selling books too.
        3. I cited the two who wrote the most in-depth reviews and are qualified in the field.
        4. Sand’s thesis that most Ashkenazi Jews came from the Khazars is mostly contradicted by DNA evidence, and the theory is an old conspiracy theory to begin with, much favored in the neo-Nazi community.

      • Shingo
        June 23, 2011, 7:05 pm

        1. You cited 2 scholars that panned it and tried to argue that this represented the majority of opinion because the half dozen to praised the book are not to your liking.
        2. Best-seller means that book has stirred interests among the population, and wide agreement. That might explain why Mein Kampf is nota big seller in Israel.
        3. You claimed that the book has been widely rejected in acadmis circles, even though there are far more scholars listed here than paised it.
        4. According to the link you wourself provided, Sand’s thesis that most Ashkenazi Jews came from the Khazars WAS no contradicted by DNA evidence.

        It’s pitty you didn’t bother to read your own link before emabrassing yourself.

        BTW. I believe that the neo-Nazi community also agrees the earth is round.

      • hophmi
        June 24, 2011, 7:35 am

        Once again, genetic studies refute Sand’s thesis.

        link to nytimes.com

        “The two genome surveys extend earlier studies based just on the Y chromosome, the genetic element carried by all men. They refute the suggestion made last year by the historian Shlomo Sand in his book “The Invention of the Jewish People” that Jews have no common origin but are a miscellany of people in Europe and Central Asia who converted to Judaism at various times.”

      • Shmuel
        June 24, 2011, 8:43 am

        Once again, genetic studies refute Sand’s thesis.

        Geneticist Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh (Yale, Duke), in chapter three of his book, Sharing the Land of Canaan (“Biology and Ideology”), explains that such studies generally fail to adequately examine genetic similarities between Ashkenazi Jews and Turkic/East-European populations. Markers present in “Middle Eastern” populations are generally present in Turkic or East European populations as well. Iraqi Jews could thus have the same markers as say German Jews, but from different sources – Iraqi Jews from their genetic similarity to Arabs, and German Jews from their genetic similarity to Turkic or East-European populations. An Italian study (Poloni et al., 1997) that did take such factors into account showed Ashkenazi samples to be closer to Turkic than to Sephardic samples.

        Prof Qumsiyeh also writes:

        In any event, the dispossession of the native Palestinians by Ashkenazi immigrants from Europe cannot be justified by population genetics. After all, one woud have to be blind to the basic elements of justice to allow the dispossession of people who are native in every sense of the word and whose ancestors farmed the land for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Further, it is even more unacceptable for natives to be dispossessed to favor members of a particular religion and converts to that religion, but not converts from that religion to other religions. To use genetics, however accurate or deceptive, to justify an ingathering of people of the Jewish faith while denying Palestinian people the right to their homes and lands is a travesty. Genetics and eugenics [discussed earlier in the chapter – shmuel] have been used in many other instances to support unjustifiable acts of oppression and human rights violations. We should learn the lessons of history.

      • Shingo
        June 24, 2011, 8:43 am

        Once again, genetic studies refute Sand’s thesis.

        It depends on who you ask.

        link to blogs.discovermagazine.com

        link to ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

    • Les
      June 22, 2011, 2:06 pm

      The Romans did not drive out the Jews. This is a widely held myth refuted by Shlomo Sands in his “The Invention of the Jewish People.”

      • Shmuel
        June 22, 2011, 2:19 pm

        The Romans did not drive out the Jews. This is a widely held myth refuted by Shlomo Sands in his “The Invention of the Jewish People.”

        And Jerry Haber: link to jeremiahhaber.com

    • Mooser
      June 22, 2011, 3:17 pm

      Hophmi, you seem to have me mixed up with this schlomo Sands guy. I am not him, he is not me.
      But I understand, you are a Zionist, and all Jews look alike to you.

      • Mooser
        June 22, 2011, 3:22 pm

        Oh, I see, he seems to have us all mixed up with Schlomo Sands. He must be one hell of a guy, if he scares Hophmi this much.

        In any case, what an amazing accomplishment for the Jews, kicked from pillar to post all over Europe and Asia, persecuted, never converting anybody, and never intermarrying, all so they could keep their deed to Palestine, to be cashed in at a later date. And with all that to worry about, they still managed to have this amazing population increase! And taking on local characteristics was sheer genius! Obviously a much greater knowledge of genetics among the Rabbis than they were willing to let on.

      • hophmi
        June 22, 2011, 4:11 pm

        “Oh, I see, he seems to have us all mixed up with Schlomo Sands. He must be one hell of a guy, if he scares Hophmi this much.”

        Doesn’t scare me. I just think that anyone who says his book is “groundbreaking” is self-discrediting.

        And Les: Just about every reviewer has noted that the idea that the Romans “drove out the Jews” is NOT a widely-held myth.

        Simon Schama:
        “[I]t is a long time since any serious historian argued that following the destruction of the Second Temple, the Romans emptied Judea. But what the Romans did do, following the Jewish revolt of AD66-70 and even more exhaustively after a second rebellion in AD135, was every bit as traumatic: an act of cultural and social annihilation – mass slaughter and widespread enslavement.
        But there was also the mass extirpation of everything that constituted Jewish religion and culture; the renaming of Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina, the obliteration of the Temple, the prohibition on rituals and prayers. . .”

        The point is that Sand is largely responding to a straw man, not actual arguments.

      • seafoid
        June 22, 2011, 4:34 pm

        The Zionist history is so naive. Like there was this massive clear out sale in Palestine in AD70 where the Romans said everyone must go and they all left and the next Monday it was totally empty and the site was vacant until 635 when the Arabs came .

        Under this approach to history Turkey was empty until the Seljuks arrived. But there was no roman expulsion. so where did the Byzantines go? They are the Turks. The people stayed. They just converted, did whatever they had to. The Palestinians are also the ones who never left. Jewish, Christian, Muslim, whatever you had to be.

        These people on the other hand, are Europeans

        link to myrightword.blogspot.com

      • Les
        June 22, 2011, 6:12 pm

        You may be right that the idea that the Romans “drove out the Jews” is a NARROWLY held myth.

      • tree
        June 22, 2011, 9:15 pm

        Sand’s response to Schama is worth noting:

        Although most Zionist thought was ethnocentric and in some cases even defined Judaism in racial terms, I insisted in my book that Zionist thinkers had not thought in terms of a pure race and had no intentions of “purifying” it. After all, the Jewish religion would not have permitted such a conception (see pp. 265-6). Zionism did however reconfigure the many and diverse Jewish communities into an “ethnic” people in which most of its members were to be seen as the descendants of the ancient Hebrews. As is well-known, a religious community cannot possess historical ownership rights over a land, whereas a people can. Thus the famous Zionist motto, “A people without a land for a land without a people”. Thus also the evolution of the profoundly rooted myth concerning the “Exile of Jewish people” by the Romans in the first years of the first millennium. It is indeed true that specialists of Jewish antiquity knew that the Exile had never taken place, yet up to and including the present day, most ordinary Israelis are convinced that it did indeed occur – after all, it’s inscribed in the “Declaration of Independence of Israel” and even on Israeli money bills.

        Schama’s remark regarding the question of the Khazars is even more problematic. It is not surprising that the young Schama had heard about the Khazars and I did not argue that I, or before me Arthur Koestler, had discovered the issue. I repeatedly emphasize in my book that, up until the 1960s, the best historians in the world, including Zionists, wrote extensively on the Kingdom of Khazaria. Moreover, almost everyone – from the Jewish-American historian Salo Baron to Ben-Zion Dinur, the father of Israeli historiography and minister of education in Israel in the 1950s – explained the widespread Jewish presence in Eastern Europe by way of the Khazar immigration thesis (the Zionists added to this the absurd assumption that Palestine was the origin of the Jews in Khazaria). The problem is that ever since Abraham Pollack, the founder of the history department at Tel Aviv University, conducted his wide-ranging research, no serious work concerning the origins of the demographic weight of Yiddish-speaking Jews has been carried out. Maybe this is also the reason that Schama is the only historian who claims that the Kingdom of Khazaria converted to Judaism in the 10th century and not in the 8th.

        And if we want to turn to questions of historical accuracy, Schama’s statement that the “mass extirpation of everything that constituted Jewish religion and culture” in Judea after the two religious revolts at the beginning of our era is very odd: The Mishna, the greatest Jewish work after the Bible, was completed in 200 A.D – not long after those revolts. It is also quite peculiar that a serious historian should assume that in the 9th century B.C there was a “developed nation-state” in the Middle-East. Perhaps we are to imagine the existence of a flourishing print industry, book market and compulsory education during that period, thereby forging ancient Israel into a nation-state?

        link to inventionofthejewishpeople.com

        The real point is that Hophmi is largely responding to a straw man, not to Sand’s actual arguments.

      • Shingo
        June 22, 2011, 9:41 pm

        The real point is that Hophmi is largely responding to a straw man, not to Sand’s actual arguments.

        The same could be said for Schama.

        Excellent post tree. Sand looks even better.

      • hophmi
        June 23, 2011, 10:03 am

        Again, it’s a straw man. No serious historian claims that all Jews were exiled from the Roman Empire. It is destruction of Jewish culture and the enslavement of much of the remaining Jewish population that is relevant.

        But I’m sure we’ll continue going back and forth on this, with Shingo playing the predictable role of validating anything anybody says as long as it’s anti-Israel and anti-Jewish.

      • MHughes976
        June 23, 2011, 6:03 pm

        There was no extirpation, mass enslavement of Jews or elimination of Jewish culture. The fiscus iudaicus itself, a great source of resentment, presupposes the existence of a free, tax-paying Jewish population.
        There certainly was an expulsion from Jerusalem and some other major centres. It may be asked how wide was the exclusion zone around Jerusalem – I would have thought that Jerome’s description of Jews who were not rich men gathering for the annual ceremony of mourning indicates that it was not that wide. But as Jerusalem became pagan Jewish life began to centre on Galilee, where the Patriarchate was found. The Jewish Patriarch is mentioned as ‘illustrious’ in later Roman legislation and that isn’t a designation that would be applied to the leader of a band of slaves.
        Barbara Geller in the Oxford History of the Biblical World (I’m sorry to keep mentioning this book) refers to the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity and mentions how this led to ‘challenges posed by the existence of communities of Jewish citizens located on three continents and a tradition that, since the days of Caesar, had accepted Judaism as a legal religion’.
        Sand isn’t way out, he’s just unusually blunt.
        He may still be wrong on some points, of course. For my part I’m not sure that the idea of ‘nation’ is as alien to the very ancient BCE world as he would think.

      • Shingo
        June 23, 2011, 6:49 pm

         But I’m sure we’ll continue going back and forth on this, with Shingo playing the predictable role of validating anything anybody says as long as it’s anti-Israel and anti-Jewish.

        And Hop will use Judaism, like a brat hiding behind his mother’s skirt as soils himself in public, producing links that turn out to undermine his own arguments.

        At least he provides comic relief.

  11. MHughes976
    June 22, 2011, 1:20 pm

    Is there (forgive ignorance) some logical relationship between Jewish religion in the Reform version and reduced commitment to Zionism? Is Reform Judaism associated with critical or sceptical views of the biblical record? Do Jewish people of Reform inclination tend to share Sand’s views?

  12. David Green
    June 22, 2011, 1:29 pm

    “Who knows better must say so” serves as a decent introduction to countering propaganda about Arab Jews expulsion, especially Iraq. Sand’s book, along with Idith Zertal’s “Israel’s Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood” are essential background for understanding Zionist formation and use of historical memory. And something to keep in mind in relation, for example, to Deborah Lipstadt’s criticism of Hannah Arendt.

    Nevertheless, it’s important to note that Berger did not depart from notions of “national interest” that plague the current critique of the Lobby, in my view. The Kermit Roosevelt connection testifies to that. Criticism of Zionism did not mitigate support for the Cold War, and its most blatant interventions.

    • Elliot
      June 22, 2011, 4:25 pm

      David, thank you for your erudite comment.
      Criticism of Zionism did not mitigate support for the Cold War, and its most blatant interventions.
      Right. Unlike today’s anti-Zionists there was no connection between anti-Zionism and anti-Imperialism. Berger’s was not Hannah Arendt’s critique of Zionism. See my post above.

  13. mudder
    June 22, 2011, 1:29 pm

    So Ross is “predicting the near-times collapse of the Israel lobby”? Nice thought–but I’m skeptical. I’m reminded that AIPAC-critic M.J. Rosenberg posted in TPMCafe this past November 16 a piece entitled “AIPAC On The Brink: And Not One Word In MSM” saying that “AIPAC is in big trouble” and “Congress may soon be singing ‘Free at last…'”

  14. lysias
    June 22, 2011, 2:50 pm

    Speaking of hysteria, you’ll really see hysteria from the Israel-first posters on Daily Kos if you bring up Sand’s book.

    • MHughes976
      June 22, 2011, 4:41 pm

      Lester Grabbe’s ‘Ancient Israel: What do we know and how do we know it?’deserves a look by those interested in Sand – and a comparison with the rather more conservative ‘Oxford History of the Biblical World’ is also useful. It is pretty clear how close Sand is to mainstream scholarship and it’s no wonder that many reviewers make use, as mentioned by lysias, of the ‘we knew this already (but for some reason didn’t say)’ theme.
      As for explusion, the OHBW suggests as well as I remember that in the aftermath of the Jewish Wars and Roman repression (against terrorists, as Josephus would have us think in some cases) the centre of Jewish life shifted to Galilee. Jerome reports that several poor Jewish people entered Jerusalem for an annual ceremony of mourning. Not being rich they could not have journeyed far, so there must still have been a Jewish population not far even from Jerusalem as late as the fourth century. Jerome, living in Palestine, was known to consult Jewish scholars about the Hebrew Bible – though this could be dangerous, since Christian teachers (says Augustine) who showed too much respect for Jewish scholarship could find their congregations walk out – so these scholars and their own congregations must have lived within his reach.

      • MHughes976
        June 25, 2011, 11:20 am

        Just to mention that there are some interesting things on the Haaretz site if you search for ‘archaeology’ including an article by Nir Hasson (June 25th, 2011) which brings us up to date.

  15. Richard Witty
    June 22, 2011, 4:36 pm

    The most that the Sand book can be said to counter is of a specific interpretation of what “Jewish people” means.

    The link that comprises a current sentimental theme and with an historical chain as well, describe a Jewish people.

    Sectors of the Jewish people have broken off, disappeared over history, MANY times.

    Maybe one can say that current Jews are not the complete Jewish people, or that they adopt disparate even contradictory reasoning.

    But, we live and continue to.

    Nation comprised of ideology, versus nation comprised of actuality (communities of communities) is a good theme of inquiry.

    From the blurb from Jack’s text, I didn’t get the specific views of Elmer Berger.

    What exactly was he saying?

    • annie
      June 22, 2011, 5:44 pm

      The most that the Sand book can be said to counter is of a specific interpretation of what “Jewish people” means.

      did you read the book? it is my understanding sands deals w/a standard interpretation of peoplehood in general and applies that same definition to jews. caveat, i have not read the book.

      • tree
        June 22, 2011, 9:00 pm

        Trust me on this, Witty has not read the book. it never stops him from sharing his uninformed opinion on things.

      • hophmi
        June 23, 2011, 12:26 pm

        And I’m assuming, Tree, that you are an expert in the field, and thus can evaluate whether Sand’s methodology is sound, whether his conclusions have merit, and whether he uses facts in an honest way.

        Why is your opinion more valuable than respected scholars like Shapira, Bartal, and Schama?

        Just admit it. You like the book because it validates your opinions, not because it’s a valid piece of scholarship.

      • Shingo
        June 23, 2011, 6:01 pm

         Why is your opinion more valuable than respected scholars like Shapira, Bartal, and Schama?

        Schama did a 180 degree flip flop and neither Shapira or Bartal challenged Sands methodology.

         Just admit it. You like the book because it validates your opinions, not because it’s a valid piece of scholarship

        Just admit it. You hate the book because it debunks your opinions and your Hasbara. 

      • tree
        June 24, 2011, 12:26 pm

        I am not an “expert” in the field but it is not necessary to be one to understand that his methodology is not controversial or invalid. Nor does one have to be an “expert in the field” to understand that Shapira is setting up strawmen in her review. See my “short version” that highlights a very select few of her “points” in her review.

        I see that all you have left is a one-sided appeal to authority in your attack on a book that you haven’t read. Why is your uninformed opinion more valuable than respected scholars like Hobsbawm or Segev or Carlo Strenger or even Schama for that matter when he calls it one of his choices for “book of the year”?

        I am not posting here because I “like the book”. I am posting here because I find trashing a book that you haven’t even bothered to read with cherry picked and uninformed criticisms(like the idea that the book is mainly about the Khazars, which it isn’t, or that DNA studies disprove his point, which they don’t) to be completely unintelligent and frankly just dishonest. Admit it. You’re simply doing your knee-jerk reaction here yet again. Its completely tiresome on your part.

      • hophmi
        June 24, 2011, 2:19 pm

        “I am not an “expert” in the field but it is not necessary to be one to understand that his methodology is not controversial or invalid.”

        I’m looking into the reviews quoted on the book’s website. It’s absolutely amazing how disingenuous the website’s quotes are.

        Newsweek on Sand’s website:

        ““Shlomo Sand, historian and author of The Invention of the Jewish People—much reviewed and rebutted, and recently translated into English—is provoking the international community by arguing that Jews have never been genetically or otherwise ‘a people’ … Sand’s larger point, that Israel needs to become more like other Western democracies and less obsessed with ethnic purity, is welcome.””

        Newsweek:

        “Shlomo Sand, historian and author of The Invention of the Jewish People—much reviewed and rebutted, and recently translated into English—is provoking the international community by arguing that Jews have never been genetically or otherwise “a people.” As evidence, he posits that the Khazars, a medieval kingdom of converts to Judaism, are actually the ancestors of most Eastern European Jews. (Entine calls this argument “illiterate.”) . . .

        “Sand’s larger point, that Israel needs to become more like other Western democracies and less obsessed with ethnic purity, is welcome; the genetic argument simply doesn’t get him there.”

        link to newsweek.com

        Sand’s website from the NY Times:

        ““The translated version of his polemic has sparked a new wave of coverage in Britain and has provoked spirited debates … The book has been extravagantly denounced and praised.”

        From the actual article:

        “Mixing respected scholarship with dubious theories, the author, Shlomo Sand, a professor at Tel Aviv University, frames the narrative as a startling exposure of suppressed historical facts. The translated version of his polemic has sparked a new wave of coverage in Britain and has provoked spirited debates online and in seminar rooms. . .

        “By now, experts who specialize in the subject have repeatedly rejected the theory [that the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe], concluding that the shards of evidence are inconclusive or misleading, said Michael Terry, the chief librarian of the Jewish division of the New York Public Library.”

        Eric Hobsbawm, it should be noted, did not actually review Sand’s book. He wrote one sentence on it in the Observer.

        Sand’s quoting of Max Hastings is closer to accurate, though Hastings criticized the book for “display[ing] a lack of compassion for the Jewish predicament.”

        link to entertainment.timesonline.co.uk

        Sand’s website on the Guardian review:

        ““I am one of many Jews who would agree with Sand that a decisive factor in the future of Israel will be its capacity to be far more attentive to the narratives and rights of its Palestinian and other non-Jewish citizens.”

        The actual review, starting right after this sentence:

        “But the book is a great disappointment. Its sweeping attempt to take apart the entire history of the Jewish people from its origins to present day Israel and prove it to be a wilful fabrication is marred by tendentious premises, the misreading of key events and the ignoring of central texts and institutions. . .

        “The flaws in Sand’s argument are both historical and conceptual. The idea of exile, he suggests, was adopted from the Christian view that the Jews were punished with dispersion for the crime of killing Jesus. But this makes no sense. The paradigm of exile and return is found in the Bible in Deuteronomy and Jeremiah in relation to the destruction of the first temple by the Babylonians in 576BCE. It is thus part of the Jewish narrative centuries before Christianity. Further, contrary to what Sand maintains, serious historians of the period consider that the Romans did indeed kill or sell as slaves very many thousands of Jews. The rest of the population was banned from access to Jerusalem, which was renamed Aelia Capitolina. This would surely engender a sense of exile in any people.

        What is indisputable is that early Jewish communities grew through conversion. But Sand’s key thesis, that the bulk of modern eastern European Jewry owes its origins to the converted kingdom of the Khazars, has been widely debated, and rejected, especially in the wake of Arthur Koestler’s famous book on the subject. Sand’s allegation that this whole episode was hushed up because it vitiated the Zionist notion of Jewish ethnobiological continuity, cannot be maintained.

        Equally important is what Sand fails to discuss. To vast numbers of Jews, arguments about racial origins are both ugly and, more importantly, irrelevant. Instead, Jewish continuity is premised on religious factors, including observance of the Torah, the study of the Talmud, the creation of communities, the life of the synagogue and the bonds of the liturgy. These are what form the vital links between generations of Jews. To examine Jewish history almost without reference to its religious life and literature is like attempting to discuss Islam without mentioning the Hadith, the Shariya or the role of the Muslim community. Whereas Sand is quite right that Jewish life has always reflected local cultures, his claim “that there had never been a Jewish people’s culture” cannot be taken seriously.

        Sand virtually ignores persecution and antisemitism as contributory factors in forming Jewish narratives, just as he omits the role of hostility towards it in fashioning Israeli attitudes later.”

        Sand quotes the Observer’s Rafael Behr. This is not a review either, but an interview piece on Sand.

        Sand’s website on the Independent: “A string of firecrackers.”

        The Independent’s review is mildly positive, but here is the full context:

        “His hostile critics react as if it were a deadly bomb, a kind of literary-political terrorist attack. Actually, The Invention of the Jewish People is less a single detonation than a string of firecrackers, erupting or just fizzling in uncertain succession.”

        Later on:

        “most elements in Sand’s counter-narrative are less new than he makes them sound. His key analytical move, to insist on ideas of nationhood as invariably modern, largely top-down inventions rather than ancient ethnic inheritances, is in numerous other contexts not only already old hat but, under the assault of many specialist historians, a slightly battered hat too.

        His account of modern arguments over whether ancient Israel ever existed in anything like the biblical stories’ depiction is pretty sketchy, and makes those debates sound far simpler than they have really been. He writes as if the sceptical or “minimalist” side has decisively won that intellectual war. A more open-minded reading would suggest, so far, a draw. His arguments about mass conversion, the Khazars and so on, all have many precursors, and equally many long-established critics. Very few serious scholars in recent times have believed in “the Jews” as a single ethno-biological people or “race”. ”

        link to independent.co.uk

        Sand’s website on the blurb in the Times Literary supplement:

        ““It is certainly one of the bravest [books of the year].”

        Again, no actual review; a simple one paragraph blurb written by a Marxist literary theorist with no knowledge of the actual subject matter.

        link to entertainment.timesonline.co.uk

        The next one is from a blurb in the Independent written by Lisa Hilton in a much longer article on the Best History Books of 2009. Hilton is an historian – of French and English royal families.

        Sand’s excerpting of the review from the Monthly Review Zine is basically accurate. Of course, Monthly Review maintains an “Israeli Occupation Archive” on the front page of its website, and the reviewer, Bertell Ollman is a professor – of Marxist theory, not of history or the Middle East or religion. He’s apparently known for He did design a Marxist board game called “Class Struggle.” Fun for you and your friends.

        Sand’s website next quotes a review from “The National.” The National is a magazine based in the United Arab Emirates. Whatever Sand quotes from doesn’t seem to be there anymore, but an interview with Jonathan Cook, a longtime pro-Palestinian activist journalist, is.

        After quoting Cook’s review on Al-Jazeera, Sand’s website moves on to a review from “Colorlines.” It’s written by Alec Dubro, who takes Sand’s assertions as fact. Dubro is a journalist and mostly writes on racial issues.

        The next review on Sand’s website is Simon Schama. We’ve discussed that already; it was overwhelmingly negative.

        The next one is from the Palestine Chronicle. It’s predictably positive.

        The next one is from Pulse Media, and actually is from a Scottish literary journal called “The Drouth.”

        It is a positive review.

        Finally, Sand’s website on the review from Dissent Magazine:

        “The book’s subject—the interplay between citizenship, biology, religion, and other forms of imagined identity—is one of fundamental importance not only to Israelis and Palestinians but also to the citizens of every modern state.”

        The actual review:

        “I do not think this willingness to divorce moral certainty from a
        commitment to knowledge can lead to either ethical or historical justice (I leave open the difficult question of what such justice might be). We seem caught in an epistemological Catch-22: everyone wants to speak in the name of historical truth, but few believe in the tools by which that truth is claimed. History therefore proceeds as vilification, each side attempting to associate the other with unquestionable evil: the Zionist
        can only be a Nazi racist, the anti-Zionist a Nazi sympathizer,
        Holocaust denier, and anti-Semite. This must be why The Invention of the Jewish People makes no attempt to think critically about the questions it raises, preferring to offer readers familiar fantasies to facilitate their projections. This is a shame, because the book’s subject—the interplay between citizenship, biology, religion, and other forms of imagined identity—is one of fundamental importance not only to Israelis and Palestinians but also to the citizens of every modern state, for these remain the tools by which all nations maintain their cohesion.”

        Again, what is posited on Sand’s website as a positive review is in fact the opposite.

        So out of the 18 blurbs on Sand’s website, there are 9 actual reviews. Most are negative. The positives come from Jonathan Cook, a longtime pro-Palestinian activist and Alec Dubro, a writer on racial issues for the Nation. Other positive blurbs (which are not review) also largely come from pro-Palestinian activists or fellow Marxists writing from a political point of view.

        The website is so deliberately disingenuous in its quoting of the reviews in the Times, Guardian, the Financial Times, Newsweek, and Dissent, that it’s a wonder you could believe anything the author says, anyone who claims that the book received an overwhelmingly positive reception in Britain, or anyone who refers to the book in superlatives of any kind. The only British newspaper that appears to have reviewed it positively is the Independent, and the rest of the British “reviews” are in actually one paragraph blurbs.

        Add these negative reviews to those of actual scholars in the field like Shapira, Bartal, and you have a book that is widely-panned by most who actually examined it critically and praised only by those who agree with its politics, and are thus apparently willing to believe everything in it anyway.

      • Shingo
        June 24, 2011, 10:44 pm

        I’m looking into the reviews quoted on the book’s website. It’s absolutely amazing how disingenuous the website’s quotes are.

        Not nearly as amazing as the pethic straw men that critics of the book have cited.

        To summarize, the critcism come down to these:

        1. Sand contradicts accepted history. Well duh, that’s precisely what his stated aim is.
        2. Sand does not take into account what the destruction by Rome meant to the Jewish population. But Sand is not interested in what the Jewish narrative is. He simply states that Jews did remain in Palestine after Rome vanquished Jerusalem, and that this population converntd to Christianity and Islam. It irrelevant that the Jewish narrative falsely interpreted these events as an exile.
        3. Some experts disagree with Sand. No shit. Plenty agree with him.
        4. Sand shows a disaregard for the plight of the Jews. Again, so what? Facts are facts and shoudl never be colored by sentiment.
        5. Sand’s thesis is ugly and offensive to Jews. Too bad. If Zionists hadn;t fabricated their claim to Israle onb the basis of lineage, there wouldbe no argument.
        6. They repeat the argument that Sand’s theis is not new.
        7. His argument contradict the Bible. And that’s supposed to be an argument?
        8. That it doesn’t matter if the facts suport accepted history or not, what matters is that Jews believe it.
        9. Anyone who agrees with Sand is pro Palestinian, or a Marxist.
        10. Schama retracted his criticism of the book, much as you refuse to accept reality.
        11. You dismiss the positive reviews and not being reviews.
        12. Shapira has alrady been exposed a nut job. Bartal has an agenda.

      • tree
        June 25, 2011, 12:37 am

        Hophmi,

        You quoted me at the top of your long comment and then proceeded to ignore everything I said and went off on a tangent about why you think the book’s website was cherry picking quotes, something you apparently think is just fine and dandy when you do it but worthy of wasting large amounts of bandwidth when you think you’ve caught someone else at it, or think you can at least divert the discussion there.

        Again, all you have is a lop-sided appeal to authority since you do not recognize any authority that disagrees with your take on things. (Try figuring out why you do that.)

        I quoted directly from Shapira’s criticism and the corresponding passage from Sand’s book in order to show that her criticism’s were not honest nor valid. Your argument seems to be that no one need read any book unless they are “experts in the field” and that only such “experts” can determine the validity of an argument. That is ridiculous. You have no other argument to give obviously, because you are purposely clueless about what is in the book and so it is you who can not independently judge the merits of the criticisms because you are relying solely on the reviews to determine what was said in the book and have no proper comparison. I’d expect better logic from a lawyer, but then maybe you are just pounding the table here yet again. You’d think your fists would be quite sore by now.

      • hophmi
        June 27, 2011, 9:00 am

        “12. Shapira has alrady been exposed a nut job. Bartal has an agenda.”

        By who? Oh, I forgot, if you don’t agree with her, she’s a nutjob. And of course, you don’t have any agenda.

        “11. You dismiss the positive reviews and not being reviews.”

        A one-paragraph blurb is not a review.

        “10. Schama retracted his criticism of the book, much as you refuse to accept reality.”

        I posted what I could find of Schama’s article in the Italian newspaper. It is not in any sense a retraction. If you’re willing to say that Goldstone’s Washington Post op-ed is a retraction, I’ll say that Schama’s article was a retraction.

        “9. Anyone who agrees with Sand is pro Palestinian, or a Marxist.”

        Hey, the truth hurts. It happens to be true. But political extremists supporting their own is an old story.

        ‘8. That it doesn’t matter if the facts suport accepted history or not, what matters is that Jews believe it.”

        Eh?

        “7. His argument contradict the Bible. And that’s supposed to be an argument?”

        I’m not aware of anyone who wrote criticism based on this point.

        “6. They repeat the argument that Sand’s theis is not new.”

        Sand’s facts are not new. Neither is his argument. That’s why calling his book “groundbreaking” is silly.

        “5. Sand’s thesis is ugly and offensive to Jews. Too bad. If Zionists hadn;t fabricated their claim to Israle onb the basis of lineage, there wouldbe no argument.”

        I know you love it when things are offensive to Jews.

        “4. Sand shows a disaregard for the plight of the Jews. Again, so what? Facts are facts and shoudl never be colored by sentiment.”

        Well, historians are supposed to consider context when they write history. It’s pretty basic. But I understand that complexity and context are not for simpletons like you.

        “3. Some experts disagree with Sand. No shit. Plenty agree with him.”

        Apparently extraordinarily few, and he could not find one to write a positive review for him.

        “2. Sand does not take into account what the destruction by Rome meant to the Jewish population. But Sand is not interested in what the Jewish narrative is. He simply states that Jews did remain in Palestine after Rome vanquished Jerusalem, and that this population converntd to Christianity and Islam. It irrelevant that the Jewish narrative falsely interpreted these events as an exile.”

        What’s irrelevant is that Sand purposely underplays the event to make his specious argument.

        “1. Sand contradicts accepted history. Well duh, that’s precisely what his stated aim is.”

        I thought he doesn’t. You said elsewhere he doesn’t. Which is it?

      • hophmi
        June 27, 2011, 9:06 am

        “You quoted me at the top of your long comment and then proceeded to ignore everything I said and went off on a tangent about why you think the book’s website was cherry picking quotes, something you apparently think is just fine and dandy when you do it but worthy of wasting large amounts of bandwidth when you think you’ve caught someone else at it, or think you can at least divert the discussion there. ”

        Please. I don’t cherry-pick. I’ve caught many of you doing it a number of times, especially Phil.

        “Again, all you have is a lop-sided appeal to authority since you do not recognize any authority that disagrees with your take on things.”

        Bullshit. You guys are the ones who are incapable of recognizing any authority you don’t already agree with. Whenever someone points this out, you project. Remember, you’re the ones enveloping yourselves in a cocoon of fellow travelers here, not me.

        “I quoted directly from Shapira’s criticism and the corresponding passage from Sand’s book in order to show that her criticism’s were not honest nor valid. ”

        Where? And frankly, who the hell are you to judge Anita Shapira?

        She has validity. You don’t. She’s a respected scholar in the field. You are not, unless you want to post your credentials and list of articles.

        “Your argument seems to be that no one need read any book unless they are “experts in the field” and that only such “experts” can determine the validity of an argument. That is ridiculous. ”

        My argument is that she deserves deference. You are some guy posting on an extremist website. Why do you deserve deference?

        “I’d expect better logic from a lawyer, but then maybe you are just pounding the table here yet again. You’d think your fists would be quite sore by now.”

        Yeah, yeah, yeah. Save the personal insults, tree. It’s become yet another trope here. Like Sand, you are not original.

      • Shingo
        June 27, 2011, 9:28 am

        By who? Oh, I forgot, if you don’t agree with her, she’s a nutjob. And of course, you don’t have any agenda.

        By her own comments about a school being a threat to Israel.

        A one-paragraph blurb is not a review.

        Neitehr was Shapria’s.

        If you’re willing to say that Goldstone’s Washington Post op-ed is a retraction, I’ll say that Schama’s article was a retraction.

        Are you that desperate that you feelthe need to do a deal over this? Too funny Hophmi. You;re seriously locing your mind – whatever therere was of it to begin with.

        Hey, the truth hurts. It happens to be true. But political extremists supporting their own is an old story.

        Indeed, you are an prime example, though calling somenioe a Marxist doesn’t make it true.

        I’m not aware of anyone who wrote criticism based on this point.

        Then try reading your own links in futgure.

        Sand’s facts are not new. Neither is his argument. That’s why calling his book “groundbreaking” is silly.

        Arguing that it’s not new does not refute it’s content.

        I know you love it when things are offensive to Jews.

        Yourre the one defending an offensive (racist, saddistic, murderous) ideology Hop, not me.

        Well, historians are supposed to consider context when they write history. It’s pretty basic.

        Context and mythology are 2 different things.

        Apparently extraordinarily few, and he could not find one to write a positive review for him.

        You yourself cited a positve review of him, several in fact.

        What’s irrelevant is that Sand purposely underplays the event to make his specious argument.

        No, his argument is that Jews did remain, whether or not their society was destroyed. Those that remained converted to Christianity and Islam. How and why it happened is irrelevant.

      • Shingo
        June 27, 2011, 9:36 am

        Please. I don’t cherry-pick.

        No, bullshit is the word that comes to mind, but you did cherry pick the quote from the Wiki pink you cited.

        You guys are the ones who are incapable of recognizing any authority you don’t already agree with.

        When the authority is full of BS that tends to happen – especialyl when that authority can’t forulate a decent argument or resorts to straw men.

        And frankly, who the hell are you to judge Anita Shapira?

        And who are you to judge Shlomo sand?

        he has validity. You don’t. He’s a respected scholar in the field. You are not, unless you want to post your credentials and list of articles.

        My argument is that she deserves deference.

        No, she deserves to be scruitinized. Her argument shoudl stand up to such scruitiny, regardless of her noteriety.

        Like Sand, you are not original.

        And like Schama, you’re a village idiot. Facts are not usually original,because they don’t change with time, unlike Hasbara, which is constatnyl tryign to evolve.

      • hophmi
        June 27, 2011, 10:00 am

        LOL.

        “You yourself cited a positve review of him, several in fact.”

        Yes, I did. I believe they were from Alec Dubro, a journalist , and from the Palestine Chronicle. There are nine reviews or so on his website. Most of the ones longer than a paragraph are pretty negative.

        “Indeed, you are an prime example, though calling somenioe a Marxist doesn’t make it true.”

        But if they are actually Marxists, it’s true. I believe two or three of the reviews were indeed written by Marxists. You can look them up. I’m not sure why you think that’s a bad thing. It’s more a bad thing that they don’t appear to have any actual knowledge of the subject matter.

        “Neitehr was Shapria’s.”

        Well, Shapira wrote an entire journal article about the book. And in the real world, Shapira is a well-regarded historian who is qualified to review Sand’s book. That’s in the real world. I understand that’s not the one you think you inhabit.

      • Shingo
        June 27, 2011, 10:15 am

        Most of the ones longer than a paragraph are pretty negative.

        That’s because they spend alll their time tryign to make an argument without refuting sand’s thesis.

        But if they are actually Marxists, it’s true.

        Marxists don’t state they are Marxist in the bio, so how did you come to that conclusion?

        Well, Shapira wrote an entire journal article about the book.

        Yes, a poorly argued one at that. Just because you agree with her doesn’t make her well regarded,

      • hophmi
        June 27, 2011, 11:03 am

        More nonsense.

        “And who are you to judge Shlomo sand?

        he has validity. You don’t. He’s a respected scholar in the field. You are not, unless you want to post your credentials and list of articles.”

        I haven’t judged Shlomo Sand. I rely on the judgments of Shapira, Bartal, and Schama, all more qualified than myself. The only sense in which I judge Sand is credibility, and one who repeatedly misleads people into thinking he got good reviews when exactly the opposite is true has none.

        “No, she deserves to be scruitinized. ”

        Like you scrutinized Sand?

        “And like Schama, you’re a village idiot.”

        LOL. You have no credibility outside of Mondoweiss. Again, you’re not living in the real world.

      • hophmi
        June 27, 2011, 11:11 am

        “Marxists don’t state they are Marxist in the bio, so how did you come to that conclusion?”

        You can look at my links. I called two people Marxist. One is Bertell Ollman. link to en.wikipedia.org
        link to politics.as.nyu.edu

        The other is Terry Eagleton. link to en.wikipedia.org

        I doubt either one would deny being a Marxist.

        “Yes, a poorly argued one at that. Just because you agree with her doesn’t make her well regarded.”

        Oh, I would never say she’s well-regarded because I say so. I say she’s well-regarded because she’s widely published, has won a slew of awards, is not known as a political extremist. Again, real world, here, not Mondoweiss world.

    • David Green
      June 22, 2011, 8:43 pm

      The origins of Jewish nationalism in historiography, as described by Sand, did not inevitably lead to Zionism and a Jewish state. But it became part of the underpinning. Nor did a Jewish state, whatever its unjust origins, have to lead to Israel as a servant to American power in the ME and a permanent occupier. But–especially with Zertal’s analysis–it becomes clear that history/ideology/nationalism become embedded in the culture and intransigent; and are employed quite consciously. One step is to recognize the invention of a Jewish people, and question what that has to do with being Jewish, religiously or secularly, in a society that claims to be liberal and democratic.

  16. wondering jew
    June 22, 2011, 9:38 pm

    I have many reactions to the concept of Jewish peoplehood and its rejection. What follows will not be a unified theory, but a series of reactions.

    1. Shlomo Sands, from what I recall from reading his book, seems to assert that all nations are inventions and the Jewish nation because of its geographic dispersal requires more invention than others. Because two Frenchmen who did not see themselves as Frenchmen until nationalism, but who in fact lived 160 km. apart from each other really had more in common than two Jews who lived thousands of kms. away from each other, whose languages and cultures were more different than the two Frenchmen.

    2. The genetic (DNA) commonalty of Jews proves “something” about the relationship between Eastern European Jews and Mizrachi Jews, but does not prove “everything”. From what I have heard Ethiopian Jews do not share the same DNA markers.

    3. After WWI when Russia, aka the new Soviet Union, lost part of its empire, the newly free Poland for example emphasized its nationhood and its Jewish population was seen as not part of the nation by many Poles.

    4. Today when discussing the genocidal starvation of the Ukranians from the imposed Holodor, Jewish communists who disdained their religion and wished to do away with their roots, are blamed for killing the Ukranians because of a hatred of the Ukranian people by Jewish people. Thus Jewish anti nationalists are called a separate nation when casting blame on the Jews, but if those same people had chosen instead to be Jewish nationalists, they would be blamed for being nationalists, and not only because of the oppression of the Palestinians, but because this cast suspicion on all Jews who wanted to live in America and deny that they were part of a transnational grouping.

    5. When Samuel Goldfish wanted to change his name to Samuel Goldwyn and was sued by MGM on the basis that Goldwyn was a combined name (Goldfish and Selwyn combined, I believe) that they had invented and that thus it belonged to them, the judge ruled in favor of Goldfish that he may change his name to Goldwyn on the basis that the man had invented himself and thus could now take an invented name as his own.

    This is a story of the Jewish desire to become Americanized, to reinvent themselves and even to stop being Jewish. In the biography of Goldwyn, his half Jewish son of a nonJewish mother, asserts that his father married a nonJew specifically for the purpose of watering down the Jewishness of his offspring, not in a religious sense, but in a racial/physical sense.

    America is the nation of self definition and part of that self definition is one out of many (E pluribus unum). This too has its elements of invention and myth.

    To dream of a world without separate races and to build a world where people can come together are admirable dreams or aspirations. And if one wishes to invent themselves as something new- an American and deny what their DNA says, this is something that Americanism admires.

    The Reform movement wanted to do away with lots of things: including stuff that reeks of primitivism- like animal worship and other stuff as well, like kosher- so they ate pork at their official functions, like Shabbat (Shabbos/Sabbath), so they played an organ at their services and golf on Saturday afternoons, like the unique Jewish prayer services, so they attempted to make their services resemble Christian/Protestant services. The denial of the “people” aspect of the Jewish religion was part of this type of redefinition of what it means to be part of the Jewish religion.

    • RoHa
      June 23, 2011, 7:32 pm

      “Poland for example emphasized its nationhood and its Jewish population was seen as not part of the nation by many Poles.”

      As has been discussed here several times, this seems to have been reciprocal. Much of the Jewish population seems to have refused to be part of the nation.

      • wondering jew
        June 23, 2011, 9:25 pm

        I agree that the refusal of Jewish groups and individuals to learn about their neighbors and the history of their neighbors is a type of know-nothing attitude that is retrograde. But to call a situation reciprocal when in Poland the lawyers untion passed laws that no Jews may join the national bar or no Jews may join the doctors union and to equate this with the cultural stubbornness of a group that is not ready to move into the 20th century is obscene. The Poles had all the power and their refusal to accept the Jews had an oppressive effect on the Jews. It is not comparable to the cultural stubbornness that you are equating to it.

        here is a quote from worldfuturefund:
        From 1935 to 1939, antisemitic feeling in Poland gained in intensity. The impact of this development was to influence the adoption of measures by Polish professional organizations that excluded Jews. Here are only a few examples[2]:

        In August 1936, the Polish government ordered that all shops include the name of the owner on their business sign. This order was tantamount to specifically marking Jewish-owned businesses. Attacks on Jewish businesses surged after the marking order went into effect.
        In May 1937, the membership of the Polish Medical Association adopted a paragraph into their professional charter excluding Jews from the medical profession.
        Also in May 1937, the Polish Bar Association adopted a similar measure. This was followed by official state action in May 1938 restricting the ability of Jewish lawyers to attain licenses to practice law.
        In January 1938, the General Assembly of Journalists in the city of Wilno added a provision to its by-laws stating that anyone Jewish could not belong to their organization.
        In April 1938, the Bank Polski, the Polish state’s largest financial institution, adopted a provision excluding Jews.
        Most importantly, in March 1938 the Polish government announced a new “Citizenship Law.” This law stated that as of October 30, 1938, the passports of Polish citizens who had lived abroad for more than five years would be revoked if those citizens had not “maintained contact with the [home] country”.[3] Although this law did not target Jews specifically, its effect had a dramatic impact on Jews who had lived outside of Poland. One such community of Jewish expatriates were the tens of thousands of Polish Jews residing in neighboring Germany. The Polish action would have effectively rendered these people “stateless” on German soil, making them a German problem. Nazi officials, particularly Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS, and his subordinate, Reinhard Heydrich, had planned since earlier in the year to force Jews – particularly Polish Jews – to leave Germany. On October 28-29, the SS and Gestapo detained 15,000 Polish Jews and sent them over the German frontier into Poland. These refugees were turned back by Polish border guards and then interned in a refugee camp “between” Germany and Poland at Zbaszyn. There they languished under terrible conditions until Poland finally relented and allowed them to enter the country in 1939.[4]

  17. yourstruly
    June 22, 2011, 10:31 pm

    proud to be a jew?

    in the first place one doesn’t make the call

    but after arriving here on earth?

    self-realization

    as a jew?

    as a human being

    • yourstruly
      June 22, 2011, 11:39 pm

      a universal truth?

      only time will tell

      how will one know?

      there’ll be peace on earth and goodwill to all living beings

      plus being more and more in charge of one’s own destiny

  18. wondering jew
    June 23, 2011, 7:38 pm

    What is Judaism? It is a belief in one God. It is a belief in the divine origin of the Torah.

    It is a set of practices, foremost among them the keeping of the Sabbath and the avoidance of nonkosher food.

    It is a set of holidays- primarily 1. Passover where a seder is read and special food is eaten and the exodus from Egypt is remembered. 2. Yom Kippur where people fast for 24 or so hours and pray for forgiveness.

    It is a morality of “Do unto others” (stated in the negative: don’t do unto others that which is hateful to you.)

    It is a concept of history beginning with creation and the flood extending to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, continuing with the slavery in Egypt and the exodus. A period of going to the land and sinning and being exiled. A dispersion, a rebuilt temple, a sinning a dispersion and the idea of a messianic era when the lamb will lay with the lion.

    What is Jewishness when you subtract God from the equation? I’m not sure and no one else is really sure either. The history of the Jewish people doesn’t change just because one stops believing in God or the divine origin of the bible.

    There is a history, but the messianic purpose, the suffering with a purpose, is tossed onto the pile of trash along with the divinity of the commandments.

    When Jews Mizrachi and Ashkenazi prayed from the same prayer book and spoke of “am”, to Jack Ross and Elmer Berger and Shlomo Sand and I suppose Phil Weiss, they were referring to another false concept, that was pure myth to a god that did not exist about a people that did not exist and that do not exist.

    But it really is not so simple. I guess for some, it is precisely so simple.

    Those of you who are Jewish and feel no connection to prayer, no connection to god, no more of a connection to the dead killed by the nazis than the dead killed by the turks, i guess it really is so simple.

    Those who only care about Jews, whose belief in Torah’s divinity is so complete that they take the chosen people idea as God’s word and not a combination of a curse and an impossible challenge, or take it even as a license to hate and blame the whole problem on the Quran and its warlike attitude, they too have it too simple.

    I walk between the two camps of self satisfied (fools), unable to explain the devastation of 1941 to 1945 without feeling devastated, unable to turn it into a sacred event, unable to accept it as part of some vast plan. Jewish history is a mystery, how did we survive so long, to what purpose and where to from here. What combination of continuity and change will yield something of use to us Jews and to the world. What role can be played to untangle the confused wires of this time bomb called the Israel Palestine conflict. How to communicate to the Likud that they are on the wrong path and how to communicate to the Palestinians that they cannot dismiss Jewish nationhood as a myth, that some middle ground must be prepared at the very least through compassion and curiosity.

    Shlomo Sand doesn’t help me one millimeter, one nanometer. He is out to prove something. He is not interested in understanding. He has the answers and no doubts. He has a concept of Israelihood and a concept of Judaism as a false religion that deserves to be trampled upon and he is of no use to me and those who hold him as some kind of a hero are simplifying the conflict and trampling on the religion and it is so simple and yet you will not win anything with your simplicity. You will pat yourself on the back and say, what a good boy am I to have Shlomo Sand and the mythness of Jewishness on my side and you will achieve nothing, not regarding Jewish identity, not regarding the cruelty of Israel towards the Palestinians and Israel’s alienation from its neighbors and the world. You will achieve more alienation, more self congratulation and you will be just as guilty as LIkud (okay, not just as guilty, they will be guilty 66% and you will be guilty 16%,) but you too will have done nothing to avoid the next war, for understanding is the path that is the opposite of war and you are not increasing understanding, you are increasing self congratulation.

    • RoHa
      June 23, 2011, 8:14 pm

      ” how to communicate to the Palestinians that they cannot dismiss Jewish nationhood as a myth”

      Palestinian representatives can correct me on this, but I don’t think that Palestinians give a hoot about whether “Jewish nationhood” (whatever that is) is a myth or not.

      I think their position is that “Jewish nationhood” does not give Jews the right to push Palestinians out of Palestine and set up a Jewish supremacy state there.

      • wondering jew
        June 23, 2011, 9:01 pm

        I think I was referred to this article in 972mag from this web site, but I found it a very positive attitude, and it exemplifies the attitude that I am looking for from Palestinians. “A Palestinian call to engage with the ‘Jewish Question'”
        link to 972mag.com

      • patm
        June 23, 2011, 9:51 pm

        wj, I went to 972mag.com and looked through the “A Palestinian call to engage with the ‘Jewish Question” article. I didn’t read it closely, but I got the hang of it. The article has several comments attached to it and one expresses pretty much what I think, namely that you are simply asking too much of the Palestinians.

        Here’s the comment:

        “(1) Yes, it is important to understand the Holocaust, but the Holocaust has nothing to do with defining Jewish rights in the country. Yes, there are people like Prof Ze’ev Sternhell who deny that the Jewish people have any historical or religious rights in the country, but that the Holocaust DID give the Jews the right to take Palestine from the Arabs UP TO the Green Line but not beyond that. But this philosophy is so incoherent and unjustifiable that it can be ignored. The true importance of the Holocaust comes in how Israeli Jews view the nature of the Arab conflict against Israel (including the participation of non-Arabs and non-Muslims in that conflict) and the world’s response to this conflict.

        (2) I don’t know how you get people to supposedly shift their minds in order to forget at least part of their own history and identity and refill it with somebody else’s. It is true, countries of immigration like the US have succeeded to a significant extent in getting immigrants to shed their old loyalties and to adopt a new one which attaches them to their new country (although there is some question as to whether this is working as well as it used to in the era of “multiculturalism”), but the writer here wants us to suddenly adopt the views and identity of a hostile neighbor. It seems like wishful thinking to me.”

    • Richard Witty
      June 24, 2011, 3:15 am

      Excellent post WJ.

    • tree
      June 24, 2011, 11:46 am

      Shlomo Sand doesn’t help me one millimeter, one nanometer. He is out to prove something. He is not interested in understanding. He has the answers and no doubts. He has a concept of Israelihood and a concept of Judaism as a false religion that deserves to be trampled upon and he is of no use to me and those who hold him as some kind of a hero are simplifying the conflict and trampling on the religion and it is so simple and yet you will not win anything with your simplicity.

      Have you actually read the book, WJ? Because from these lines of yours it seems that you haven’t. Nothing in his book indicates that he sees Judaism as a “false religion” nor does he “trample” on religion. Try reading the book.

      He’s calling on Israel to embrace all its citizens as equal citizens. Trust me on this, it won’t mean the end of Judaism or the death of Jews if you embrace all your fellow citizens of Israel just as much as you embrace your fellow Jews. To fear so is to do the same discounting of your religion that you are accusing Sand of.

      From Sand’s reply to Schama’s first review of Sand’s book:

      Most of those who see themselves as Jews, up until today, prefer not to live under Jewish sovereignty and not to send their children to risk death in Israeli wars. It seems to me that Schama can be counted amongst these, even if he thinks that Israel is his “ancestral land”. As for me, in contrast, I live in Israel and justify its continued existence, not on the grounds of past Jewish suffering – no suffering in the past can excuse creating suffering in the present – but because I have lived here all my life and I know that the denial of its existence would only lead to a new tragedy.

      link to inventionofthejewishpeople.com

      Sand believes in the continued existence of Israel, but, like Miko Peled, he is wise enough and compassionate enough to realize that its future lies in becoming a nation of ALL of its citizens, and in not being exclusionary.

      • wondering jew
        June 24, 2011, 12:37 pm

        tree- I read the book and I will read it again. Sand’s attitude of what Israel should turn itself into is not my objection to the book. It is his denial that there is something other than religion involved in being Jewish. That attitude is what does not help me an iota. His book is an ideological attempt to say, this is what exists: Israelihood and this is what does not exist: Jewishness without belief in divinity. That was my impression of the book that I read over a year ago. Is there something inaccurate about my summary?

      • Shmuel
        June 24, 2011, 1:01 pm

        his denial that there is something other than religion involved in being Jewish… this is what does not exist: Jewishness without belief in divinity… Is there something inaccurate about my summary?

        Yes, there is something inaccurate about your summary. Sand says that Jewish ethnic-nationalism is a relatively new invention, not that Jews have nothing in common but religion (a fortiori “belief in divinity”). A common religion alone – particularly as a minority and often persecuted religion – would have created a myriad of similarities in lifestyle, sympathies and interaction between communities, over the course of millennia. Sand has not and would not deny that concepts such as “klal yisra’el” (translated “Catholic Israel” by Solomon Schechter and interpreted as “Jewish peoplehood” by MM Kaplan) greatly predate Zionism, but rather that they do not correspond to the modern idea of Jewish ethnic-nationhood conjured up by Zionist and proto-Zionist historiography, under the direct influence of Central/East-European thought.

        I really do suggest that you read it again, with as open a mind as you can muster. It’s not half as iconoclastic as you seem to think.

      • tree
        June 24, 2011, 8:48 pm

        I would agree with Shmuel’s point, WJ, but also note that you have changed your tune between your earlier post and this specific one I am responding too. Earlier you claimed that Sand has “a concept of Judaism as a false religion that deserves to be trampled upon …” and yet your ‘clarifying’ next post claims no such thing. You really do need to reread the book with, as Shmuel asked, “as one a mind as you can muster” if your first impression was that Sand was calling Judaism a “false religion”. Perhaps you should even inquire of yourself why you jumped to such an unfounded conclusion.

      • tree
        June 25, 2011, 12:41 am

        Sorry, that was meant to be “as open a mind…

        I suppose I should try to figure out why I wrote “one” when I meant “open”. Ah, self-reflection.

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