Saturday, April 11, 2009

Israeli Scholar Disputes Founding Myth

By Morgan Strong
April 12, 2009

The founding narrative of the modern State of Israel was born from the words of Moses in the Old Testament, that God granted the land of Israel to the Jewish people and that it was to be theirs for all time.

Read on.


Anonymous said...

Is the Israeli scholar Shlomo Sand a Jewish Diogenes searching for a another honest Jewish scholar/historian.

Anonymous said...

Since Cohens and Levites have theoretically derived from one tribe, has anyone traced their genetic make-up throughout the Jews History in Eastern Europe?

Anonymous said...

I am Jewish, not a Zionist, and highly critical of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians -- and, by the way, towards many other things, such as diaspora Jewry and international law. However, I also know something about Jewish history. I understand why people are intrigued by this book, but unfortunately, Sand's theories are a crock. He has made such a hash of the topics he addresses that it is appalling to see this considered a scholarly work. Let's not assume the book is correct just because its author is a professor or because it's "politically correct."
It particularly saddens me to see this posted uncritically on Consortium, which I have read, subscribed to and supported since the days when it published an actual paper magazine.
There is a review of the book in the left-leaning newspaper Ha'aretz by Israel Bartal which I think is both fair and accurate. The idea of "Nation" as we understand it is a development of rather recent times, let's say, 18th-19th centuries. Zionism adopted that concept, but the traditional concept of Jewish nation is in Hebrew "am yisroel" which means "the people Israel." It is largely a religious concept, because the traditional Jewish mind was not based on modern concepts of "nation," any more than the hundreds if not thousands of ethnic minorities and inigenous tribes today that have their own languages and cultures, but not their own nation-state. The Jewish nation in the traditional sense was defined not by territory nor by anything except following the Torah. It certainly has never been defined by race, and no matter how much or how little Khazar ancestry the European Jews may or may not have, it is irrelevant because they were converted to Judaism by Jewish law. The author, Shlomo Sand, doesn't regard this conception as legitimate -- so as far as he is concerned, the Jews were never a "nation." This is question-begging in its purest form. It is hardly a revelation that Zionism invented the idea of the Jewish nation as a modern nation-state, everybody knows that.
Personally, I believe the Eastern European Jews have a moderate amount of Khazar ancestry (more, the further east you go), and certainly there was plenty of conversion to Judaism from lots of other peoples before Christianity and Islam were well established, but that has zero to do with the however you feel about them. The idea that it does is an unexamined assumption that originated in right-wing British-Israel and Christian Identity circles whose own doctrines are all based on biological ancestry.
So please read the Ha'aretz article, Bartal is right in his criticisms.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, a line got left out: "that has zero to do with the concepts of Judaism OR zionism, however you feel about them."

Anonymous said...

Bottom line is this: regardless of the ultimate geo-genetic origins of today's Jewry, it is indisputable that anyone who is identified as a Jew runs the risk of anti-Semitism from something as simple as being denied employment to something as atrocious as being a Holocaust victim. The history of the Jewish people is fraught with torture, persecution and attempted efforts to obliterate Jews from the earth. This, and this alone, is the reason to protect and preserve a nation in which a Jew is free to be a Jew. That said, it is also incumbent upon Jews to remember that Torah teaches us to be kind to the stranger in our midst, and we have not been kind to the Palestinians. However, I would add that my reading of history is that Jordan was established as a Palestinian state, and the Palestinians are no more welcome there than they are within Israel's borders. This fact appears to be lost in both history and daily news reporting.

Anonymous said...

This may be the bottom line for you, but it's off-topic. Shlomo Sand is not saying that Israel shouldn't exist, he's arguing about what kind of a state it should be. But the fact is that whether you agree with his politics or not, his argument is historically false and even logically irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

Here below is the link to the original Haaretz article.

No matter how hard the European Zionists try to surpress their own history, which is a lack of any seed of connection to ancient Jews, another Jewish scholar soon comes along and writes another fine book about this,...... the conversion of the Khazars into Jews during the 8th Century AD. These Jewish "converts" now make up at least 75% of the entire world Jewry today.

There are at least 10 books on this exact same subject. Why not read the real article below (see the link), rather than a bunch of crap like that posted above by "anonymous" ?

Zionist-Rebuttal said...

There are few ideas and phrases worth disputing here. The main one being toward the end:

"The motive for creating the state of Israel was to provide respite for the Jews of Europe after World War II, but that worthy cause has now been contorted into an obsessive delusion about an Israeli right to mistreat and persecute Palestinians."

I'm suprised Morgan wrote that. He seems pretty knowledgeable and should know better than to say that. It's simply not true. The fact is, Zionism was already well under way and had already gained massive numbers of Jews immigrating to Palestine long before anyone had even heard of World War 2 or Hitler. Herzl, the founder of Zionism, lived in the late 1800's. World War 2 may have caused the tipping point for the Zionist movement, I don't doubt that, but it wasn't created as a response to the Holocaust. My own grandparents came there before WWII. Yes they were evading trouble that they saw coming but there was already enough cause for Jews to want their own homeland before the Holocaust.

I'd like to point out that Mr. Sand basically contradicts his entire thesis when he says "No population remains pure for thousands of years". Right. So he can't back up the idea that the "Palestinians are more likely the descendants of the Biblical Jews" than the people who call themselves Jews today, any more than he can back up the claim that modern Jews are NOT descended from the Jews in the Bible.

Moreover, to imply that the people who today call themselves Palestinians today were an indigenous population is also patently false. Yes there was always a small population of Arabs and Jews in Palestine but most of todays Palestinians are descended from Syrians and Egyptians who came to Palestine to work...thanks in large part to an economic boom caused by JEWISH immigration.

I'm familiar with the genetic argument that most Jews are indeed descended from the middle east because it shows up in our genes. If you took a genetic sample from me(an Ashkenazi) and from an Ethiopian Jew, we'd have about half of our genes in common. Mine being half middle eastern and half European, and his being half middle eastern and half African. What I haven't heard of is Sand's refutation of that argument that most Europeans,Jewish or not, have middle eastern and african genes. That's an interesting counterpoint but it doesn't settle the debate on Sand's side at all. I would point to my "smoking genetic gun" The "smoking gun" I'm referring to is the "Cohen Gene" which Jews all over the world have including a remote black tribe in South Africa called the Lemba. The Cohen gene is a unique genetic mutation that people of the jewish priestly lineage have. People who were priests or Cohenim as they're called in hebrew, claim to be direct paternal descendants from Moses's brother Aaron. In fact you can only be a Cohen if your father was one. If your mother is a cohen but you're father isn't, you're not a cohen. What they found in the genetic study was that most people who claim to have Cohen lineage, have a unique gene that other people don't have and this showed up in Jews from all over world.

Also at least according to what I learned, the Romans and the Greeks and Persian and Egyptians before them did indeed commit massive deportation of people from their homelands. It wasn't just the Jews who suffered from this fate. It was many peoples all over the world. It happened to tribes in India (who many people believe became the Gypsies) It happened in the Brittish Isles and Gaul and Africa as well. So I don't know why he'd say the Romans never did that. They did. Americans did it too by the way, before there were trains or modern technology. Ever heard of the "trail of tears"? What I'd agree with is that no massive deportation is ever 100% successful. That's why there was always a Jewish population in Palestine. They were never completely wiped out. That's why the Cherokees also aren't living 100% in Oklahoma. Some of them stayed behind or went back to the Carolinas. Sound familiar?

Also the way Morgan and perhaps Sand talk: saying that Jews use Zionism as an excuse to "abuse" the Palestinians, is anti-Israeli propaganda stated as if it were fact. No mention is made of what caused the Israeli's to retaliate against the Arabs- in any war, let alone this one- and Morgan's tone clearly portrays the Israeli's as the constant agressors in the situation. I would answer that the body count being higher on the Palestinian side does not make the Israeli's genocidal. It makes them better fighters. It is tragic that innocent Palestinians were killed in the cross-fire of the most recent incursion, but I attest that is solidly the fault of Hamas for hiding in schools and hospitals, giving the Israeli's no choice but to hit those targets. Even with such horrible choices, the Israelis still showed restraint and killed many less people than they could have.

However,I would finally say that there is a grain of truth in what this guy says but the way he's using it to prove an anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish argument is not fair or correct. If you look at Jewish history, Jews did gain converts everywhere we went and others of us also stayed behind and assimilated in to the general population. According to the Exodus story, many Egyptians went along with Moses in to the Sinai desert while several thousand Jews stayed behind in Egypt and didn't go along. Also during the Roman era, several thousand Romans converted to Judaism. During the Middle ages, the Pope made it illegal, a crime punishable by death for a non-Jew to convert to Judaism. D you know why that was? The Jews were starting to gain almost as many converts as the Christians were. The Pope needed to put a stop to it or lose Europe. That's why to this day, Jews no longer actively seek converts (something Jews did a lot of in ancient times-like the Mormons of the day) and even go as far as to turn a prospective convert away three times before they allow them to convert. A Rabbi was literally risking his life to accept a convert so it had to be worth it. So yeah not ALL the Jews were exiled by the Romans but most of them were. Did they convert to other religions and leave their genetic stamp in the Arab population that moved in? Yes. There's proof of that in some Arab towns in the west bank where certain Jewish rituals survive to this day. However, the fact that their "brothers and sisters" as Morgan put it, also gained converts and genes in the diaspora, doesn't make them less Jewish than the ones who stayed behind.

If pure genetics and pure religious practice of Biblical Judaism are Sand and Morgan's criteria for living in Israel, then the only people who should be allowed to live there are: the Jews from Iraq- who are direct descendants of the Jews who were exiled to Babylon (Iraq) duing biblical times, the Jews from Yemen- who are genetically, ritualistically and linguistically the closest to the Jews in Biblical times, and a small group of people known as the "Shomronim" who are descended from a Jewish splinter group during biblical times(referred to in the Bible as the Samaritans). I guess the rest of us will have to suck it up and go back to Europe. Oh well I guess Pollock jokes apply to me after all.

Anonymous said...

Inventing an invention

By Israel Bartal

Tags: Khazars, Israel Bartal
According to Shlomo Sand, everything you ever thought you knew about the Jewish people as a nation with ethno-biological origins is false. Israel Bartal, however, says Sand didn't do his homework

Mattai ve'ekh humtza ha'am hayehudi?
(When and How Was the Jewish People Invented?), by Shlomo Sand
Resling (Hebrew), 358 pages, NIS 94.

The first sentence of "When and How Was the Jewish People Invented?" reads: "This book is a historical study, not a work of pure fiction. Nevertheless, it will open with a number of stories rooted in a collective memory that has been adulterated with a considerable degree of imagination." I recalled these words when I found myself utterly astounded by the statements of the author of this learned, fascinating study, concerned with the "period of silencing" in the "Jewish-Israeli collective memory," a period that, to quote Sand, gave rise to a total avoidance of "any mention of the Khazars in the Israeli public arena."

This assertion, according to which an entire chapter in Jewish history was deliberately silenced for political reasons, thrust me back to my days as a ninth grader, in the late 1950s. I recalled the Mikhlal Encyclopedia, an almost mythological reference text that nearly every Israeli high school student relied on in those years, the flagship of what is termed "mainstream Zionism," in the lean Hebrew of 21st-century Israel. My ears still reverberate with the introduction to the encyclopedia's entry on "Khazars": "A source of consolation and hope for the scattered Jewish communities of the Diaspora during the Middle Ages, the story of the Khazar kingdom today has the ring of pure mythology. Nonetheless, that story is one of the most wonderful chapters in Jewish history."

Sand suggests that it was "the wave of decolonization of the 1950s and 1960s [that] led the molders of Israeli collective memory to shield themselves from the shadow of the Khazar past. There was a profound fear that, should the Jews now rebuilding their home in Israel learn that they are not direct descendants of the ?Children of Israel,' the very legitimacy of both the Zionist enterprise and the State of Israel's existence would be undermined."

With considerable trepidation, I returned to my yellowing copy of volume IV of the Mikhlal Encyclopedia. Could I perhaps have been mistaken and could it be that my teachers in the Socialist-Zionist city of Givatayim wanted to brainwash me with an ethno-biological perception of my parents' origin?

When I reread the entry on the Khazars, my mind was put at rest. It was not the Zionist education to which I, as an Israeli teenager, was exposed that tried to make me forget the fact that the members of gentile tribes converted to Judaism in the Khazar Kingdom; instead, it is the author of this book about the "invention of the Jewish people" who has invented an ethno-biological Zionist historiography.

Here is what was written about the conversion of the Khazars, a nation of Turkish origin, in the Zionist Mikhlal Encyclopedia that the State of Israel's Zionist Ministry of Education recommended so warmly during that "period of silencing": "It is irrelevant whether the conversion to Judaism encompassed a large stratum of the Khazar nation; what is important is that this event was regarded as a highly significant phenomenon in Jewish history, a phenomenon that has since totally disappeared: Judaism as a missionary religion.... The question of the long-term impact of that chapter in Jewish history on East European Jewry -- whether through the development of its ethnic character or in some other way -- is a matter that requires further research. Nonetheless, although we do not know the extent of its influence, what is clear to us today is that this conversion did have an impact." Sand, a professor of modern European history at Tel Aviv University, comments further on the silence of the historians: "Israel's academic community developed a violent attitude toward this issue.... Any mention of the Khazars in the public arena in Israel was increasingly considered eccentric, a flight of fancy, even an open threat."

Zionist historiography, he claims, concealed the possibility that the millions of Yiddish-speaking Jews were actually descendants of the Khazars and that even today Israeli historians deny the existence of an early Jewish nucleus that was augmented by immigrants who moved from Ashkenaz (present-day northern France and western Germany) to Eastern Europe.

These claims are baseless. Sand, for example, does not mention the fact that, from 2000 onwards, a team of scholars from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem labored on a monumental task: the production of a three-volume study on the history of the Jews of Russia.

In the first volume, which will shortly be published in Hebrew by the Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History (another "Zionist" institution), considerable attention is devoted to the question of the origin of the East European Jews and to their link with the history of the Khazar kingdom.

Sand repeats the method he employs vis-a-vis the place of the Khazars in Jewish historiography in connection with other topics as well, presenting readers with partial citations and edited passages from the writings of various scholars. Several times, Sand declares what his ideological position is. Like him, I am not one of those who support the injustices committed by a number of Israeli government agencies against minority groups in this country in the name of arguments pretending to represent "historical values." However, critical readers of Sand's study must not overlook the intellectual superficiality and the twisting of the rules governing the work of professional historians that result when ideology and methodology are mixed.

Sand's desire for Israel to become a state "representing all its citizens" is certainly worthy of a serious discussion, but the manner in which he attempts to connect a political platform with the history of the Jewish people from its very beginnings to the present day is bizarre and incoherent.

Descendants of pagans

What is Sand trying to prove in this study? In his view, the homeland of the Jewish people is not Palestine, and most Jews are descendants of the members of different nations who converted to Judaism in ancient times and in the medieval period. He claims that the Jews of Yemen and Eastern Europe are descendants of pagans.

According to Sand, this historical truth was concealed by Zionist thinkers, who developed an ethno-biological ideology, and the so-called "Jewish people" was invented as late as the 19th century. Furthermore, he argues, the idea of a "nation" that was exiled from its homeland in ancient times and which is destined to return to it in the modern age so as to rebuild its independent state is merely an invented myth.

Sand also maintains that, in the era preceding the emergence of European nationalism, the Jews were an ethnic group, not a nation. In his eyes, the argument promulgated by the Zionists and by their successors in the Israeli political arena concerning our "right to this land" rests on a biological-genetic ideology; that argument became the "narrative of the ruling group" thanks to the fact that the "authorized scholars of the past" have concealed the truth concerning the real, impure origin of the Jews.

My response to Sand's arguments is that no historian of the Jewish national movement has ever really believed that the origins of the Jews are ethnically and biologically "pure." Sand applies marginal positions to the entire body of Jewish historiography and, in doing so, denies the existence of the central positions in Jewish historical scholarship.

No "nationalist" Jewish historian has ever tried to conceal the well-known fact that conversions to Judaism had a major impact on Jewish history in the ancient period and in the early Middle Ages. Although the myth of an exile from the Jewish homeland (Palestine) does exist in popular Israeli culture, it is negligible in serious Jewish historical discussions. Important groups in the Jewish national movement expressed reservations regarding this myth or denied it completely.

Sand's references to "authorized" historians are absurd, and perpetuate a superficial pattern of discussion that is characteristic of a certain group within Israeli academe. The guiding principle in this pattern of discussion is as follows: "Tell me what your position is on the past and I will tell you the nature of your connection with the agencies of the regime."

The kind of political intervention Sand is talking about, namely, a deliberate program designed to make Israelis forget the true biological origins of the Jews of Poland and Russia or a directive for the promotion of the story of the Jews' exile from their homeland is pure fantasy.

Sand points to three components in the structuring of the Jewish national past. First, the national historical narrative, especially the Zionist narrative, emphasizes the "ethno-biological" identity of those who belong to the imaginary Jewish nation.

Second, this identity is directly connected with a nationalist ideology that is a substitute for the religious link between Jewish communities in the Diaspora that has considerably weakened in the present era of secularization. Third, an aggressive political establishment that controls the dissemination of knowledge is concealing vital information on what really happened in the past, preventing the publication of sources that can serve as an alternative to the recommended national narrative, and censoring dangerous passages in published texts.

The central book of the Zionist "Jerusalem School," "Toldot am yisrael" ("History of the Jewish People," published in 1969), speaks extensively of the Jewish communities that existed in the Diaspora before the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and whose total population exceeded that of the tiny Jewish community in Palestine. As one would expect from a work that reflects a profound knowledge of scholarly studies in the field, the Zionist "Toldot am yisrael" explains that the number of Jews in the Diaspora during the ancient period was as high as it was because of conversion, a phenomenon that "was widespread in the Jewish Diaspora in the late Second Temple period .... Many of the converts to Judaism came from the gentile population of Palestine, but an even greater number of converts could be found in the Jewish Diaspora communities in both the East and the West."

Choosing to ignore all this, Sand categorically states in his book that, "the mass conversions that created such huge Jewish populations throughout the Mediterranean region are scarcely mentioned in Jewish national historiography." Apparently, he is obsessed with the idea of proving that the Zionist historians (including Nahum Slouschz, who wrote about the North African Jewish warrior-queen Dahia
al-Kahina) were "ethnocentric nationalists." It is irrelevant to Sand what these historians actually wrote: To hell with the facts -- the argument is what really counts!

Sand bends over backwards to prove that the great Jewish historians (such as Simon Dubnow, Salo Baron and Benzion Dinur), who, in their works, linked Jewish nationalism with liberalism, radicalism and socialism, were simply racists. Here's what he writes, for example, about Israeli historian Haim Zeev Hirschberg (1903-1974), who studied the Jews of North Africa: "His continual attempts to prove that the Jews were a race of people that had been displaced from its ancient homeland and which had been condemned to wander from country to country as an exiled nation ... dovetail beautifully with the directives of mainstream Zionist historiography." According to Sand, Hirschberg never managed to liberate himself from a "purifying substantive ideology." Does this sound familiar? When and where did you last read that Zionism was a racist movement?

Scattered communities

I will now refer briefly to the connection between the book's conceptual underpinnings and the author's main historical argument, namely, that, prior to the modern period, the Jews constituted only a group of "scattered religious communities." Sand defines national identity in the spirit of the ideas of the French Revolution. Not only does he reject the concept of an ethnic identity that is not dependent on the existence of a political entity confined within clearly defined borders, he even rejects an identity whose possessors' claim is founded on a cultural or political entity that is not subject to control or management by the agencies of the central regime. In his view, such identities are merely "invented identities" and he does not believe that pre-modern identities can survive in the modern era. In fact, Sand advocates the position that was heard in the French National Assembly in December 1789: "The Jews must not be allowed to constitute a special political entity or to have a special political status. Instead, each Jew must on an individual basis be a citizen of France." However, whereas the champions of the Emancipation in Paris did recognize the non-religious essence of the pre-modern Jewish nation, Sand does not.

I was unable to find in Sand's book any innovations in the study of nationalism. The author is stuck somewhere between historians such as Eric Hobsbawm, Benedict Anderson and Ernest Gellner -- a generation behind what is happening today in the field. As far as I can discern, the book contains not even one idea that has not been presented earlier in their books and articles by what he insists on defining as "authorized historians" suspected of "concealing historical truth." "When and How Was the Jewish People Invented?" is a marvelous blend of clearly modernist arguments, drawn from the legacy of 18th-century European Enlightenment, with a moderate, but disturbing (because of its superficiality), pinch of Foucaultian discourse from a previous generation.

Moreover, the author's treatment of Jewish sources is embarrassing and humiliating. What serious reader who knows the history of modern Hebrew literature can take seriously the views expressed in a book that defines "Bohen tsadik" (Investigating a Righteous Man), a satirical (fictional!) work by the Galician intellectual and supporter of the Haskalah Yosef Perl (1773-1839), as something that was written by a person named Yitzhak Perl and which "contains 41 letters from rabbis that relate to various aspects of Jewish life"? Who would attest to the accuracy of facts in a research study where it is stated that historian Joseph Klausner (1874-1958) -- a scholar who never was (despite his burning ambition to do so) a professor of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and who, instead, served there as a professor of Hebrew literature -- "was in fact the first official historian of the ?Second Temple period' at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem"? Does such sloppiness reflect the author's attitude to the subject of his research? Or, perhaps, because everything is an invention anyway, it does not really matter whether the "imagined object" is black or white?

The lugubrious Israeli combination of aggressive one-dimensional conceptuality and blatant disrespect for details (a characteristic mix among writers at both ends of the political spectrum) will undoubtedly captivate the hearts of the public relations executives of the electronic media. However, we, the skeptical historians, who are buried between mountains of books and piles of archival files, can only continue to read what has really been written and to write about what has really been read.

Prof. Israel Bartal is dean of the humanities faculty of the Hebrew University. His book "Cossack and Bedouin: Land and People in Jewish Nationalism" was published by Am Oved in its Ofakim series (Hebrew).

Anonymous said...

It must come as news to the Ethiopian Jews or to Ovadiah Yosef. You are not Jews at all! You were invented in Germany in the 19th century. This must be news for Rabbi Yosef because he has had a decidedly controversial relationship with Ashkenazi Jews, the Holocaust and the Reform movement, the last of which are especially linked to German Jewry. How surprising for Ethiopian Jews to learn that they were invented in Germany in the 19th century.

These are but two examples of people who will be quite shocked to read the newest book by Tel Aviv University historian, Prof. Shlomo Sand; Matai ve'ech humtza ha'am hayehudi? (When and How the Jewish People Was Invented?; Published by Resling, in Hebrew). But the Sand's book is not unique. It follows in the footsteps of others and was the logical outgrowth of other attempts by Israeli intellectuals and academics to 'smash idols' and write 'controversial' works about Jewishness. Such treatises are composed partly out of a desire to get themselves noticed, published and get some cash, or out of a need to feel that they are being 'original'.

Sand's point of departure, like most critics of Jewish nationalism, is that the Jewish national movement is not only morally wrong but that it must be based on a myth, on the Benedict Anderson idea of an 'imagined community.' When one begins to write a book or do a study whose conclusion has already been reached, it necessitates uncovering "sources" to prove it and ignoring any source which contradicts it. This decidedly un-scientific method leads to pseudo-scholarly revisionist writing about history, which, as has been illustrated by the works of Ilan Pappe, can pick and choose sources as one sees fit. Sand refers to this process as 'historiography.'

Historiography is the analysis of how history is written. To give but one example, it would not address the history of the Holocaust but rather the history of how and why people have written about the Holocaust. Thus a historiography of the Jewish people is not a history of the Jewish people so much as a history of how people have written about them. Paul Kriwaczek's Yiddish Civilization and Tudor Parfitt's The Lost Tribes of Israel, have shown to some extent that Jews themselves were not always interested in writing their own history. This supposedly adds to the Sand thesis because it allows him to claim that absent of Jews writing their own history, their history was created by Europeans and then invented in the 19th century. But Jews didn't need to write history books about themselves, they had the Talmud and other rich sources, living histories learned in the Yeshiva, and so they did not need to write history.

Sand describes his own venture into historic revisionism as an exploration in historiography, and notes: "My initial intention was to take certain kinds of modern historiographic materials and examine how they invented the 'figment' of the Jewish people. But when I began to confront the historiographic sources, I suddenly found contradictions. And then that urged me on: I started to work, without knowing where I would end up. I took primary sources and I tried to examine authors' references in the ancient period - what they wrote about conversion." Sand takes historiography one step further and rather then analyzing simply how Jews wrote about themselves in the 19th century he goes one step further and creates a new history of the Jewish people. So the Sand ideology was not just to write about how people wrote about Jews. Sand, who was once active in the Israeli splinter Maoist group Matzpen, also wanted to learn about stories of conversions to Judaism and then to connect those strands into a theory that claimed that all Jews everywhere are the descendants of converts. That being the case, Jewish peoplehood must itself be a fabrication, one invented in 19th century Germany, notably contemporaneous with the antecedents of Nazism. For Sand this is not a coincidence, because then Zionism can be shown to be similar to Nazism, is proven illegitimate, and so Israel should not exist at all. This is quite a novel way to rewrite history.

Before Sand there was Arthur Koestler and his The Thirteenth Tribe, published in 1976, which argued that all Eastern European Jews, the cradle of Ashkenazi Jewry, were descendants of the Khazars, a kingdom that converted to Judaism. The Zionist Koestler's goal was to convince the world that Jews are indeed an interesting, exotic, group of people, deserving of respect and interest. The anti-Zionist Sand's goals are the opposite.

Meanwhile, Koestler's book has been distorted and misused by neo-Nazis and Islamic extremists to "prove" that today's Jews are Khazar interlopers, with no legitimate claims to the land of Israel. Sand's book seems to be popular among the same crowd. As one illustration, on one finds that large numbers of those who today buy Koestler's book also buy Holocaust Denial and Neo-Nazi books. These include a book that is described as "The Synagogue of Satan is the first book ever to document the secret history of the evil conspirators responsible for wars, revolutions, and financial debacles around the world. It is a virtual encyclopedia of fresh new information and facts unmasking the Jewish Illuminati elite and their sinister goals and hidden influence." So Sand is now connected to the same crowd of book writers who claim that Zionism is Nazism, that Zionism is ethnic-cleansing, and that the Holocaust is an 'industry' exploited by the Jews for money.

In his Haaretz interview with Sand, Ofri Ilani explains the Sand thesis: "He argues that the exile of the Jewish people is originally a Christian myth that depicted that event as divine punishment imposed on the Jews for having rejected the Christian gospel." Sand rests his 'proof' on a simplistic deconstructing of history, one based on him being an expert on 20th century history. Sand claims that "the reason is that no one exiled the [Jewish] people of the country. The Romans did not exile peoples and they could not have done so even if they had wanted to. They did not have trains and trucks to deport entire populations. That kind of logistics did not exist until the 20th century. From this, in effect, the whole book was born: in the realization that Judaic society was not dispersed and was not exiled." This begs the question how exactly the Mongols made it all the way to Eastern Europe, with no trains and trucks. It also begs the questions of other mass migrations, including about how Arabs ended up in Morocco.

For Sand "the chances that the Palestinians are descendants of the ancient Judaic people are much greater than the chances that you or I are its descendents." But this begs a further question: Why not call the Palestinians 'Jews' if he truly believes this? Sand's 'evidence' for this is: "Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the second president of the State of Israel, wrote in 1929 that, 'the vast majority of the peasant farmers do not have their origins in the Arab conquerors, but rather, before then, in the Jewish farmers who were numerous and a majority in the building of the land." Some proof, a single old citation taken out of context!

This illustrates the typical pattern of misuse of history and selective quotes to 'prove' things that were never intended to be proven by the individual being cited. For instance when someone objects to the term 'indigenous' being used for the Arab Muslim Palestinians, one is always told to 'read Jabotinsky' because he referred to them as the 'indigenous' inhabitants. Similarly Sand ignores the origins of the Ben-Zvi citations. Ben-Zvi was not alone in believing that the rural peasantry of Palestine were descendants of the Jewish people. General Charles Gordon, who was in the Holy Land in 1883, and like Ben-Zvi and Sand was a self studied expert on the history of the Land of Israel, claimed that one could clearly see the Jewish people's original facial structure in the faces of the Fellahin.

But which is the myth here? Gordon also believed he had found the 'true' tomb of Christ outside Damascus Gate at a place called the Garden Tomb. He believed rumours at the time that some of the Bedouin tribes practiced Judaism. There are even some Rabbis today who claim that they have found Jews among several Palestinian families in the Hebron hills.

The source of the 'Palestinian Fellahin as Jews' idea is not original to Sand, and it's also not true that every Zionist believed this wholeheartedly. What is true is that leading Zionists from the late 19th and early 20th century did see among the Fellahin a people that were descendants of the Jews, just as they themselves were, and they felt that if the Fellahin could be freed from their Muslim and nationalist leaders that they would return to Judaism, just like, year later, some Ethiopian Jews who had converted to Christianity (referred to as Falash Mura) were encouraged to return, along with the Morranos. But the existence of some Ethiopian Jews-turned Christians or Morranos was never said to make the rest of the Ethiopian Jews or Sephardim not Jewish, they were simply some people who had been disconnected and should be brought back to Judaism. Sand takes the argument further and says the Palestinians are the real Jews, a fact that might be surprising to some of the Jerusalemite families such as the Dajanis who believe they are descendants from great Muslim Arabs of the 7th century. It might be a surprise to some of the light skinned Hebronite Arabs who are reputed descendants of the Crusaders. Or maybe the Jews are descendants of the Crusaders who borrowed their ideology from the Nazis, anything is possible in the Sand reading of history which requires new myths be used to replace what he sees as old myths. Not so unlike General Gordon's creation of a new 'tomb of Jesus' to replace what he saw as the mythical tomb of Jesus in the Holy Sepulchre.

Sand has a theory for everything. For him the Sephardim are actually descendents from Berber tribes. "I asked myself how such large Jewish communities appeared in Spain. And then I saw that Tariq ibn Ziyad, the supreme commander of the Muslims who conquered Spain, was a Berber, and most of his soldiers were Berbers. Dahia al-Kahina's Jewish Berber kingdom had been defeated only 15 years earlier. And the truth is there are a number of Christian sources that say many of the conquerors of Spain were Jewish converts. The deep-rooted source of the large Jewish community in Spain was those Berber soldiers who converted to Judaism." Sand should look up the meaning of the term "non sequitur."

There is a slight problem here because Sand has also claimed that Zionism has no claim to land in the Arab world because the Jews were invented in Europe and thus belong in Europe. But if some of the Jews are Berbers, then don't they deserve a state someplace in North Africa? Aren't they the 'indigenous' people of North Africa? Sand might dismiss that idea as imperialist colonialism.

Sand revives the long-disproved Koestler myth about the Khazars being the fathers of East European Jewry; "The Zionist historiography claims that their origins are in the earlier Jewish community in Germany, but they do not succeed in explaining how a small number of Jews who came from Mainz and Worms could have founded the Yiddish people of Eastern Europe. The Jews of Eastern Europe are a mixture of Khazars and Slavs who were pushed eastward." He delves into demography, which is another thing in which he has no expertise. He ignores problems with the claims that a half million Palestinian refugees now number 9 million people.

As it turns out, the Khazars were dispersed and disappeared between the 10th and 13th centuries. Sand claims that it is demographically probable that they were the fathers of the 3 million Polish Jews who existed in the 20th century. Never mind that they have no Khazar family names, spoke Yiddish, and contained numerous Cohens and Levis who could not possibly be of Khazar ancestry (such status is passed through the patrilinear line and cannot be obtained via conversion). Demography actually tells us that it is far more likely that German Jewish immigrants became the millions of Jews of Eastern Europe through migration and natural growth.

Sand's theories are all predicated on his basic view that Jews have no right to be in Israel at all. "It is clear that the fear is of an undermining of the historic right to the land. The revelation that the Jews are not from Judea would ostensibly knock the legitimacy for our being here out from under us." Sand does not believe the Jewish people exist, except perhaps as Arab Palestinians. He does believe that there is a 'Yiddish' people, the descendants of Khazars, and also an 'Israeli' people that have nothing to do with Jewishness. Sand's 'Israelis' are connected to the old ideology of Canaanism, which was once an ideological fad among some Israeli intellectuals who believed the creation of Israel would lead to the creation of a new people of Hebrew-speaking Canaanites, the new Israelis

According to Ron Kuzar, himself a radical leftist, "The Canaanites redefined the forming nation as a new Hebrew (rather than Jewish) nation which had its roots in the glorious days of the Biblical era. They claimed that large parts of the Middle East, which they named the Land of Kedem (kedem 'East/antiquity'), constituted in antiquity a Hebrew-speaking civilization. Hence the Hebrew renaissance should aspire to rebuild a nation based on the same geographical area, which should embrace the whole local population, liberating them from Islam and from pan-Islamic and pan-Arab tendencies."

Canaanism was a small splinter movement made up of poets and intellectuals, some of whom became members of the revisionist underground groups, the Etzel and Lehi, and some later became extremist anti-Israel leftists. One-time adherents to Canaanism or fellow travelers include Uri Avnery, author of Israel without Zionists: a plea for peace, Meron Benvenisti, and Boaz Evron, author of Jewish State or Israeli.

Sand identifies with those he sees as the "actual Jews," the Palestinians, noting, "If I were a Palestinian I would rebel." Meaning become a terrorist? For Sand, Israel is based upon "an ethnocentric, biological, genetic discourse." Of course Palestinian nationalism, is not. In Sand's upside-down world, the Palestinians, who by and large never considered themselves to be a people at all before 1967, are an unchallengeable ethnic-nation, while the oldest ethnic-nation on earth, the Jews, are a bunch of interloping converts with no entitlement to self-determination.

Sand's prescriptions for a non-Jewish Israeliness appear mild; "It is necessary to add, for example, pan-Israeli holidays. To decrease the number of memorial days a bit and to add days that are dedicated to the future. But also, for example, to add an hour in memory of the Nakba [literally, the 'catastrophe' - the Palestinian term for what happened when Israel was established], between Memorial Day and Independence Day." In short, the Palestinians, who are the real Jews, need more memorials inside Israel, but the other Jews, the 'Yiddish' and 'Israeli' nations, do not. Sand is modest in his description of himself:; "As a historian it is my duty to write history and examine texts. This is what I have done."

But Sand also has a radical alternative: "since the beginning of the period of decolonization, settlers have no longer been able to say simply: 'We came, we won and now we are here' the way the Americans, the whites in South Africa and the Australians said. There is a very deep fear that doubt will be cast on our right to exist." But Sand's theory is also part of his re-definition of himself: "I don't think that the historical myth of the exile and the wanderings is the source of the legitimization for me being here, and therefore I don't mind believing that I am Khazar in my origins." So Sand is a self-defined Khazar who identifies with the real Jews, the Palestinians, and would join them if only he were a real Jew like they are; but he is not, he is a Khazar.

It is hard to debate the Sand discourse because it is so convoluted, based on so many dubious assumptions, so out-of-step with the history he claims to understand, including demography, technology, and the movements of people. Nevertheless, it is necessary to point out several key flaws with it.

The Sand belief that Jewish nationalism is connected to other European nationalism is not unique. His belief that Zionism must be subjected to the same critique of nationalism as other nationalisms is also neither unique nor problematic. Sand claims that the search for a 'mythical' Jewish past is connected to the interest of Greek nationalism in Classical Greece or German nationalism's interest in the Teutonic tribes. So for Sand "at a certain stage in the 19th century, intellectuals of Jewish origin in Germany, influenced by the folk character of German nationalism took upon themselves the task of inventing a people 'retrospectively,' out of a thirst to create a modern Jewish people."

But what is strange is that no one denies that the German people may live in Germany or that Greek people may live in Greece. Even though modern German nationalism may be illegitimate and the Greeks are in large part descendants from Slavic migrants rather than Pericles and Homer, no one says that Greece should be given to Turkey or Germany given to Russia. Germans and Greeks get to keep Germany and Greece, even if their old nationalist myths are false. But the Jews, alone among the world's peoples, are said to have a national myth which makes them illegitimate as owners of a state. Books such as Japan's Modern Myth by Roy Andrew Miller critique Japanese national myths, but don't suggest the Japanese should be expelled back to Korea, whence some claim they came, nor that China should be given Japan. But for people like Sand, that is the implication: the Jews must go, so that the 'real Jews', the Palestinians, can have their ethnic-nationalist state.

Herein lies the second problem with the Sand thesis. He holds the Jews to a very "high standard," claiming that because some people converted to Judaism over the last two thousand years, therefore all modern Jews are descendants from converts. But he does not hold the Muslim Arab Palestinians to a similarly high standard. For him, their nationalism is legitimate, and he sees in them the ancient Jewish tribes and perhaps Canaanites. Hence they necessarily predate and have more legitimacy than the modern Jews.

But any critique of nationalism should be the same for all peoples, including Jews and Arabs. The Arabs cannot be painted as a homogenous people who are allowed a mythical national narrative, while the Jews are said to be no more than a myth. For Sand this is precisely what happens. In fact he helps create a mythical Palestinian history in order to tear down Jewish history. This is de facto anti-Semitism, the holding of the Jews to a different standard than other peoples, singling them out for special hatred and contempt, while raising up other peoples.

Furthermore Sand's argument that Jews are either Berbers, ancient Yemenite "remnants of the Himyar Kingdom in the Arab Peninsula, who converted to Judaism in the fourth century," or Khazars should actually mean that Jews have a right to three new states; Yemen, Algeria and perhaps Azerbaijan. Instead, for Sand the Jews deserve no state, which means once again they are alone among the world's peoples in not being allowed self-determination, even in their supposed forms as descendents of Yemenites, Berbers and Khazars.

Another problem with the Sand thesis is that it is Eurocentric and allows for the idea that only the Europeans "invented" the Jews. Since those Jews were then said, by anti-Semites, to control Europe, as per the Elders of Zion, the same Europeans decided to exterminate the Jews they had, according to Sand, created. This predicates Jewish existence on whatever Europeans decide. Europeans create the Jews, then hate them, then accuse them of controlling the world, then exterminate them, and now claim all Jews are really Europeans.

But who are Europeans? What is their pedigree? Why are their states legitimate? This is a problem that returns us to the old ghosts of the colonialistic past, where Europeans practiced pseudo-scientific anthropology wherever they went, creating 'martial tribes' and describing others as 'naturally slaves.' But it is a circular argument. European civilization into the 1950s was based on Christianity and the original anti-Semitism was inspired by Christianity. Yet now we hear that Europeans invented the Jews, the very people from which Jesus sprung.

There is also an entrenched racism behind the Sand thesis. Sand is welcome to think that the Ashkenazi elite of Israel is based on a mythical history, but by what right does he claim that the Sephardim were 'invented' in Europe? When European civilization consisted of people clubbing eachother to death, the Jews of Babylon were a rich community of intellectuals and scholars. Today's European wants to believe he created the Jews, but Christian European civilization and Islamic civilization could not have arisen without the Jews first existing. Both traditions were built upon the existence of the Jews.

Furthermore it is quite alarming to have a professor at a leading Israeli university point to the Sephardim, the Ethiopians, and the Yemenite Mizrachim, all who happen to be darker skinned Jews, and say 'we created you; you are a myth; you are based in Europe; your heritage is a lie.' Their heritage is actually older than that of the Ashkenazi Jews. Is it just a coincidence that the Sand's condemnation of the Sephardic, Mizrachi and Ethiopian heritages targets those Jews who happen to be of darker skin? These are also people who came as refugees from the Islamic world (except for Ethiopian Jews who came from Orthodox Christian Ethiopia), their rich heritage destroyed and crushed and their lives broken, only to try to succeed in Israeli society. They are now being told by an Austrian-born Israeli academic that they are a myth. They are being told they should be deported 'back' to Europe, their 'origin', a continent that genocided the Jews when the Jews lived there.

But the Sand thesis has one other simple problem: history. Sand chose to pick and choose sources, Christian or anti-Semitic, that agreed with him, just as Dr. Ariel Toaff 'proved' that the Blood Libel was true in Bloody Passovers: The Jews of Europe and Ritual Murder (he used Jewish confessions extracted under torture to 'prove' that the Jews 'might' have drank the blood of Christian children). But he misses the real history.

Apion, who lived from 20 B.C to 45 A.D, wrote anti-Jewish works and encouraged communal riots against Jews. In 70 A.D the Jews of Judea revolted against Rome and their polity was destroyed. In 118 the Jews of Cyrus and North Africa revolted against their Roman and Greek administrators and massacres resulted. In 415 A.D Theodosius II of Byzantium forbade Jews from holding public office. In the 7th century Mohammed complained that the Jews refused to recognize him and he exterminated one of the Jewish tribes of Arabia. In 1096 Crusader knights massacred Jews in the Rhine valley on their way to the Holy Land. In 1148 the Almohades conquered Cordoba and ordered the Jews to convert, die or leave. Many fled, including the family of Maimonides. In 1290 Edward I of England expelled the Jews from his country. In 1306 Philip IV of France expelled the Jews from his France. In 1492 the Jews were expelled from Spain. In 1543 Martin Luther published his anti-Semitic Jewish text, On the Jews and Their Lies. In 1573 Jews were expelled from Berlin. In the Chemielnicki massacre of 1648 some 300 Jewish communities were destroyed in the Ukraine by Cossacks. In 1821 the first recorded Pogrom took place in Odessa.

Who were these Jews, who appear so often in history, in official edicts of expulsion, and tractates of anti-Semitism? Sand would have us believe that they were all imaginary and mythical characters. So then why did so many of them have to die over the years? Why were 6 million of them exterminated? Why were their caricatures of Jews sucking at the breasts of sows in Germany, while they were ordered to wear special clothes, enter through special gates and live in segregated ghettos, locked at night?

That is the ultimate question. If the Jews never really existed, then why did Islam and Christianity spend so much time suppressing them?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 11:55,
You write about "a lack of any seed of connection [of "modern Zionists"] to ancient Jews... the conversion of the Khazars into Jews during the 8th Century AD. These Jewish "converts" now make up at least 75% of the entire world Jewry today."
Your argument is a hodgepodge of fallacies, chief of which is that in order to be a "real Jew" one must be a "pure" descendant of ancient Israelites. As I said in my earlier comment, that line was invented by Anglo-Saxon racists, it is complete and utter baloney. Second, it is a non-sequitur, because no matter what you think defines a Jew, it doesn't prove that Zionism is either right or wrong, it's a totally separate issue. If all Jews in the world today were 100% pure descendants of the ancient Israelites, would that give them more of a right to deprive the Palestinians of their basic human rights?
(1) "Zionism" and "European Judaism" are two different things. True, they overlap to some extent, but European Judaism is over 2,000 years old, and zionism is considerably less than two centuries old. Many Jews are not Zionists, and many Zionists are not Jews. (Perhaps you've heard of Christian Zionism?)
(2) The set of "European zionists" is not isomorphic with Jews descended from Khazars. There are plenty of Jews descended from Khazars who are not European zionists, and plenty of European zionists who are not descended from Khazars.
(3) There are plenty of non-Eurpean zionists who are very hard-line against Palestinians, and plenty of European Zionists (cultural zionists, leftist zionists, etc.), who support Palestinian rights.
(4) "European zionists try to suppress their own history." You mean they refuse to believe that the Zionist movement was founded by Theodore Herzl in the 19th century?
(5) You call the Khazars, Jewish "converts" -- but you put the word "converts" in inverted commas. Why? It is a documented fact that many Khazars converted to Judaism in the 8th-10th centuries. Once they did that, by Jewish law, they were Jews.
(6) Even before the leadership of the Khazar empire converted to the Jewish faith, there was significant immigration of Jews into Khazaria from the neighboring Byzantine Empire and neighboring Persia. And of course this immigration only increased later. It would be strange if there was not significant intermarriage among these groups, And that was already around 1000 years ago.
(7) The fact that one may have Khazar ancestry in no way precludes having ancestry from the middle east, not to mention Persia, Greece, or anywhere else.
(8) By Jewish law, a convert is a Jew as much as any other.
(9) Children of converts are not converts.
(10) But the masterpiece of illogic is where you say that "These Jewish 'converts' now make up at least 75% of the entire world Jewry today." In other words, the Khazars who converted to Judaism in the 8th-10th century actually did not convert, they merely "converted". Amazing what a pair of inverted commas can do! And today these "converts," who, one would have thought, died a long, long time ago, somehow didn't die, because today they amount to 75% of world Jewry. Well, the number of Jews in the world is estimated today at about 13 million, so that means that over nine million Khazars converted to Judaism -- but not really -- in the 8th-10th centuries. And they are still alive today.
Perhaps what you are really trying to say is that 75% of present world Jewry has SOME Khazar ancestry. I am sure that the true figure is not known, but for the sake of argument let's say that the figure 75% is technically correct -- and not forgetting they have lots of other ancestry as well.
So the f--k what? What conclusion about Israel follows logically from that?
Look, one half of one percent of all men alive today are believed to be descendants of Ghengis Khan.
Therefore what? They are the legitimate heirs to the Mongol Empire? They are not the legitimate heirs to the Mongol empire?

George Salzman said...

Oaxaca, Mexico Monday 13 April 2009
There are now 11 Comments on the article "Israeli Scholar Disputes Founding Myth". Ten are posted as 'Anonymous said...' and one as 'Zionist-Rebuttal said...'. None provides the author's name or e-mail address. What is the value of all this commentary? My impression, although I cannot be certain, is that it is mainly Jews arguing with other Jews, about issues that are peripheral to the terrible events through which humanity, especially in the Middle East, is now living. I tried to make a little sense of the back and forth -- who was rebutting whom?, with only limited understanding. In the following is the data; the day, date and time of posting, what I thought it was (in parentheses), and the number of words.

1. Sun Apr 12, 11:25:00 AM (ambiguous), 16

2. Sun Apr 12, 12:27:00 PM (ambiguous), 23

3. Sun Apr 12, 05:05:00 PM (Jewish non-Zionist) pro-Bartal article, 437

4. Sun Apr 12, 05:20:00 PM (correction to 3), 23

5. Sun Apr 12, 07:08:00 PM (probably not 3), 166

6. Sun Apr 12, 11:45:00 PM (probably 3 answering 5), 53

7. Sun Apr 12, 11:55:00 PM (perhaps 3 once again), 110

8. Mon Apr 13, 02:52:00 AM (probably another Jew), 1285

9. Mon Apr 13, 12:14:00 PM (seems to be Bartal's Haaretz article), 2543

10. Mon Apr 13, 12:28:00 PM (yet another long tract, probably by a Jew), 4139

11. Mon Apr 13, 05:23:00 PM (criticism of debate, probaby by a Jew), 680

One wonders about the purpose of such a string of anonymous comments. For some it seems to be simply a chance to display one's knowledge without relating it to real events in the real world that impact real people? The world, I believe, is in crisis, from which no intellectuals are immune. We cannot escape into our piles of arcane books while children are being terrorized and killed, as we all know they are. My response to Morgan Strong's article (see below) does not pretend to stem from my scholarly credentials, but from my desire to see a world of love, of happy children. So of course I am not ideologically 'neutral'. No one is, regardless of the attempts we see by individuals to clothe themsleves in the costume of neutral intellectual objectivity. Here is my note:

Subject: The article, "Israeli Scholar Disputes Founding Myth" by Morgan Strong
From: George Salzman
Date: Sun, 12 Apr 2009 05:38:04 -0500

Oaxaca, Mexico 12 April 2009
The article today by Morgan Strong is absolutely first rate. The most valuable part, for me, is the section where Strong writes, quoting from Israel Bartal's article, "Inventing an invention"

"The kind of political intervention Sand is talking about, namely, a deliberate program designed to make Israelis forget the true biological origins of the Jews of Poland and Russia or a directive for the promotion of the story of the Jews' exile from their homeland is pure fantasy."
In other words, Bartal, like some other critics, is not so much disputing Sand’s historical claims about the Diaspora or the origins of Eastern European Jews, as he is contesting Sand’s notion that Zionists concocted a false history for a cynical political purpose.
But there can be no doubt that the story of the Diaspora has played a key role in the founding of Israel and that the appeal of this powerful narrative has helped the Jewish state generate sympathy around the world, especially in the United States.

Israeli intellectuals such as Professor Israel Bartal, dean of humanities at the Hebrew University, like intellectuals in general, want to try to preserve their scholarly credentials while
at the same time maintaining their psychologically-driven prejudices. Thus Professor Bartal does not challenge Sand's main point (in Bartal's opinion) -- the mythological forced exodus by the Romans of the Jews from the 'holy' land -- but picks on what to him must be, although of less historical importance, the much more germaine issue of the deliberate deceitfulness of the
entire Israeli propaganda effort directed at gaining (by calculated falsehood) sympathy and support for the Israeli conquest. Bartal maintains that it is pure fantasy that Zionists concocted a false history to serve their political goals. I, also of Ashkenazi heritage, believe Bartal is being
dishonest in maintaining that position. He acknowledges the prevalence of the diaspora myth in contemporary Israeli society, though claiming that professional Israeli historians know better than to buy into mythology. But how does he think that myth became dominant throughout contemporary Israel, which I understand to be the situation, if it was not deliberately promoted and nurtured? And why does he think there is so much hatred of Palestinians by Israeli Jews?
Could it be because they have been immersed in a culture of historical lies? Could it be because Israeli intellectuals by and large served interests other than promoting the truth? Why is it that Professor Ilan Pappé was made a virtual outcast by the credentialed Israeli intellectuals? Why is it that intellectuals like Bartal believe they can claim innocence when practically the entire world knows of, and is repulsed by the actions of what must be labelled Zionist Nazis? Why can Bartal not recognize what Professor Immanual Wallerstein so clearly stated, that in all likelihood the Jewish State of Israel has crossed the Rubicon?
George Salzman

Anonymous said...

I admire your fortitude in reading through this thread, and I apologize for my part in the anonymity. I think it would all have been a lot easier to follow if one (or possibly more) of the Anonymous'es had not pasted long masses of text into the comments, a practice universally condemned on blogs -- especially as, in one case, I had already provided the URL to that article further up the thread.
My own contributions are the ones that begin
(1) I am Jewish, not a Zionist...
(2) Sorry, a line got left out
(3) This may be the bottom line
(4) Anonymous at 11:55,
You write

(where I did identify to whom I'm replying ...)

My main criticism of Sand is not that everything he says is wrong. He is certainly right that there was not a total diaspora. But there WAS a diaspora! (Although here too there needs to be a revision, because there was already a considerable diaspora before the destruction of the Second Temple.)
My main criticism of Sand is that there is a big disconnect between the facts he adduces, and what he wants them to prove. He seems to assume (a) that an ancient religious tradition should not have any mythical elements and (b) that the zionist myth is identical to the religious tradition, when it is in fact a caricature of it, and (c) that their goals are the same, when they are diametrically opposite. It is true that the religious tradition has been largely captured by movements known as "Religious Zionism" on the one hand, and a messianic interpretation of hassidism (mainly Chabad) on the other. If I am correct in identifying you as a secular Jew, you probably don't think that is of any importance, but in fact it's at the heart of the problem. A great world religion has been coopted by a statist, nationalistic ideology. Right=wing non-religious (fascistic) Judaism would have gotten nowhere without the backing of these deviant forms of Judaism. Let me be clear, this is not a condemnation of the traditional Jewish religion, but of certain deviant forms of it, which have distorted Judaism in a way similar to how Wahhabism distorts Islam.
Prof. Sand needed only to dismantle the ZIONIST interpretation of Jewish history, which is clearly a 19th-20th century ideological construction. Instead, he speciously attacks Jewish culture, tradition, identity itself.
Therefore I don't think your criticism of Bartal's criticism is germane. Bartal admits that Sand's book contain smany interesting facts, but he recognizes that it is the argument itself that is defective. In other words, if you want to attack Likudnik ideology, don't try to re-write Jewish history. Just write the truth about the history of Likud, of political Zionism, and how it came to dominate the Zionist agenda.
Finally, let us not forget that about 62% of the world's Jews do not live in Israel. The Jewish Diaspora is very much with us, even if the Zionists have devoted special effort toward co-opting and destroying Jewish Diaspora cultures, which, for all intents and purposes, amounts the whole tradition as NOT bent towards Israeli priorities. (Zionism allows only one purpose for the diaspora: to support Israel.) Unfortunately, Prof. Sand, in his own way, is also trying to annihilate the Diaspora. Maybe that is because, like most Israelis, he was long ago miseducated to believe that Diaspora Jews are not "real" Jews.

Anonymous said...

So the Jewish-Zionist delusion is finally brought into the light, by one of their own no less. Israel has a right to exist, but no more right than the Palestinians who also inhabit Palestine have a right to live there without the terrorist threat of Jewish settlers. As for the rebuttals to Sands here, as well as Bartal at Haaretz, that if you're not 'Jewish' you have no right to be in Israel, pfffft. A 'Jewish' state is by definition an apartheid state and has no right to exist in today's world, but Israel, a country made up of returning Jews as well as the legitimate Palestinian population, does. Zionism is just an excuse for another holocaust and, as such, is criminal and needs to be prevented by the global community. And if you want to see the true scope and breadth of Israeli hate, simply read some of the responses to stories critical in any way of Israel; it is enough to make you wonder if 'nazism' isn't a mental illness which has infected Jews.

Anonymous said...

i am ragged_soul:

reading the response above, one can easily tell which have Jewsih authors and which do not. Those which are not of Jewsish origin make short, to-the-point observations. Those that are by Jews ramble, often calling anything they disagree with as 'baseless', and reiterating the general Zionist-speak of their ilk.

A Jew is a descendant of those original people occupying Canaan in biblical times; those to whom Moses was real. If you are a converted Jew, then your claim to Israel is nothing short of a perverted delusion. To think that your mythical, even delusional, 'divine right' to a geographical area allows you to imprison those whose ancestors have worked the soil for two thousand years makes you no better, in fact worse, than the Nazis who persecuted you during the second world war. I'm glad to see the fallacy of Zionism finally beginning to show signs of the construct it is; now is the time for Israel to look forward, retract to the pre-1967 borders and make an honest, yes honest, attempt at peace. I also agree that a 'Jewish' state has no more right to exist than any other apartheid nation. Those who disagree may look at what the definition of apartheid is before screaming anti-semite at me.


Anonymous said...

Israel / Jews are the Blood sucking Parasites of the World, they are Leeches draining the life from Mankind. The sooner they are gone the better Earth will be.

Anonymous said...

Israel / Jews are the Blood sucking Parasites of the World, they are Leeches draining the life from Mankind. The sooner they are gone the better.

Reg Vernon said...

The story of the Khazars converting to Judaism was the subject of a book called "The Thirteenth Tribe" by Arthur Koestler. It may be uncomfortable for Ashkenazi Jews, originating from Eastern Europe, to find that they are not genetically linked to the semitic Jews of the ancient kingdom of Israel, but I have no doubt that that is so. Unfortunately for the Arabs of Palestine, Israelis of Eastern European extraction brought to Israel the cultural baggage of European society, much of which was, and still is, alien to the agrarian, primitive Palestinians. Both sides are struggling to assert and maintain ownership of the land that is Israel, or was Palestine trans Jordan. The juxtaposition of the two societies is the frontline between modern European knowledge, values and habits and the Muslim world, which was once the vanguard of scientific thinking and is now mired in a conflict between modernism and fundamentalism. It is a struggle that will continue for many generations unless both sides can recognise the rights that they owe each other and make peace. Peace is possible, but only if Palestinians accept that Jews did have an ancient right to live in the land of Israel and a modern right to exist as a unitary nation-state. The corollary is that Israelis must recognise and accommodate the rights of the dispossessed and displaced Palestinians to live in Palestine trans Jordan. I take the view that Jordan should be part of the solution to the Middle East crisis and that, ultimately, there could be two contiguous states - Israel and Palestine trans Jordan, with a jointly administered capital in Jerusalem.