Jess's Reviews > The Invention of the Jewish People

The Invention of the Jewish People by Shlomo Sand
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Apr 07, 12

bookshelves: anthropology-archaeology, history, jerusalem-2012, politics
Read in January, 2012

I attempted to read this book in preparation for a trip to Israel figuring that if I can't find objective sources at least I know the particular author's bias. I enjoyed the story-telling in the introduction of the book; however the discussion of nations and modern nationalism in the first chapter quickly showed me that bias would not be my biggest criticism. Sand focuses entirely on black-and-white thinking. He seemingly argues that the modern notion of the Nation (or nationalism or nation state) is the only notion that can be used ignoring similar concepts in history and the etymology of the word nation. Sand makes arbitrary separations about size, language, religion and culture. This dogmatic, illogical, and poorly argued premise is one example of the depth or lack thereof of arguments that Sand puts forth.

The basic premise of the book is that the current Jewish people making up the state of Israel are not the original inhabitants of that land and therefore have no legitimate claim on it. Unfortunately, Sand's explanations for European Jews who founded Zionism and Israel is conversion espousing the psuedohistory notion that Ashkenazi Jews, in particular, descend from Khazar converts (from the Thirteenth Tribe by Arthur Koestler.) Genetic studies have irrefutably shown that modern Jews have common descent similar to modern human populations in Israel (Palestinians) and Lebabnon with admixture from various other genetic backgrounds including Europeans. Genetic studies have also shown that Palestinians are closely related to Jewish groups with some admixture from Arab groups. Sands basic premise is unsupportable. Both Jews and Palestinians are likely descended from a common population.

His other arguments for a large conversion population seem weak although certainly the most historically interesting to me. I would have also been interested in historic intermarriage between Jews and European populations. However, neither the existence of converts nor intermarriage really supports his argument.

Sand also sets himself as a prosecuted minority going after The Truth, while the establisment maintains a diliberately false image of history, the Zionist movement and the state of Israel. This requires a major rewrite of the Zionist movement and view of Judaism as a collective identity as well as creating a homogenous and conscious modern Jewish establisment to rail against it. While I don't doubt that some Jews (and Christians) hold infalliable views of the bible as a historic document, I would argue that this is likely a fringe view in any academic dealing with history, archealogy and/or anthropology.

Utimately, I think that legitamate criticisms can be made about the state of Israel; however, Sand completely misses the conversation by producing and maintaining wrong conclusions with ahistoric arguments. Of course Sand responded to the newest genetic evidence with "It is a bitter irony to see the descendants of Holocaust survivors set out to find a biological Jewish identity." A statement that is both irrelevant and nonsensical as many of the recent studies have emphasized the common origin of Israeli and Levant populations; as it fails to actually address the fact that modern Jews descended from Middle Eastern ancestral populations; and as it does not address the actual problems in Israel.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Michael Benton This review is ridiculous and does not engage with the extensive history in this book. Obviously a hatchet job seeking to persuade people to not read it.


Fred Kohn I tried to form a response to this absurd review and failed. It makes so little sense it's not even worth responding to.


Michael Benton Thanks Drew


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