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The Invention of the Jewish People

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A historical tour de force that demolishes the myths and taboos that have surrounded Jewish and Israeli history, offers a new account of both that demands to be read and reckoned with. Was there really a forced exile in the first century, at the hands of the Romans? Should we regard the Jewish people, throughout two millennia, as both a distinct ethnic group and a putative nation—returned at last to its Biblical homeland?

Shlomo Sand argues that most Jews actually descend from converts, whose native lands were scattered far across the Middle East and Eastern Europe. The formation of a Jewish people and then a Jewish nation out of these disparate groups could only take place under the sway of a new historiography, developing in response to the rise of nationalism throughout Europe. Beneath the biblical back fill of the nineteenth-century historians, and the twentieth-century intellectuals who replaced rabbis as the architects of Jewish identity, uncovers a new narrative of Israel’s formation, and proposes a bold analysis of nationalism that accounts for the old myths.

After a long stay on Israel’s bestseller list, and winning the coveted Aujourd’hui Award in France, is finally available in English. The central importance of the conflict in the Middle East ensures that Sand’s arguments will reverberate well beyond the historians and politicians that he takes to task. Without an adequate understanding of Israel’s past, capable of superseding today’s opposing views, diplomatic solutions are likely to remain elusive. In this iconoclastic work of history, Shlomo Sand provides the intellectual foundations for a new vision of Israel’s future.

332 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2008

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About the author

Shlomo Sand

36 books162 followers
Shlomo Sand is professor of history at Tel Aviv University and author of the controversial book The Invention of the Jewish People (Verso Books, 2009). His main areas of teaching are nationalism, film as history and French intellectual history.

Sand was born to Polish Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. His parents had Communist and anti-imperialist views and refused to receive compensations from Germany for their suffering during the Second World War. Sand spent his early years in a displaced persons camp, and moved with the family to Jaffa in 1948. He was expelled from high school at the age of sixteen, and only completed his bagrut following his military service. He eventually left the Union of Israeli Communist Youth (Banki) and joined the more radical, and anti-Zionist, Matzpen in 1968. Sand resigned from Matzpen in 1970 due to his disillusionment with the organisation.

He declined an offer by the Israeli Communist Party Rakah to be sent to do cinema studies in Poland, and in 1975 Sand graduated with a BA in History from Tel Aviv University. From 1975 to 1985, after winning a scholarship, he studied and later taught in Paris, receiving an MA in French History and a PhD for his thesis on "George Sorel and Marxism". Since 1982, Sand has taught at Tel Aviv University as well as at the University of California, Berkeley and the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris.

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Profile Image for فؤاد.
1,046 reviews1,696 followers
July 21, 2022
اول با بی میلی سراغ کتاب رفتم. فکر می‌کردم کتاب زردیه، مثل بیشتر کتاب هایی که در مورد اسرائیل چاپ می‌شه. اما همون فصل اول نظرم برگشت و خیلی چیزها یاد گرفتم هم در مورد اسرائیل و ملی‌گرایی یهودی، هم در مورد ملی‌گرایی به طور کلی، و علاقمند شدم بیشتر بخونم.

قبل از خوندن کتاب لازمه در مورد تاریخ یهود مطالعه کرده باشید. کتاب برای مخاطب یهودی نوشته شده و پر از اشارات بدون توضیح به تاریخ یهوده که اگه از قبل ازش مطلع نباشید، سرعت مطالعه پایین میاد.

حرف اصلی نویسنده اینه که مفهوم قومیت و نژاد، اگه بخواد تا نهایت مرزهاش دنبال بشه، متزلزل و سسته. کشورها نباید سیاست‌های خودشون رو بر اساس چنین مفهوم متزلزلی بچینن و باید تمام جمعیت متولد شده درون مرزهاشون رو به عنوان شهروند به رسمیت بشناسن. جالبه که نویسنده فصل آخر می‌گه فلسطینی‌های نسل جدید خودشون رو جزء ملت اسرائیل می‌دونن و دیگه مثل نسل قبلی دنبال نابود کردن اسرائیل نیستن، و فقط دنبال اینن که به عنوان شهروند کشوری که خودشون رو متعلق بهش می‌دونن، پذیرفته بشن.

در تکمیل این حرف، دو بحث تاریخی رو دنبال می‌کنه که نشون بده چقدر می‌شه در مفهوم «قوم یهود» اما و اگر کرد.

اول این که با مطالعه روی عرب‌های فلسطینی، مشخص شده که این‌ها در اصل از نژاد یهودی هستن، یهودی‌هایی که بعد از فتوحات اسلامی مسلمان شدن و زبانشون رو به عربی تغییر دادن. سیاست مسلمان‌ها این نبود که جمعیت‌ها رو جابجا کنن. کشاورزها سرِ زمین‌های خودشون می‌موندن و فقط باید جزیه می‌دادن، و طبیعیه که جمعیت روستایی کم کم مسلمان بشن تا مشمول معافیت مالیاتی خاص مسلمان‌ها بشن. وجود کلمات عبری و آرامی در گویش عرب‌های فلسطینی، و وجود رسوم یهودی در رسوم محلی فلسطینی‌ها هم این رو تأیید می‌کنه.

دوم این که با مطالعه روی یهودی‌های اروپایی، مشخص شده که این‌ها در اصل از نژاد یهودی نیستن. بر خلاف تصور رایج که یهودیت رو دین غیر تبلیغی می‌دونن، یهودیت خصوصاً در چند قرن قبل و بعد از میلاد، به طور گسترده شروع کرد به تبلیغ خودش و در چند مورد اقوام بزرگی به طور گروهی یهودی شدن. از جمله اقوام «اِدومی» در دوران مکابیان، اقوام «حِمیَری» در یمن حوالی ظهور اسلام، اقوام «خزر» در قفقاز بعد از اسلام، و در نهایت اقوام فنیقی و بربر در شمال آفریقا. این دو مورد اخیر مخصوصاً مهمن، چون خزرها شدن نیای یهودی‌های اروپای شرقی (یهودی‌های اشکنازی)، و یهودی‌های شمال آفریقا بعد از این که همراه فتوحات اسلامی به اسپانیا رفتن، شدن نیای یهودی‌های اروپای غربی (یهودی‌های سفاردی). دو شاخۀ اصلی یهودی‌های اروپایی.

یعنی اقوامی که اصالتاً نژاد یهودی ندارن، دارن به بهانۀ نژادی، اقوامی که اصالتاً نژاد یهودی دارن رو از سرزمینشون بیرون می‌کنن.
Profile Image for Andre.
1 review1 follower
March 16, 2012
"The Invention of the Jewish People" is one of the most original, honest and historically accurate books I’ve read to date. Professor Sand’s expels the myth of the Jewish "people" and the myth of the "exile" of these people from the land of “Israel”. The Jews were never expelled in large numbers from Palestine as it was called even then; there is simply no historical evidence to back this claim up. The evidence shows that the vast majority of Jews living in Palestine simply converted to Christianity and then later to Islam and that they still live there today and are identified as Palestinians. He also shows how Judaism was spread by the Himyaritic of Yemen to gentiles from the Berbers in northwest Africa and the Khazar who lived in what is now southern Russia.

So in conclusion Sand’s book confirms that the Ashkenazi Kkazarian Jews that make up the majority in the Zionist state today have little or no historical claim to the land or right of return. Something they’ve taken away from the true indigenous people of Palestine as today 1/3 of all political refugees in the world are Palestinian who are not allowed to return to their homeland. This is a book that should be required reading in every high school, college and university in America.
Profile Image for Maziyar Yf.
470 reviews218 followers
April 21, 2022
صادق زیبا کلام در کتاب تولد اسراییل به موضوع بسیار مهم تبعید یهودیان از بیت المقدس و اشغال سرزمین آنان دو بار ، بار اول به دست بخت نصر پادشاه بابل و مرتبه دوم توسط امپراتوری روم پرداخته بود ، این رخداد به قدری بزرگ و عظیم بوده که عواقب آن هم چنان هم ادامه دارد اما این مطلب بسیارمهم در کتاب زیبا کلام نادیده گرفته شده ، از طرفی دیگر کتاب زیبا کلام شاید به دلیل آنکه مجوز چاپ نگرفته بود فاقد فهرست منابع بوده و این از ارزش علمی و تاریخی اثر او کاسته است .
اما تاریخ مرسوم و شناخته شده قوم یهود حکایت زیباکلام را تایید می کند ، بار اول بخت نصر پادشاه بابل بیت المقدس قلمرو یهودیان را اشغال کرد و آنان را به سمت شرق ، یا سرزمین پارسیان راند ، سپس با پدید آمدن امپراتوری هخامنشی و شکست و انقراض امپراتوری بابل توسط کوروش کبیر ، اموال یهودیان به آنان بازگردانده شده و آنان به سرزمین خود برگشتند .
اما تبعید دوم یهودیان توسط امپراتور تیتوس و اشغال و نابودی شهرها و معابد سرزمین آنان برخلاف بار اول پایان خوشی برای قوم یهود نداشت ، رومی ها با شدت و سختی و البته نظمی که در امپراتوری آنان ریشه دوانیده بود و برای رها شدن از شورش های یهودیان ، سرزمین آنان را تخریب و آنها را در گروه های مختلف در سرزمین های تحت اشغال خود پراکنده کردند .
آنچه از زندگی یهودیان در اروپا می دانیم غالبا بیرون کردن آنان از کشورهای مختلف در قرون وسطی بوده ، اخراج از انگلستان ، اخراج از اسپانیا ، قتل و عام شدن در فرانکفورت ، ساکن شدن آنان در روسیه و شرق اروپا ، پا گرفتن جمعیتی قوی در لهستان و لیتوانی فعلی و گسترش زبان ییدیش در میان آنان ، خشونت های سازمان یافته در شرق و به ویژه در روسیه تزاری و محاکمه و اتهامات ساختگی دریفوس در فرانسه ، یهودیان را ازپذیرفته شدن در اروپا ناامید کرده و در اواخر قرن نوزده و با پا گرفتن جنبش صهیونیسم روند بازگشت آنان به سرزمینی که آنان از خود می دانستند شدت گرفت ، جریانی به شدت تنش زا و بحران آفرین و بسیار خشونت زا که گویا هیچ انتهایی ندارد .
اما کتاب شلومو زند چگونه شروع می شود ؟
او داستان خود را با بررسی معنی ملت ، مردم و امت و البته ریشه یابی این کلمات شروع کرده ، او سپس به کلمات نژاد و قوم می رسد ، نژاد که پس از جنگ جهانی دوم بار منفی پیدا کرده بود کلمه شایسته ای نبوده و تنها قوم بوده که معنی حفظ ارتباط با گذشته و البته داشتن سرزمینی از آن خود را تداعی می کرده . آشکار است که قوم واژه مورد علاقه سران رژیم اسراییل و تاکیدی بر حق آنها برای داشتن سرزمینی برای خود بوده است .
اما پس از داشتن سرزمین ، باید از راه ناسیونالیسم برای آن گذشته ای تاریخی و البته طلایی ساخت ، آنچه از تاریخ یهود می دانیم اوج قدرت آن در زمان پادشاهی حضرت داود و سپس پسر او حضرت سلیمان بوده است . اما نویسنده این دوران طلایی را افسانه می داند ، ادعای نویسنده آن چنان با مذهب و تاریخ یهودیت منافات دارد از این رو کتاب او را مانند زلزله ای در بنیان و تاریخ یهود دانسته اند . در ادامه زند تاریخ پذیرفته شده یهود را ساخته و پرداخته جریان های ناسیونالیستی برای ساخت یک کشور یهودی ، با تاریخی قدیمی و کهن می داند .
بخش مهم دیگر و البته بسیار سخت خوان ، پژوهشی ایست که نویسنده در مورد کتاب مقدس انجام داده ، نتیجه تحقیقات او برای دولت یهودی و رژیم اسرائیل قاعدتا بایستی بسیار تکان دهنده بوده باشد . زند ادعا کرده که کتاب مقدس ، چندان مقدس نبوده و به مرور زمان و به خصوص در قرن نوزده از آموزه های دینی خالی گشته و تبدیل به کتابی تاریخی ، البته نه از نوع واقعی شده . او برای اثبات نظر خود به بررسی کتاب چند نویسنده نامدار یهود پرداخته ، این بخش کتاب بسیار سنگین بوده و خواندن آن برای خواننده می تواند خسته کننده باشد .
اما ایده اصلی کتاب مربوط به تبعید یهودیان از سرزمین مقدس بوده ، او ادعا کرده که چنین تبعیدی در کار نبوده و اگرهم بوده بیشتر یهودیان در بیت المقدس هم چنان ساکن بوده و زندگی کرده اند .برخی از آنان به مسیحیت و برخی در سالیان بعدی به اسلام گرویدند و البته بخشی هم بر دین خود باقی ماندند . او ریشه یهودیان شرق اروپا را امپراتوری خزرستان می داند که در اوج قدرت از دریا خزر تا دریا سیاه ، تا کیف و بخشهایی پهناور از شرق اروپا حکمرانی می کردند ، ابتدا طبقه حاکم دین یهود را برگزیدند و سپس دین در بین مردمان گسترش یافت . با منقرض شدن امپراتوری خزرستان ، یهودیان به شرق اروپا ، به ویژه لهستان کنونی رو آوردند و در آن ساکن شدند . مابقی جریان بیشتر برای ما آشناست ، مهاجرت یهودیان از شرق اروپا و سپس از کل اروپا ، آمریکا و آفریقا به فلسطین شروع شد ، در حقیقت افرادی فلسطین را اشغال کردند که نیاکان آنها یهودی نبوده اما اعراب ساکن فلسطین در اصل دارای نیاکان یهودی بوده اند . این اصل کلام کتاب اختراع قوم یهود بوده است .
کتاب مناسب چه کسانی ایست ؟
به سختی می توان افرادی را یافت که این کتاب مناسب آنان باشد ! در حقیقت اگر فردی مسلط به تاریخ طولانی و پر ماجرا یهود باشد یا تاریخ دان و یا محقق و پژوهشگر درباره تاریخ یهود باشد ، خواندن کتاب اختراع قوم یهود به او دید تازه ای می دهد ، نگاهی که البته می تواند درست هم نباشد .
در پایان کتاب شلومو زند ، کتابی ایست سخت خوان و سنگین ، با نگاهی مذهبی ، تاریخی ، تکاملی به یهودیان یا قوم یهود ، نتیجه ای که نویسنده گرفته اگر چه می تواند مانند زلزله ای در بنیاد و اساس رژیم اسراییل بوده باشد ( اگرچه که به نظر می رسد چندان جدی گرفته نشده ) اما به ندرت می تواند برای خواننده با دانشی کم مفید واقع شود .
Profile Image for بثينة العيسى.
Author 22 books25.2k followers
October 24, 2011
What a book!
This book exposes how fragile and vulnerable is the state of Israel, mainly because it is relying on biblical myths to construct its Zionist ideology and Jewish identity, rather than on actual history proven by archeological and biological research.

It is said that this book is another nail in the coffin of Zionism and I couldn't agree more. Unless the state of Israel starts acknowledging it's moral Schizophrenia and political hypocrisy, and it's discriminatory/ racist policies ( .. and let's not forget its violent actions against the native Palestinians) .. it is unlikely that it will survive in a World that is dominated by international law, rather than on myths and some twisted interpretation of religions.

I urge you to read this book, and judge for yourself. Way to go Shlomo Sand!
Profile Image for Negar Afsharmanesh.
233 reviews25 followers
February 23, 2023
کتاب اختراع قوم یهود دربارهٔ تاریخ ملت تبعیدی و سرزمین وعده‌داده شدهٔ یهود است. در این کتاب درباره این قوم مطالب بسیاری خواهید خواند. از نژاد و ملیت آنها گرفته تا مهاجرت‌ها و تبعیدهایشان، خاستگاه‌هایشان در آسیا و اروپا و در نهایت سیاست و هویت در اسرائیل. در فصل انتهایی کتاب به مسائلی همچون وراثت در صهیونیسم، نژادپرستی این قوم، تأسیس کشور قومی، مسئلهٔ دموکراسی قومی و قوم‌سالاری در عصر جهانی پرداخته شده است. تاریخ نگار برجسته، شلومو زند، در کتاب اختراع قوم یهود، پایه های فکری نگاهی جدید برای پرداختن به تاریخ قوم بنی‌اسرائیل را بنیان می‌نهد. او ادعا می‌کند که بیشتر یهودی‌ها در دنیای امروز، اجدادی غیریهودی داشته‌اند که به دین یهود روی آورده بودند.
Profile Image for Book Shark.
736 reviews135 followers
June 25, 2011
The Invention of the Jewish People by Shlomo Sand

"The Invention of the Jewish People" is an interesting yet controversial scholarly book about Jewish history through the eyes of leading historian Shlomo Sand. What makes this book controversial is the fact that the author denies such a thing as a Jewish "race" that were descendents of the first exiles with everything that it entails. This 344-page book is composed of the following five major chapters: 1. Making Nations: Sovereignty and Equality, 2. Mythistory: In the Beginning, God Created the People, 3. The Invention of the Exile: Proselytism and Conversion, 4. Realms of Silence: In Search of Lost (Jewish) Time, and 5. The Distinction: Identity Politics in Israel.

1. A well written, well researched book that will take you deep into the fascinating Jewish history.
2. Professor Sand provides a lot of eye-opening arguments in support of his views.
3. A thought-provoking and enlightening book.
4. Professor Sand does not hold back. He says what he has to say and has conviction and passion behind his words while providing compelling arguments in defense of his theories.
5. A good history lesson on nationalism.
6. A fascinating look at Zionism.
7. A myth buster of a book. Including the exile...
8. The impact of Darwin's grand theory of evolution.
9. A controversial look at the Old Testament and how the Bible became a decisive starting point of the Jewish past.
10. The impact of archaeology. Exiles? Legendary kings? Great flood?
11. Polytheism to monotheism.
12. Jewish genealogy...The DNA findings controversy.
13. The fascinating history of proselytizing Jews. Berber Judaization...and the fascinating story of the Judaized queen. Khazars...
14. The importance of religious identity.
15. Ashkenazim, Sephardim, and Arabian Jews.
16. Understanding the Law of Return and the concept of "ethnocracy".
17. Fascinating conclusions.
18. Links worked great.
19. Excellent notes.
20. Great afterword.

1. As a non-Jew, I found myself looking up the proper pronunciation of many people, places and Jewish traditions. It's not a strike against the author more so a limitation for any potential reader who is not familiar with Jewish terms.
2. Once again, as a non-Jew I have no cultural ties to the Jewish community but I can see where the issues brought up by Professor Sand can and has stir up a hornet's nest. In other words, the issues brought forth will and has upset Jewish people.
3. The initial chapter was a bit obscure until "revelations" were made.
4. My skeptical nature keeps me from accepting everything at face value despite the compelling arguments. There is so much information in this book it makes me wonder what is truly historically accurate and what is not, so it will entail further reading and research on my part. Ones beliefs should be based on the best evidence possible but one must not also jump to conclusions.
5. It was bit repetitive.
6. Illustrations and or charts could have added value to the book.

In summary, "The Invention of the Jewish People" is one of the most interesting, enlightening books you will ever read. My skeptical nature and my limited knowledge of Jewish history keeps me from accepting all the assertions at face value but at the very least Professor Sand has kindled my curiosity enough to pursue more research. I highly recommend reading this book with some noted observations.
Profile Image for jordan.
190 reviews45 followers
February 7, 2010
While Shlomo Sand’s “Invention of the Jewish People” has attracted endless accolades from partisans with an axe to grind – though not always exactly the same axe as the author – any close scrutiny reveals the book to be little more than a collection of strawmen arguments forming a feeble foundation for a weak argument. Time and again, Sand rails against a scholarly consensus which seems to exist only in his mind and ignores the considerable primary source evidence that undermines his case.

Consider for example, his “bold” assertions about the lack of historicity of the Hebrew Bible or successful proselytization by Jews in the ancient world. The former is of course particularly amusing to anyone with even a passing familiarity with Jewish history. One could make good money betting that Sand could walk the length and breath of Tel Aviv’s history department and not find a single faculty member who would make a claim that the Hebrew Bible could be read as a history book (I might even go further, and say he could probably jump on the bus and do the same at Orthodox Bar-Ilan University’s history department and still come up empty handed). The same could be said about claims with the subject of large scale conversion, a topic attested to by diverse ancient sources and widely written about by modern scholars. For those readers interested in this topic, I would heartily recommend Seth Schwartz’s provocative and well researched “Imperialism and Jewish Society.” Unlike Sand, Schwartz is both familiar with the relevant ancient sources and reads the languages necessary to work directly from the original source texts.

Of course, where Sand really goes off the intellectual rails is where he goes further afield from the scholarly consensus. No where is this clearer than in his assertions of Eastern European Jewry originating with the refugees from the central Asian Khazar Kingdom – I used the term “assertion” intentionally, for the claim lacks even sufficient evidence to bring it to the level of a theory. Nor can Sand even bring himself to deal with the substantial evidence against this notion which has it origin with the late 19th century racist Ernest Renan, instead resorting to invective and hyperbole for lack of a rational argument. Instead, for example, in engaging in the genetic data which has appeared in numerous peer reviewed journals, Sand scorns the entire exercise by invoking the ghastly horrors of Nazi psudo-science. As with much of Sand’s method in this book, one must assume that this rejection is selective to the Jewish case. Genetic comparison is widely used in the historical analysis of migration patterns. One can hardly imagine Professor Sand, for example, at a conference on the Norman roots of the northern French castigating some presenter of genetic data as a Nazi. No, one suspects for Sand this epithet’s use is limited primarily in an attempt to silence Jewish critics.

As with his treatment of conversion in the ancient world, on the Khazars as well, Sand makes odd claims that his writing is somehow revelatory. Putting aside anecdotal data, such as my own memory of Jewish Khazaria being well known and widely discussed in my own youth, Pulitzer prize winner, Michael Chabon recently wrote an adventure novel which took place almost entirely in that ancient Jewish Kingdom. And, should any wishing to leap to Sand’s defense want to claim that this novel, “Gentleman of the Road,” is somehow obscure, it was actually serialized in that rarely read journal, The NY Times Sunday Magazine.
Profile Image for Clif.
436 reviews117 followers
July 14, 2015
I have written reviews of many books here. If there is one above all the rest that I would like others to read it would be this one.

Regardless of the country you call home, it rests on a foundation of myths, stories of the distant past that unite the citizenry. Israel is no exception, yet the story of the historical Jews is one that more people in the United States are familiar with that that of any other people.

Shlomo Sand begins his book discussing definitions - what are a people? What is a nation? With his terms defined, he looks at the story of the Jews and how it relates to what has been discovered (or not) by archeology, philology (language study) and archival research.

He takes us from the founding myth of the Jews as a tribe descended from Abraham, in captivity in Egypt, escaping in the Exodus, wandering in the desert for 40 years, defeating the Canaanites, living under kings David and Solomon, exiled to Babylon, returning to Judea, expelled by the Romans and continuing on to the present in Israel.

There's only one problem. Except for the Babylonian exile, none of this account of the Jews in ancient times holds up. There is no evidence for any of it and plenty of facts that deny it. The central fact is that there was never any expulsion of the Jews by the Romans after the Jewish revolt was suppressed in 70 CE.

But the facts are no less interesting than the myth. Did you know there was a Jewish Khazar empire between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea? Did you know there was a long period (400 years) of enthusiastic conversion to Judaism prior to the coming of Christianity? Did you know there was a Jewish warrior queen in north Africa and a Jewish kingdom in what is now Yemen?

Sand effectively makes the case that the vast majority of today's Jews have no connection by birth to the Jews of ancient Palestine. The Palestinians of today are more likely related to the Jews of ancient times. Today's Jews are descendants of converts to Judaism. It is impossible to define the Jews by genetics, only by religion.

So where did the mythology come from? It is based on the Biblical account and even that was never considered to be based on hard facts until the coming of Zionism put it to use to create the body of people who would become the people of modern Israel - it was a script, made concrete and embellished by those with an agenda for creating a new country.

And the agenda continues to be followed by historians in the modern state of Israel. One of the most remarkable things mentioned by Sand is the complete lack of scholarly research into the origins of modern Jewry by anyone in Israel. Why? Because it would contradict the story of the nation, the story that is in Israeli textbooks used in Israeli schools to teach history.

The overwhelming evidence for the origin of the Yiddish-speaking millions of eastern Europe (destroyed or driven out by the end of WW2) points to the Khazar empire and not Germany. The Sephardim of Spain and north Africa came not from ancient Palestine but from converts to Judaism. There is no Jewish gene, just as there is no Anglican or Methodist or Catholic gene.

The book concludes by an examination of the dilemma of modern Israel - a country that denies there is such a thing as an Israeli or an Israeli culture. Citizens of Israel are defined as Jews quite intentionally to connect them to the Jews of the world and to disconnect them from the Palestino-Israelis, the Arab citizens of Israel who make up a fifth of the population of the country, but are denied acknowledgment as full citizens.

Israelis allow orthodox religious Jews to determine who is a Jew for the purpose of citizenship precisely to maintain the connection to world Jewry as a pseudo-biological link. This mythological link allows Israel to take in foreigners (in all but religion) as rightful heirs to the land while denying legitimacy to those who have actually been living on the land, the Palestinian. It's an inherently unstable situation that cannot continue indefinitely. The book is a warning that things must change in the direction of a true democracy and away from an "ethnocracy".

The Invention of the Jewish People is a riveting read during which Sand systematically and very clearly demolishes myth under the bright light of solid research. In the process he introduces the people who built the myth to epic proportions and relates how they did so. Shlomo Sand is a credit to his profession. Bravo!

American readers of this review should check out my blog, Daylight between America and Israel - http://endoccupation.blogspot.com/
Profile Image for Judy.
70 reviews3 followers
June 20, 2010
This is a really excellent and brilliantly original book written about the origins of the 'Jewish people'. Shlomo Sand, who is an Israeli historian, shows that in fact European Jews were converts to the religion rather than being descendents of a Jewish 'race'. By the same token, he maintains and that the original Jews who stayed in their country of origin eventually converted to Islam and are today's or many Jews wish to hear though I gather it was a best seller in Israel. As a 'Jew' in name, but not in religion, I personally find it a highly persuasive thesis. It is a fascinating read and also an impassioned plea for a new non Jewish state that encompasses both Jews and Palestinians on equal terms.
16 reviews
June 15, 2011
Professor Sand, who teaches film history and modern political French history, opines that the Jewish people is a construct invented some time in the 19th century. This book is his argument in support of his opinion. It's also, if unwittingly, Sand's argument in favor of writing about what one knows. Presumably, Sand knows film history and modern French political history. What this book makes clear is that Sand does NOT know ancient or medieval history, or Jewish history. The professor also seems to think modern DNA analyses are on a par with medieval alchemy. In short, a book to avoid.
15 reviews4 followers
April 7, 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.
Profile Image for David M.
442 reviews390 followers
December 4, 2017
A wonderful book that convincingly unpacks the myths of Zionism. Shlomo Sand shows himself conversant with ancient history, Biblical scholarship, theoretical innovations in the social sciences, and contemporary politics. His argument culminates in the case for a single, binational state of Israel/Palestine that belongs equally to all its citizens.

Given the patent bad faith of many who smear anti-Zionism as necessarily anti-semitic, this book has not had the impact it deserves. Nonetheless, for anyone with minimal intellectual honesty and a concern for justice, it remains required reading.

'There were no such thing as Palestinians.'

Golda Meir was maybe half right. All nationalities are a relatively recent invention. There was no such thing as the Jewish people either, certainly not in the sense of an ethnic identity or blood kinship stretching back to the mists of time.

A deeper exploration of the ways of life and communication in past Jewish communities might further expose a wicked little fact: that the further we move from religious norms and the more we focus our research on diverse daily practices, the more we discover that there never was a secular ethnographic common denominator between the Jewish believers in Asia, Africa, and Europe. World Jewry had always been a major religious culture. Though consisting of various elements, it was not a strange, wandering nation. - pp 248

Some powerful testimony by the author here

Profile Image for ⚫Payervan.Matin⚫.
360 reviews5 followers
December 27, 2021
بسیار کتابی زیبایی بود به قدری این کتاب تو اسرائیل سر و صدا کرد که گویا آقای شلومو زند رو از دانشگاه اسرائیل اخراج کردند
و ایشون ناچارا مجبور به ترک کشور خود شد
Profile Image for Steve Cran.
868 reviews89 followers
July 28, 2011
Forget about everything you may have learned in Hebrew school, this book is a myth buster. It is common knowledge that according to the Bible the Jewish people started with Abrahamin Mesopotamia and then went to Egypt to be slave and then was redeemed. After wandering the desert for forty years under the leadership of Moses they came to Canaan where Joshua the brilliant military commander drove out the Canaanites in a lightning fast victory. King David and his son Solomon would form man empire and build massive building in Jerusalem. Later on still the Babylonians and the Roman would drive the Jews from their land and into exile.

The author, a professor from Tel Aviv University, makes good use of current archeological excavation that show that the bible is far from 100% correct. There is no outside reference In Egyptian in any other annals of the Israelites engaging in a mass escape from Egypt. Moses left with 600 thousand male from Egypt along with their families. This large number would have left some archaeological residue in the Sinai Desert. There is none to be found. Excavation in Jerusalem and the West Bank show no evidence of any of the building built by Solomon. Tere is proof however of the Canaanite buildings and there civilization. The building in the North that are attributed to King Solomon. Have actually been built by later Israelite kings long after the supposed Israelite monarchy split into two kingdoms. Jerusalem was naught more than a small village whose population was in decline when King David was supposed to be in power. The lightning fast victories of Joshua are not real. The cities he conquered had fallen Hundreds if not thousands of years apart. The Israelite started appearing gradually on the scene as an outgrowth off the original Canaanite People. They were not monotheistic and many worshiped the other Canaanite gods. The bible was fully written in the Babylonian Exile by the priests and their scribes. It was in Babylon that the elite who were exiled mad e the religion exclusive and strictly monotheistic. Jewish scholarship has known this for a very long time.

The exile is a MYTH. When the Babylonians andd the Assyrians came and invaded ancient Israel.They only deported the Elite and member of the Army. Most of the peasants and farmers were allowed to stay. The Romans did not have the means of moving a large population out of the country hence in that case too only a small number left. In fact a careful reading of historical sources shows that there is reference to an invasion and that many Judeans were killed but there is no reference to an exile or deportations. It can only be assumed that most of them stayed put. This can be evidenced by the fact that jewish life continued to thrive some two hundred years after the Jewish Revolts against Rome. After all the Talmud was written there, the Jerusalem Talmud that is. The early Zionist historians had to deal with this fact when writing the history of the Jewish people a history that would justify building a country in Palestine. Many like Dinur said that there was a Jewish majority up until the time the Muslim armies invaded the Middle East. But there is no mention of deportation of people leaving the country. What ever happened to all those Jews. The Iraqi Rabbi makes a comment that he is worried about all the Jews in Judea accepting the religion of Islam. The Judean peasant may have choosen Islam for a variety of reasons. One was that those who weere not Muslims had to pay heavy protection taxes. A conversion to Islam would annul the protection tax. Besides many Jews did believve that Muhammad was a prophet that came to redeem them and many Jews did in fact fight on behalf of the Islamic Armies during their conquests. This being stated prior to the arab riot of 1929 many zionist leaders including Ben Gurion and Ben Tzvi believed that the local fellahin arabs in Palestine at the time were descendant from Ancient Judeans. Some villages even had a Sharia al Khalil. Something seperate from the Koran. The Palestinians are the descendants of the Ancient Israelites who were never deported from the country.

If the Judeans were nver expelled en masse from the country theen where did all these Jewish communities come from. The author makes a strong case that most of these communities deescended from converts. The official Jewish line is that they do not accept converts. In fact there are contradictory statement in both the Bible and the Talmud with regards to converts. Some of these comments are positive and some are negative. None the less Jewish history is replete with example of mass conversions into the Jewish religion. During the Hasmonean time is when most of these communities of converts came into being. Hellenism made Judaism more universalistic and many societies broke down many wall and questioned their old pagan ways. The Jews themselves were very Hellenistic even having Greek names. The Hasmoneans forcibly converted the Idumeans in the South and the Itrurians in the North. In Egyp there was a large Jewish community that spoke only greek. Tractate and translations of the bible were written for the express purpose of converting. In Elephantine a Jewish temple was discovered. There documents in Persian but none in Aramaic or Hebrew. In fact these Jewish communities that sprang up spoke their native language not Judean Hebrew. In fact 8-10 citizens in the Roman empire were Jews. This is attested to in the writing of many Roman historians. To say that they all ccame from Judea is impossible. The most that could live in Judea at that time was maybe a little over a million. They could not all have radiated out of that small place.
Many women were inclined to acccept the Jewish religion. In fact there was a planned massacre in Damascus but it was called off , because the men thought that they would be massacred in their sleep by their wives who secretly practiced Judaism. There were also Jewish kingdoms in Several location. The most noteable is thee Khazar kingdom just north of Iran. There was also Adiabene which was Jewish and assisted the Judeans during their revolt against the Roman. There was also Dahiua El Kahina the Jewish Berber queen who fought against the Armies of Islam and eventually lost. Her two sons converted to Islam and joined the other side. There was also the Himyar Kingdom in Yemen that was eventually overthrown by Ethiopia aided by Rome.

For Jewish history most people relied on the Old Testament. The last complete History of the Jewish people in anccient times was composed by Josephus Flavius. This was based on the Old Testament. A history off the Jewish people would not be written until the early 1800's by Protestants. Jewish Historians like Jost wrote a history of the Jews but it was thorugh the perspective off the Jews being a followers of a religion not a race or people. Later Salo Baron would write a History that documented the Jews as a people but that most of their development would occur in Exile . Graetz and other historians would make the religious following into a people that centered on the importance of land.

The last chapter goes on about European racial theories and how Zionism was a product of that time. There was talk of Jewish blood and the need to grow healthy again by working the land in Israel. Genetic testing is touched upon with some of the finding proving to be conclusive and other not so conclusive. It seems that politics has a way of coloring scientific experiments. The author finishes off with a discussion on the state of israelcomparing it to other democracies in the world and a cry to make it a country for all of it's citizens.
Profile Image for N.
63 reviews33 followers
August 9, 2014
Why is everyone so quick to jump on the bandwagon of the Khazar theory? It holds about as much truth as a vegetable drainer does water. Of course, it is a convenient theory for attack for anti-Zionists, but when really put under the microscope, the evidence for it is by far overwhelmingly outdone by the evidence against it. I am seeing so many posts about it just lately that I dare say the majority of those spreading these trendy posts haven't actually spent any significant time to study it from both sides. Had they, I doubt it would be making such a popular posting topic here on Facebook. It is a modern day Protocols.

I think it is fair to say that at this stage, after much research over the past months, looking deeply and extensively into both sides of the argument, I have come to reject the Khazar theory.

Take a listen to these MUST HEAR radio broadcasts. Following them I will supply some MUST READ articles of significant interest.

"Dr. David Duke has a scientific and historical discussion of the "Jews are Khazars" theory, asking the listeners to weigh the evidence and rethink the "Khazar Theory." He shows how it is ironic that the main supporters of this theory are actually communist Jews who promote the idea that Jews are not a race, but that problems such as Zionism are simply the result of some sort of political differences of opinion. By saying that the Jews are not a people with a long common historical, genetic and cultural heritage they are attempting to dismiss the fact that Jewish tribalism is actually the driving force behind Zionism and their takeover of Western institutions such as media, banking and politics. A very important, thought-provoking program."

"Dr. David Duke and Dr. Kevin MacDonald discuss the Khazar Theory amd much more. Dr. MacDonald shows clearly that the Jewish people are related genetically and constitute a classical scientific definition of a race. They talk about one of the most recent impressive genetic studies by Jewish and Gentile scientists that openly show that Jews are a race. Dr. Duke and Dr. MacDonald show that Jewish academics say that race doesn't when it comes to Europeans and Africans and Asians, say that it does exist in Jews! The point being that they don't want people to see the racial and tribal nature of Jews and thus become aware of their racist and oppressive actions."

Near the end of the show, "finally Dr. Slattery outlines some of the genetic factors of why the Khazar theory is scientifically unsound. A really fascinating show and one that should be shared."

Also in the program Dr. Duke and Dr. Slattery go into some additional issues showing how the Khazar theory is promoted by Jews to lessen opposition to Jewish supremacism ! Great show. Share it!

Here are some research papers

Ashkenazim's Khazar Origins — An Attractive but Misleading Theory.

Rethinking the Khazar Theory!

“More on the Khazar Theory”: Koestler Admitted He Wrote His Book To Further Jewish Interests

Geneticists Dispute Latest “Jewish Khazar” Theory

Who Are The Jews?
Profile Image for Mehdi Vafaei.
2 reviews3 followers
May 31, 2020
شلومو زند از بحثی نظری در مورد مفهوم ناسیونالیسم شروع می‌کند و مفاهیم قوم و ملت را بررسی میکند، تا مبنایی بسازد در مورد روایت‌های ناسیونالیستی رسمی یهود در اسرائیل. یک سوم اول کتاب شاید قدری خسته کننده باشد، نه به این دلیل که مبحث کسالت‌بار است، بلکه کاملا برعکس، به این دلایل که پژوهش‌های مهم دیگر در مورد تاریخ یهود را به چالش میکشد و‌ بحث خود را در نسبت با آنان تنظیم میکند. اما مشکل این است که ما غالبأ در مورد این مباحث چیزی نمی‌دانیم. منابع فارسی در مورد اسرائیل بسیار محدود است و پای کتابی در میان است که تفاسیر رسمی را به چالش میکشد، چندان تصوری نداریم که آن تفاسیر رسمی از چه عناصری تشکیل شده است. هرچند کتاب بسیاری از این تصورات را توضیح میدهد.
محور اصلی کتاب را میتوان کنار گذاشتن ایده تبعید یهودیان دانست. باور رسمی این است که ساکنان یهودیه از سرزمینشان تبعید شدند و در سراسر عالم آواره گشتند و خداوند به آنان وعده داده که به سرزمین مقدس باز خواهند گشت. نویسنده نشان می‌دهد که هیچ شاهد تاریخی قابل استنادی برای این مدعا نیست و ساکنان یهودیه اساسا جایی نرفته بودند که بخواهد باز گردند. اسطوره تبعید بیشتر توسط مسیحیان ضدیهود ساخته و پرداخته شد که در ضمن ایده تبعید قوم یهود، گناه آنان برای کشتن پسر خدا را در نظر داشتند. این ایده بعدها توسط خود یهودیان گرفته شد و در نهایت مبنای اندیشه صهیونیستی شد. که البته اینجا صهیونیسم مطلقا بار اخلاقی ندارد، و صرفا اشاره به حزبی سیاسی است. موقعیت یهودیان در مقابل مسیحیان و بعدها مسلمانان بخوبی در کتاب بحث شده و نشان می‌دهد که چرا یهودیان به مسلمانان عرب تمایل بیشتری داشتند تا مسیحیان بیزانسی.
در کل کتاب بسیار مهم است. و روایتی بسیار مهیج دارد. تا آنجا که زمین گذاشتن کتاب گاهی واقعا سخت میشد. کتاب بیانی تقریبا ساده دارد و ترجمه کتاب نیز روان است
Profile Image for Derek.
1,422 reviews44 followers
February 19, 2023
Once I got through a relatively shallow introduction, I enjoyed the book a great deal and came to think slightly differently about the Jewish diaspora, Zionism, and Israeli identity. Of course, all nations are “imagined,” as Benedict Anderson uses the term, so it’s no surprise to see that both Israeli and Palestinian national identity are modern, irrational, invented, artificial, arbitrary and historically new phenomena. But it was interesting to think of Judaism as a proselytizing religion in the classical world, and interesting to be reminded of how different the various Jewish communities were prior to their (unfinished) integration in Israeli society. Anyhow, the book offers a fascinating if controversial tour of various historiographical debates in the field. I do sometimes think the author treats Israel unfairly, as if other nations didn’t constantly make political or legal or constitutional decisions based on the religious identities of their majorities.
Profile Image for Ushan.
801 reviews66 followers
December 24, 2010
Sand is a professor of French history and film history who wrote a book claiming that "the Jewish people" is a 19th-century invention, that modern-day Jews are largely descended from Hellenistic- and Roman-era converts, and Ashkenazi Jews may be descended from Khazar converts, and that all this has been suppressed in Zionist historiography. A British historian of ancient Rome says in The Times Literary Supplement that Sand is wrong about Roman history; an Israeli historian says in Haaretz that Sand is wrong about the suppression. The Cyrillic letters Ts and Sh look like the Hebrew letters Tsadi and Shin; Sand mentions that possibly, these letters came about because of the Jewish Khazars' domination of Rus. Whether the Cyrillic alphabet was invented by Thessaloniki-born Sts. Cyril and Methodius or by Bulgaria-born St. Clement of Okhrid, its inventors did not grow up in places dominated by the Khazars; the Glagolitic alphabet, used mostly in Croatia and Bulgaria, too, has the letter Sh that looks the same as the Cyrillic letter. The Yiddish word "davenen" (to pray) has a possibly Turkic etymology, but this no more shows that the speakers of Yiddish switched to it from a Turkic language than the fact that the Slavic word "kniga" (a book) has a Chinese etymology shows that the Slavs once spoke Chinese.
Profile Image for Geoffrey.
Author 2 books2 followers
September 21, 2010
Even though it is a detailed academic study, it is a pleasure to read. The language is crisp (some of the plaudits here must go to the translator). But what I found particularly enjoyable was the progressive building of the argument, citing source after source, evaluating them as adding (or not) to the tower of knowledge he constructs.
What is a 'nation'? Is there (was there ever?) a Jewish nation? The constuction of myths cast as history, such as the invention of the exile of the Jews.There was no exile, he argues. How Zionist historians often glossed over inconvenient history (including archeological finds) in their deire to 'prove' the existence of a Jewish Nation.
Sand is Jewish and teaches at Tel Aviv University so this is no antisemitic treatise. For anyone interested in the Middle East and Israel's position in it this should be compulsory reading. Not everyone will agree with his conclusions, however the clarity of his writing and the logic of the argument make it a book hard to dismiss.

Geoffrey Lambert - author of "The Morozov Inheritance"
3 reviews
April 21, 2021
The core these of this book, that today's Jews are from a converted Turkic people called Khazars, has been incontrovertibly disproven by DNA/ modern genetics. It is, in every aspect, junk science.
Add to that the recent historical finds in Jerusalem of astonishing antiquity - alphabets, mosaics, seals, jugs, coins in the vast complex of the City of David - and Sand's politically motivated nonsense disappears into the shameful annals of those who pretend to be pro Palestine but are, in reality, just Israel or even, potentially, Jew haters.

It is full of omissions and failures. I have no doubt this review will received squawks and howls of protest from the usual suspects but that reflects the partisan nature and lack of good will surrounding this debate.

Profile Image for John.
540 reviews34 followers
November 28, 2010
Everyone who is concerned about the conflicted land of Palestine should read this book. It is not always an easy read, but this makes the nuggets of historical investigation even more surprising and revelatory when they appear. We need more books like this which show the way towards a sensible debate on the Middle East and how a people - the Palestinians - are being persecuted on the basis of a false claim that others have a stronger entitlement to the land that is theirs.
Profile Image for Sheyda Dehghan.
195 reviews11 followers
April 19, 2020
فوق العاده بود.. بسیار روشنگرانه.. قابل تعمیم به همه ملتها و دولتها.. کتابی نیست که فقط یکبار خوندنش کافی باشه.. تجربه کولی بود
Profile Image for Socraticgadfly.
962 reviews321 followers
January 19, 2020
Per the editorial blurb, this is a historical tour de force indeed.

The introduction tells Sand’s story and reason for writing. Noting that multiple women wanting to do aliyah were told no because of non-Jewish mothers, I thought that this issue itself could be a full chapter.

Around 150, he talks about Maccabean forcible conversion. I knew it well re the Idumeans, like Herod’s ancestors. Forgot about the Samaritans, and in grokking Josephus, don’t think I’d read about the Itureans in Galilee.

In conjunction, he notes something I already knew in part: That the revolt was purely religious freedom related, and not anti-Hellenism. After all, by John Hyrcanus, Maccabees are using Greek names.

He also notes Hanukkah was originally pagan. And he’s right! And, this explains why it was relatively “low” in Jewish life until modern times. It was too Messianic. https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/.premi...
More here https://www.myjewishlearning.com/arti...

He’s good on describing Judaism’s expansion by evangelism in the eastern Mediterranean, then Rome itself, then down to late classical antiquity Yemen. He also offers plausible reasons why Jews in Palestine declined after the Islamic conquest, including the tax-free Muslim advantage, plus Islam being more congenial than Christianity. (Besides hating Byzantium and “orthodox” Christianity, it’s arguable that Jacobites, if they took the “two persons as well as two natures” far enough, could see Jesus in a quasi-Ebionite way and convert to Islam as well.) He notes that pre-statehood Zionists in 20th century Palestine even presumed that the Palestinians were ethnic kin.

Paul Wexler of Tel Aviv Univ. used philology to conclude that most (now former) Spanish Sephardim were of Berber origin, or Arab-Berber, and not Jewish by ethnos.

Next, he goes to the Khazar Khanate. He does NOT just recapitulate Koestler. First, he notes that both Jewish and Russian historians in the first half of the 20th century did sound work on the Khanate history. In short, it lasted long enough that Judaism surely became the religion of at least a fair chunk of the masses, not just the rulers. Second, at least one subtribe can be clearly shown to have migrated with the Magyars when they left the Khanate and headed to the Hungarian plain.

He also goes beyond (from what I remember) of Koestler to pull in linguistics and philology. Everybody knows that Yiddish is a Germanic language, but one with a number of Slavic words and a few Hebrew ones. Not everybody knows that it also has a number of Turkic words, including the word “to pray.” Oops. (For the anti-Khazar Zionists, that is.) It’s things like this, given that the work on the history side by Abraham Polok is pre-WWII, at least in his earlier work, that has historians like Tony Judt saying the book has little new for the academic.

Related, Sand notes that the number of Rhineland German Jews simply wasn’t great enough to have caused the mass of Eastern European Jewry. Conclusion? Some version of the “Khazar hypothesis” is surely true.

From this, Sand does some speculating on the origins and development of the Yiddish language.

He then goes beyond Koestler in one other way, since such things didn’t exist in the 1970s. He addresses DNA testing, and not just that narrowly and specifically related to the Khazar theory. He notes that DNA testing is still in its infancy, that because it offers inconclusive results in many cases it can be (and is) “spun,” and this:

“Like similar investigations carried out by Macedonian racists, Lebanese Phalangists, Lapps in northern Scandinavia, and so on, such Jewish-Israeli research cannot be entirely free from crude and dangerous racism.”

Earlier, he notes the irony of descendants of Jews who suffered brutally from the race-essentialist ideas of the Nazis now engaging in race-essentialism themselves. He adds that some early Zionists supported eugenic ideas.

He also notes that words like “Sephardi” and above all “Ashkhenazi” are cultural, ultimately religious (and linguistic, I would add) markers, not ethnic ones.

Sand wraps his last chapter by noting the development of “Israeli identity” in the new state, and Ben-Gurion engaging in a mix of apparent surrender to and actual manipulation of the rabbinate. The flip side, he says, is many Zionists refusing to talk about an Israeli people. That may be in part because an Ashkenazi Eastern European culture has not been forcible on other Israeli Jews.

He concludes with a brief response to his critics.

One thing is missing from this book. It’s not huge, but it’s not minuscule, either. Based on his introductory passage about matrilineality, and on things from the Christian New Testament, and other evidence from that time about how this wasn’t always the case, it would have been nice for Sand to spend, oh, half a dozen pages more directly on this issue, especially with the rise of genetic testing.

Sand’s original conclusion, that Israel as we know today cannot stand with its current citizenship definition as the Arab population inside its 1948 boundaries grows, seems too wishful today. Only time will tell.

Why is this book so controversial? In part, from being translated into the language in which I read it, as well as French. Being published in Hebrew, it made only a modest stir inside Israel. But, when translated, Zionists could see a cat being let out of the bag.

Related? I rarely do this, but most one-star reviewers have to be critiqued. They basically fall into two camps. One, on the Khazar issue, claim this is nothing but a repeat of Koestler. LIE.

Another claims that he never talks about the Jewish people. (He notes people raised Jewish, who converted to Christianity, then applied for Israeli citizenship based on Israeli nationality and were denied, with Israel’s supreme court saying a “Jewish nationality” existed but an “Israeli nationality” did not.) Given what I have shown he does in the first chapter, talking about “people” vs “nation” and his recap at the end, this too is a LIE.

LIE is the only word that can be used.
Profile Image for Христо Блажев.
2,184 reviews1,425 followers
October 30, 2011
Как сa измислени еврейската и другите нации по света – “Изобретяването на еврейския народ” от проф. Шломо Занд

Да напишеш такава книга е безкрайно трудно. Още повече ако се числиш към еврейския народ, въобразил си уникалност и самовнушена богоизбраност. И готов на всичко, за да превърне в несъмнена истина хардкор фентъзито “Стар Завет”, без подбор на средства и методи. Не, това не е антисемитизъм, както ще има вряскания до небето. Това е наука, това е история. А най-хубавото е, че професор Шломо Занд не се е ограничил само до разбулване на митовете в еврейската история (и липсата на обща такава изобщо), а е анализирал великолепно измислянето на нациите, провело се в последните няколко века с цел консолидиране около имагинерната изначална държавност. Най-добре го е казал Карл Дойч в “Националността и нейните алтернативи” (1969), цитиран от Занд:
Profile Image for Hank Pin.
10 reviews1 follower
March 31, 2014
While Shlomo Sand's style is easy and accessible, I am afraid that this book relies on circumstantial historical evidence. While it is true that the Khazar royal family and the nobility converted to Judaism as a means to counterbalance Byzantine and Muslim influence within the Kingdom, there are no concrete evidence the the citizens of the kingdom followed through, let alone becoming the basis of the Ashkenazi Jewish population. Furthermore, given the troublesome requirements that converts are required to go through, a mass conversion scenario that Shlomo Sand describes is highly unlikely and improbable.

And more importantly, ethnic/national identity does not necessarily requires a "pure" bloodline. Using Shlomo Sand's framework, one could argue that almost any people, from the Chinese to the Arabs (both, to some extent, are pan-ethnicities) are "invented."
Profile Image for Frank Jacobs.
194 reviews3 followers
September 1, 2012
Few things can cause a bigger shitstorm than to question the foundations of the state of Israel as a homeland for the Jews, by exposing the flawed nature of its ethnoreligious raison d'etre: zionism is built on the quicksand of 19th-century nationalism; and the Jews of today may be largely the descendents of converts, fighting the descendents of the Jews who didn't go into Diaspora... and converted to Islam; all in all a very academic, technical and unputdownable book.
Profile Image for F V Mansour.
109 reviews21 followers
September 4, 2011
Clear and concise analysis of the idea of a Jewish state. The author is well researched and nd relies on empirical data for his analysis.
Profile Image for Michael Burnam-Fink.
1,472 reviews220 followers
July 13, 2022
The Invention of the Jewish People is an often fascinating, often frustrating, account of the history and historiography of the Jewish ethnicity, Zionism, and modern Israel. Sand follows Benedict Anderson in assessing nationality as a potent and also ontologically weak framing. Nationhood is one of the things people are most willing to kill and die for, but trying to define a nation, as opposed to the political limits of a given state, or the cultural practices of an ethnicity, is an exercise in contradictions. But it is a necessary exercise, if you want to understand your own present.

The first fascinating bit was that Sand notes that every Israeli university has two history departments: one of General History which is pretty similar to a European or American history department, and one of Jewish History which has a unique intellectual orientation as the keeper of the national political mythology, and has it closest intellectual links to American Evangelical Biblical archeology. The political mythology is fairly simple. While the Torah doesn't have to be read literally as book of divine commandments, it can be read literally as history. The land between the Jordan river and the sea was home to Abraham, was conquered by exiles returning from Egypt, was ruled by the powerful kingdoms of David, Solomon, and the Hasmoneans, was taken from the Jews by the Romans, and was restored to the Jews in 1948.

Where this gets frustrating is a long historiographic dive into 19th century historians writing the history of the Jews against other Eastern European nation movements. I have no doubt that the basic question of whether a Jew could be German was of great import to these people, but I also think the matter was effectively settled by other political developments in the 1940s.

Sand then loops back to the ancient world to argue rather convincingly that Judaism expanded across the Mediterranean by conversion between the 2nd century BCE and the 4th century, making substantial progress against pagan beliefs before being forced into a subsidiary role against Constantine's state Christianity. The last great conversion was the Caucasian (in the exact sense of the mountains rather than the imprecise racial sense) kingdom of the Khazars. In Sand's history, modern Ashkenazi Jews are descended from the Khazars, and the people living in Palestine in the 19th and 20th century were the descendants of the common people of the Jewish kingdoms who were not removed by the Romans, as no evidence of this explusion exists, who converted to Islam for tax reasons under the Caliphate.

Those closing chapter loops around to the modern contradictions between Israel, a political and cultural entity, and the Jewish Nation, which exists everywhere there are Jews but is specifically instantiated in the borders of Israel and the occupied territories. Sand has something to say about Israeli politics around the time he was writing this book, and the politics have only gotten worse since, but I'm not entirely sure I follow. Most national mythologies are ultimately incoherent and built on racist nonsense; Israel has unfortunately chosen to double down on the worst aspects of its own mythology, since it must justify not only its recent historical existence, but the ongoing policies of the occupation.
Profile Image for Whitlaw Tanyanyiwa Mugwiji.
189 reviews29 followers
December 11, 2020
In this amazing book, Shlomo Sand a Jewish Emeritus professor of history at the university of Tel Aviv debunks myths, challenges misconceptions and exposes utter falsehoods surrounding the historiography of the Jewish people.

Chief among the ideas he challenges, is the myth that Jewish people around the world share a common ethnic origin. Apart from the mythological shared lineage of all the members of the Jewish diaspora, have nothing in common. They have different languages, histories, customs and traditions, which makes it impossible to group them as one ethnicity. Just as we can not define Christians, Catholics and protestants as one ethnicity.

Contrary to the Zionist narrative, he exposes the falsehood that the original Jewish people were exiled from their ancestral home and spread around the world in the second century B.C, after an attempted revolt against their Roman rulers. Using ancient texts he shows that Judaism was actually a proselytising religion. He demonstrates that the majority of the European Jews were descendants of; the citizens of the Kazarian empire which converted to Judaism in the 7th century and the Spanish, Portuguese and French converts to Judaism during the North African conquest of these countries from the 8th century until the 15th century B.C. Therefore, most of the present Jews have neither the blood connection with the biblical Jewish patriarch, Abraham nor have they any ancestral ties with the land of Israel.

Sand contends that his work is not original, it is simply a synthesis of old ideas. Ideas that were previously uncovered by earlier historiographers. This book is important because it covers some of the ideas that have been given insufficient attention in the past. It also covers some the uncomfortable ideas that have been swept under the carpet and deliberately forgotten because they did not fit in the ideological needs of the Jewish Israeli state.

He writes, ¨ What is so amazing is that much of the information cited in this book has always been known inside the limited circles of
professional research, but invariably got lost en route to the arena of public and educational memory. ¨ Thus this book has been an attempt to bridge the gap between what is known in the limited circles of academia and what the ordinary people know. I strongly believe it has been very successful in that regard.

It is an amazing book and highly informative, with numerous source further reading for the keen student of Jewish historiography. Though scholarly, it is written in any easy manner, which is easy to understand for the lay person.
Profile Image for matthew mcdonald.
106 reviews1 follower
July 24, 2016
Controversial best-seller in Israel but not that interesting if you're not an Israeli?

The author's main point is that Israel treats its non-Jewish citizens unfairly. All the stuff about the history of the Jewish nation is really only included to make that point. Basically, he argues that historically Jews were a religious/cultural group - that in the 19th century they started to see themselves as an ethnic/national group - that their supposed ethnicity was used to justify the creation of Israel - and that the Palestinians (who are probably descended from the biblical Jews and Israelites) got a raw deal.

No doubt a lot of what the author says is true. I don't have a lot of difficulty believing that Israel has been bad for the Palestinians, or that some of the arguments that were used to motivate the creation of Israel were dubious.

On the other hand, there seems to be a lot of dubious stuff presented as though it was fact. The author suggests that Eastern European Jews probably descended from Khazar converts to Judaism, that DNA evidence has been widely misrepresented - it reads a bit like a conspiracy theory.

I didn't find it very interesting or informative. It's clearly and consistently biased against Israel and it's creation. It also seems like it could really only be of interest to Jewish Israelis. Although it's anti-Israel it's a book about Jews written for Jews by a Jew.

A book complaining about Israel written by a non-Jewish Israeli or a Palestinian could be a lot more interesting.
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