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Reply with quote  #1 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Invention of the Jewish People (Hardcover)

About a fifth of this book shows how Biblical criticism and archaeological discoveries have undermined the reliability of the Hebrew Bible as history. Archaeology, among other things, has played havoc with the chronology of the Bible, especially in connection with the invasion of Canaan, nor has it found any evidence that would support the story of the Exodus or the splendour of Solomon's kingdom.

But the main subject of the book is the denial that there is such a thing as the Jewish People, descended from the inhabitants of Biblical Palestine from which they have been scattered, and that they are a nation which has now returned to the land of its ancestors. This undermines one of the principal arguments with which the State of Israel legitimizes itself. (There are, of course, other arguments which Sand does not discuss in any depth.)

He says that the Jews began to see themselves as an ethnic people, rather than as a religious community, in the 19th century. (In a 40 page long and massively theoretical opening chapter, Sand explains why for him the word `people' implies ethnicity - hence the provocative title of his book. Others might well say that what has for centuries kept the Jewish `people' together was not their ethnicity but their religion, and even secular Jews belong to that people because their ancestors were religious Jews.) He traces the claim of the Jews to be a nation from the 1880s - when scholars like Heinrich Graetz described the work of Julius Wellhausen, the father of modern Biblical Criticism, as anti-Jewish - to those who present the Biblical account as the foundation charter of the State of Israel, where it is the staple of the state educational system.

During the Hellenistic and Roman periods, aided by the Septuagint (the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek), "hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions" of gentiles around the South-Eastern Mediterranean, from Rome to Armenia, converted to Judaism. A substantial proportion today's Jews cannot be linked genetically to the Jewish Homeland at all. Roman writers expressed unease at the growing number of converts. Around 400 CE the king of Himyar, in Yemen, converted to Judaism and so did many of their Arabic subjects in his and the following reigns during the next century. Most of the strong Yemenite community of Jews would be descended from these converts. There was a strong Jewish presence among the Berbers of North Africa, who took such a part in the later Arabic conquest of Spain. Sand thinks that many of these Berber Jews were also converts, though his formulations here are more tentative than elsewhere, and to support this idea he produces few hard facts beyond a complaint by the Christian Tertullian (2nd c.) against proselytes in North Africa and one quotation from the Arab historian Ibn Khaldun (14th c.). The best known conversion is that of the Khazar kingdom (between the Volga and the Dnieper) in the 8th century CE. In his famous book Arthur Koestler called the Khazars `the Thirteenth Tribe', and Sand espouses the notion that after the Khazar kingdom was destroyed in the 11th century, many of its people fled westwards to form a substantial proportion of the Jews in the Ukraine, in Poland and in Hungary.

Sand shows the resistance of many Israeli historians to the idea that so many Jews might not be descendants of the Jews of Israel and Judah: they either deny it or ignore it in their researches and their text books.

He also supports the notion, advanced in 1918 even by the young Zionists Ben-Gurion and Ben-Zvi, that the majority Muslim fellahin in Palestine were the descendants of Jewish peasants who had converted to Islam, perhaps to escape the jizyah (poll tax) which was levied on all non-Muslims after the Arab conquest. This idea was swiftly abandoned in the face of Arab nationalism, to be replaced by the notion that the Arab invaders had expelled the Jews (for which there is no evidence) and therefore had no right to the land which the Jews who had been forced into exile were now reclaiming.

The last chapter falls into two parts. The first part discusses the debate about whether there is any genetic evidence for the theory that most Jews are descended from the original Jews of Palestine. Students of genetics are apparently divided about this, and while Sand gives the supporters of the theory a good run for its money, it is clear that he sides with their opponents, and sees a conscious or unconscious agenda in those Israeli studies which have been looking for a widespread common ancestry. Sand quotes many Zionist sources which claimed (as the Nazis did) that the Jews were indeed a race. That EXPRESSION has now lost all respectability, but the debate is still carried on, though now in terms of genetics rather than of `blood'.

Sand never leaves any doubt about the political conclusions he draws from all this. They are spelt out most explicitly in the second, hard-hitting, part of the last chapter, which dismisses the definition of the State of Israel as both a Jewish and a democratic state. It not only implies but in many ways acts in such a way that its non-Jewish people, though technically Israeli citizens, cannot be part of an Israeli nation, in the way in which, for example, Scots and Welshmen are part of the British (not English) nation. With little hope that it can happen, Sand calls for the Jews of Israel to transform their ideology into one that would "grant the Palestino-Israelis not only complete equality but also a genuine and firm autonomy" - not only in the interests of justice, but also to save the state from ultimate disaster.

With its political implications, it is no surprise that this book has attracted both hatred and enthusiasm.
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Reply with quote  #2 

When I get home this weekend I'm going to post a few quotes from "On the Reliability of the Old Testament" that shows the other side of this issue.  It's written by Kenneth Kitchen who is an archaeologist and one of the most esteemed Egyptologists in the world.  Frankly, he doesn't agree with this review or book and neither do I.

 

19th century?  Is that a joke?  Historical or not, we have record of the Jews speaking of "their people" as far back as the 2nd millenium BC....

Reply with quote  #3 

teh jew peeple

Reply with quote  #4 
I'm usually just a tad bit skeptical of a book that comes out claiming to bring with it the secrets that were, up until now, hidden from everyone and this book, and this book alone, will somehow reveal the truth that has been kept from us up until now. Us and the entire academic community... And the majority of archeologists... And historians..... And an entire country.... And an entire ethnicity.....

BTW to SimonBelmont: Castlevania rules, except for the newest one.
Reply with quote  #5 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawlessone777
I'm usually just a tad bit skeptical of a book that comes out claiming to bring with it the secrets that were, up until now, hidden from everyone and this book, and this book alone, will somehow reveal the truth that has been kept from us up until now. Us and the entire academic community... And the majority of archeologists... And historians..... And an entire country.... And an entire ethnicity.....

BTW to SimonBelmont: Castlevania rules, except for the newest one.

 

Castlevania Lord of Shadow or Castlevania Harmony of Despair?

 

I just finished the former and it was awesome. I loved it. And the game got a pretty good score on metacritic.

 

The latter was pretty uninteresting though.

Reply with quote  #6 
Quote:
Originally Posted by depthcharge623

19th century?  Is that a joke?  Historical or not, we have record of the Jews speaking of "their people" as far back as the 2nd millenium BC....


Confessional identities go way, way back. Specifically "national" identities, Jewish or not, were pretty much all developed in the 19th century.
Reply with quote  #7 

i dink teh jew peeples r aliems

Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
i dink teh jew peeples r aliems

Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
I'm usually just a tad bit skeptical of a book that comes out claiming to bring with it the secrets that were, up until now, hidden from everyone

I know what you mean but bear in mind Shlomo Sands is a senior professor at TelAviv U.
I for one am aware of at least some of the "secrets" I presume you mean from the review and I haven't read the book yet.

Quote:
 .....and this book, and this book alone, will somehow reveal the truth that has been kept from us up until now.

I missed that....where did you see the author make such a claim?

Mathias
Quote:
Confessional identities go way, way back. Specifically "national" identities, Jewish or not, were pretty much all developed in the 19th century.
I'm not familiar with the term "confessional" identities.....could you explain please?

 John

Reply with quote  #10 

John, I notice that a lot of your time on this forum is spent railing against Jewish people and Israel.

 

Why is that?  What is it that bothers you about the race?  Is it sympathy for the Palestinians or is there something 'deeper' that bothers you about the race and its existence in Israel?  I have been curious for awhile but thought I would take this opportunity to ask.

Reply with quote  #11 
Quote:
Originally Posted by john
I'm not familiar with the term "confessional" identities.....could you explain please?

Religious identities. Prior to the rise of the modern state, if you asked most people about their group identity - what separates "us" from "them" - they'd answer with town or religion. With the modern state people have been trained to identify with their "nation" instead, so that even large groups of people seeking to establish a state will do so on the basis that they're a nation and deserve one.
Reply with quote  #12 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jonahbear

John, I notice that a lot of your time on this forum is spent railing against Jewish people and Israel.

 

Why is that?  What is it that bothers you about the race?  Is it sympathy for the Palestinians or is there something 'deeper' that bothers you about the race and its existence in Israel?  I have been curious for awhile but thought I would take this opportunity to ask.

 

teh jews r eval.

Reply with quote  #13 
Here is a book that shows how for thousands of years people around the Jewish people thought there were a Jewish people and persecuted them

Reply with quote  #14 
Bigotry is evil.
Reply with quote  #15 

Quote:
John, I notice that a lot of your time on this forum is spent railing against Jewish people and Israel.


Yes Jonahbear.

I am disgusted by Assad and the Saudi rulers and on and on.

They're completely out of my sphere of influence, but here I have just a very tiny bit of sway over Western, or American, opinion that supports Israel's actions seemingly carte blanche.

I therefore do my duty as a concerned human being.

 

Quote:
Why is that?  What is it that bothers you about the race?

To repeat earlier explanations.

One of my truly best friends of 40 years is Jewish....this is not a cliche but a fact.

Today I spent some time organizing for a Jewish tenant to be treated for a TIA here in Chiangmai, and I went to the hospital later to make sure everything was OK.

I actually happen to admire some Jewish people particularly, including the large Israeli minority opposed to everything the present regime stands for, and what i think would be worth some people realising is that they and people like, say, Tom Friedman, is in their criticism actually trying to do his best for Israel.....and everyone.....by negating the apartheid regime which is bound to promulgate the awful status quo. The same of course goes for Professor Sand, who merely wishes his "own people" to see through their claim as the "chosen race" for the more permanent happiness of all. And of course the same goes for little old me.


The fact is I am also very interested in evolutionary psychology, and coincidentally had come across some of Sand's ideas vis a vis the development of the Ashkenazim before in....I think it was....."Before the Dawn"....a completely non-political and studious book.


That, and the fact I am appalled to see the American nation allow with an open hand the collective murder of 4000 people in Gaza so recently with such little internal criticism, is it.


cheers John

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