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Tel Aviv University
Shlomo Sand interviewed with Avi Shlaim, BBC & JC


Top BBC presenter hosts eulogy to author who argues that the Jewish people do not exist, as UK anti-Zionist discourse hits another low

Shlomo Sand is a “historian” whose name you are likely to be hearing a lot more of. Following in the footsteps of Ilan Pappe, he is a far-Left, “non-Zionist”, Israeli ideologue who has just published a book –The Invention of the Jewish People — seeking to delegitimise the historical foundations of the State of Israel.

But Sand’s technique is not merely to delegitimise the Israel that was established in 1948, though he refers to that as having been accomplished by the “rape” of the Palestinian people. It is to assert that the notion of the Jewish people as a “nation-race” that was exiled from its historic homeland is pure fabrication. There is no Jewish people in the sense of having a bloodline that can be traced back to Biblical times and, therefore, there is no Jewish homeland for the current imposters to return to.

Needless to say, he has instantly acquired the status in Britain of a hero of the Israel-hating mainstream. This week on BBC Radio Four’s flagship “Start the Week” programme, star presenter Andrew Marr hosted Sand in the most one-sided, uncritical eulogy to an anti-Israeli commentator that I for one have ever heard broadcast on the BBC.

Early on in the interview, Marr quotes from Sand’s book the words of a Jewish historian of the 19th century involved in what Marr had previously described as a “masterplan” to invent the idea of the Jewish people:

“You cannot destroy a pure Caucasian race,” the historian is quoted as saying, “this is a psychological fact, a law of nature. No punitive system no physical torture can cause a superior race to be consumed or destroyed by an inferior one.”

Marr goes on, evoking a chuckle from Sand, to comment that:

“[This] sounds to our ears like some kind of Nazi propagandist but this is actually a Jewish historian talking about the inferior race [which] there is the German race isn’t it”?

Marr continues by elucidating (without challenging them) the main points of Sand’s book as follows: there was no exile of the Jews by the Romans; the Jewish communities around the Mediterranean at that time did not have Jewish names, they didn’t speak Hebrew, they didn’t behave as Jews, they were just farmers; and that Judaism was a proselytizing religion much like Christianity and Islam.

That last point is central to Sand’s argument and is later used to argue that the Jews of Europe were really Russian, Spanish and German converts who “returned” to Israel in modern times. There is no Jewish people in the sense of an ethnic group with a racial-ethnic identity.

Marr’s tone is always of the awe-struck and fascinated student listening to the revelatory insights of a great sage. When Sand refers to the “myth” of the Jewish people as fulfilling an ideological need for Zionist propaganda, Marr gleefully jumps in with the following:

“You remove this myth and you change a great deal about the situation in the Middle East ultimately don’t you?”

“Yeah, I hope, I hope,” says Sand in response.

A little later, Sand protests that he is not actually opposed to Israel’s existence in terms which I will leave to readers to decide whether he is faking or being serious:

“I don’t want to question the existence of Israel…When I’m speaking before Arab students I compare the birth of the Israeli state as an act of rape. But you have to recognise even a son that was born of an act of rape, you have to recognise him. [But] the existence of Israel I don’t put in question today. You understand?”

“Sure”, whispers Marr while seamlessly bringing in another speaker to offer yet more criticism-free, adulatory questions.

You really have to listen to the programme in its entirety (see link below) to get a sense of the sheer obsequiousness of Marr’s approach. There are a few references to the fact that Sand’s book has evoked controversy in Israel. But there was not a single critical question. Not a single member of the discussion was willing or able to refute a thesis which the vast majority of historians have rubbished as tendentious, ideological propaganda.

This is an author whose work seeks to totally delegitimse the Jewish people and their historic claim to the State of Israel. It is nothing less than an existential challenge to both. The response of the BBC on its flagship programme is to grovel to such a writer, to give him a free hand to say whatever he likes, to affirm his credibility and thus to legitimise his message.

Mark my words, there is much more of this sort of thing to come….

To listen to the show, click here:


To get your antidote in the form of my new book on the subject (for which I won’t be invited on Start the Week), click here:




Watch video 


Friday, November 13, 2009

Avi Shlaim in conversation with Shlomo Sand  http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/2542146

Palestine Video - A Palestine Vlog
Few modern conflicts are as attached to history as that of Israel and Palestine. Avi Shlaim, professor of international relations at Oxford will be in conversation with Shlomo Sand, professor of contemporary history at Tel Aviv University, at the Frontline Club for a seminal evening of discussion. Avi Shlaim’s new book, Israel and Palestine focuses on the causes and consequences of the Israeli-Palestine conflict, while Shlomo Sand’s international best-seller The Invention of the Jewish People unravels the mythologised history of the Jewish people to find that the Israelites were never exiled from the promised land, and therefore have no right to return. The book concludes that the present-day Palestinian Arabs are the true heirs of the biblical Jews.This is a once-only opportunity to hear these two eminent historians discussing their individual perspectives on the history - past and present - of Israel, and how their separate routes of academic enquiry have arrived at the same place: a two-state solution to end the fighting.With: Jacqueline Rose, Professor of English at Queen Mary University of London. Her books include Sexuality in the Field of Vision, the novel Albertine, On Not Being Able to Sleep and The Question of Zion. She contributes regularly to the London Review of Books, and wrote and presented the Channel 4 documentary, Dangerous Liaison – Israel and America.


Jewish Chronicle
Friday 13 November, 2009
Interview: Shlomo Sand
Diaspora Jews are descended from converts and have no historical connection with Israel. That’s just one of the claims made by a Tel Aviv University professor who’s shaken the Jewish world.
By Simon Round, November 12, 2009

For a man at the centre of a controversy, Professor Shlomo Sand looks remarkably calm. The German-born Israeli historian has faced ferocious and repeated attacks from the academic community in Israel and beyond over his new book, The Invention of the Jewish People. His scholarship, his conclusions and his political stance have all been criticised. In fact the title itself has angered Jews around the world.
The storm certainly helped sales, propelling the book to best-seller status in Israel. It has been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Sand’s basic thesis is explained in the title — that there is no Jewish people. According to him, the Jews are a religious group without any particular ethnic link to ancient Israel — rather, nearly every Jew living in the world is the product of a conversion.
This, says Sand, sipping coffee in the offices of his London publisher, came as a very big surprise to him too. Until starting research on his current work, the 63-year-old teacher of contemporary history at the University of Tel Aviv had specialised in Western Europe. “But I began to be bothered by the question of what is a Jew. I wanted to know — what is a people. What is a nation? What is a race?”
His conclusion was that the Jewish people was a creation of 19th-century historians. But we need not feel singled out. Sand also asserts that the French, Italian and German peoples were invented at the same time. “To construct at new nation in modern times you needed to create a history of that people. Most French people thought that they were descended from the Gauls. Most Italians believed they were descendents of Julius Caesar. This is not true. Neither is it true that Jews are descended from the Kingdom of David and Solomon. We took the Bible, a theological masterpiece, and tried to make it into a historical work when it was no such thing.”
Sand says he was staggered to find that the exile of Jews from the Land of Israel after the fall of the Second Temple never took place in the accepted sense. “If you ask anyone in the street whether the Jews were exiled they will all say yes. I thought so too. But then I started to look for a book about the exile. There were no books. The Romans did not force the Jews to leave. It was a society of peasants. Peasants do not migrate en masse. No one forced them out. I’m sure there was emigration but it was just five per cent of society at most.”
He maintains that the Jewish diaspora that sprung up around the Mediterranean was more to do with the success of the Jewish religion rather than mass migration — that it was “Jewishness” that spread and not the Jews. Says Sand: “Six years ago I believed that Jews were a closed religion — then I discovered there was forced conversion. I was staggered to find this.”
According to Sand’s view, most Jews stayed put and would have later been converted to Islam. So is he asserting that the real Jews are in fact the Palestinians? “I wouldn’t say that the Palestinians are the direct descendants of the old Jews — they are mixed, like everyone else in the world.”
What he does claim is that Jews of Sephardi descent are likely to have originated in North Africa and that those of Eastern European descent are likely to come from the Khazarian kingdom, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. This is, of course, something that most Jews would find very difficult to accept.
A group of immigrants making aliyah to Israel. According to Shlomo Sand, their forebears hailed from the Black Sea, not Judea
“It’s not my idea,” says Sand. “The great Jewish historian, Ben-Zion Dinur, described the Khazar kingdom — a land of converts to Judaism — as ‘the mother of the diaspora’. It is the only thing that can explain the massive number of Jews in Eastern Europe. The only difference between Dinur and me is that he claimed a lot of Jews came from Palestine to Khazaria. He needed an ethnic line. I’m sure a few Jews went there as missionaries but there was no ethnic line.”
This part of the book has been attacked by Israeli historians, who maintain that there is simply no evidence to support the fact that Eastern European Jewry is descended solely from Khazarians — a theory which has in the past been propounded by anti-Zionists to discredit Jewish claims to Israel. Sand acknowledges there is not enough evidence, but claims that this is largely due to the fact that there has been no doctoral research into the subject since the 1960s. He believes that this aspect of history has been deliberately ignored because it is an uncomfortable truth. “We all act under ideology,” he says. “In the 1950s people had less of a problem with the Khazarian hypothesis. We were less frightened then.”
He feels that Israelis are scared of his conclusions. “Most Israeli Jews believe in a historical right. If there is no such right, what justifies our existence here? Arabs also ask me, after writing this book, how can I justify the existence of Israel. I say to them that even the son of a rape has the right to live. It was a kind of rape in 1947 and ’48 and the Palestinian tragedy continues. But you can say the same about the USA and Australia.”
Sand is open about his political motivations for writing the book. He feels that, while Zionism failed to create a Jewish people, it did create two others — the Israeli people, and by consequence, the Palestinian people. He says: “I think Israel belongs to the Israelis, not the Jews. We have a language, a culture, a theatre, a literature, our jokes our football and our politics. We are a people but we are not just a Jewish people. I want to change the borders and definition of the state. I want to make it a more civil nation — to separate religion from its existence, to normalise and democratise Israel. I think that Israel has to belong to all its citizens, not just the Jewish ones. People call me radical but from a democratic perspective this is not so radical.”
Sand certainly does not advocate testing any of his claims with DNA evidence. “Maybe I’m from Khazar origins. I don’t care. As I say to my students, Israeli and Arab, it is more important to have wings than roots. A people which has to justify their existence in biological terms is in very bad shape.”
‘The Invention of the Jewish People’ is published by Verso at £18.99
Last updated: 10:18am, November 12 2009

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    1.  Sand should be fired from Tel Aviv
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