SV: [ANE-2] Fwd: [agade] eREVIEWS: Of "The Invention of the Jewish People"
- Maybe people should also cast glimpse on the reader reviews on amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Invention-Jewish-People-Shlomo-Sand/dp/1844674223/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1258648111&sr=8-1
Niels Peter Lemche
Fra: ANEfirstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:ANEemail@example.com] På vegne af Frank Polak
Sendt: 19. november 2009 17:15
Til: firstname.lastname@example.org; ANEemail@example.com; ioudaios-l@...
Emne: [ANE-2] Fwd: [agade] eREVIEWS: Of "The Invention of the Jewish People"
Begin forwarded message:
> From: Jack Sasson <jack.m.sasson@...>[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
> Date: 17:07:06 GMT+02:00 19 נובמבר 2009
> To: "The Agade mailing list." <agade@...>
> Subject: [agade] eREVIEWS: Of "The Invention of the Jewish People"
> Reply-To: Jack Sasson <jack.m.sasson@...>
>> From <http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/b74fdfd2-cfe1-11de-a36d-00144feabdc0.html
> See also <http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/non-fiction/article6912556.ece
> The Invention of the Jewish People
> Review by Simon Schama
> The Invention of the Jewish People
> By Shlomo Sand
> Translated by Yael Lotan
> Verso £18.99, 398 pages
> FT Bookshop price: £15.19
>> From its splashy title on, Shlomo Sand means his book to be
> provocative, which it certainly is, though possibly not in the way he
> intends. Its real challenge to the reader is separating the
> presentation of truisms as though they were revolutionary
> illuminations and the relentless beating on doors that have long been
> open, from passages of intellectual sharpness and learning.
> Sand’s self-dramatising attack in The Invention of the Jewish People
> is directed against those who assume, uncritically, that all Jews are
> descended lineally from the single racial stock of ancient Hebrews
> – a
> position no one who has thought for a minute about the history of the
> Jews would dream of taking.
> Sand’s sense of grievance against the myths on which the exclusively
> Jewish right to full Israeli immigration is grounded is one that many
> who want to see a more liberal and secular Israel wholeheartedly
> share. But his book prosecutes these aims through a sensationalist
> assertion that somehow, the truth about Jewish culture and history,
> especially the “exile which never happened”, has been suppressed
> the interests of racially pure demands of Zionist orthodoxy. This, to
> put it mildly, is a stretch.
> To take just one instance: the history of the Khazars, the central
> Asian kingdom which, around the 10th century, converted to Judaism and
> which Sand thinks has been excised from the master narrative because
> of the embarrassing implication that present day Jews might be
> descended from Turkic converts. But the Khazars were known by every
> Jewish girl and boy in my neck of Golders Greenery and further flung
> parts of the diaspora, and celebrated rather than evaded.
> For Sand, a professor of history at Tel Aviv University, the antidote
> to a national identity based on what he argues are fables, is to shed
> the fancy that there is any such thing as a shared Jewish identity
> independent of religious practice.
> By this narrow reckoning you are either devoutly orthodox or not
> Jewish at all if you imagine yourself to have any connection to Israel
> past or present. Sand confuses ethnicity – which, in the case of the
> Jews, is indeed impure, heterogeneous and much travelled – with an
> identity that evolves as the product of common historical experience.
> Rabbinical arguments may rest on an imaginary definition of ethnicity,
> but the legitimacy of a Jewish homeland does not. Ultimately,
> case is the remedy for atrocity, about which Sand has nothing to say.
> His book is a trip (and I use the word advisedly) through a landscape
> of illusions which Sand aims to explode, leaving the scenery freer for
> a Middle East built, as he supposes, from the hard bricks of truth.
> This turns out to require not just the abandonment of simplicities
> about race, but any shared sense of historical identity at all on the
> part of the Jews that might be taken as the basis of common
> allegiance, which is an another matter entirely. En route, he marches
> the reader through a mind-numbingly laborious examination of the
> construction of national identities from imagined rather than actual
> histories. A whole literature has been devoted to the assumption that
> nations are invariably built from such stories, in which, nonetheless,
> grains of historical truth are usually embedded. The important issue,
> however, is whether the meta-narrative that arises from those stories
> is inclusive enough to accommodate the tales of those whose experience
> is something other than racially and culturally homogeneous.
> Sand’s point is that a version of Jewish national identity was
> in the 19th and early 20th centuries – by historians such as
> Graetz and Simon Dubnow – which took as its central premise a forced
> dispersion of the Jews from Israel. But, he argues, there actually was
> no mass forced “exile” so there can be no legitimate
> “return”. This is
> the take-away headline that makes this book so contentious. It is
> undoubtedly right to say that a popular version of this idea of the
> exile survives in most fundamentalist accounts of Jewish history. It
> may well be the image that many Jewish children still have. But it is
> a long time since any serious historian argued that following the
> destruction of the Second Temple, the Romans emptied Judea. But what
> the Romans did do, following the Jewish revolt of AD66-70 and even
> more exhaustively after a second rebellion in AD135, was every bit as
> traumatic: an act of cultural and social annihilation – mass
> and widespread enslavement. But there was also the mass extirpation of
> everything that constituted Jewish religion and culture; the renaming
> of Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina, the obliteration of the Temple, the
> prohibition on rituals and prayers. Sand asserts, correctly, that an
> unknowable number of Jews remained in what the Romans called
> Palestina. The multitudes of Jews in Rome had already gone there, not
> as a response to disaster but because they wanted to and were busy
> All this is true and has been acknowledged. But Sand appears not to
> notice that it undercuts his argument about the non-connection of Jews
> with the land of Palestine rather than supporting it. Put together,
> the possibility of leading a Jewish religious life outside Palestine,
> with the continued endurance of Jews in the country itself and you
> have the makings of that group yearning – the Israel-fixation, which
> Sand dismisses as imaginary. What the Romans did to the defeated Jews
> was dispossession, the severity of which was enough to account for the
> homeland-longing by both the population still there and those abroad.
> That yearning first appears, not in Zionist history, but in the
> writings of medieval Jewish teachers, and never goes away.
> There are many such twists of historical logic and strategic evasions
> of modern research in this book. To list them all would try your
> patience. Scholarly consensus now places the creation of the earliest
> books of the Old Testament not in the 6th or 5th centuries BC, but in
> the 9th century BC, home-grown in a Judah which had been transformed,
> as Israel Finkelstein has written “into a developed nation
> state”. The
> post-David kingdom of the 10th century BC may have been a pastoral
> warrior citadel, but the most recent excavations by Amihai Mazar have
> revealed it capable of building monumental structures. And the Judah
> in which the bible was first forged, its population swollen with
> refugees from the hard-pressed northern kingdom of Israel, was a
> culture that needed a text to bring together territory, polity and
> religion. It was a moment of profound cultural genesis. And don’t
> me started again on the Khazars. No one doubts the significance of
> their conversion, but to argue that the entirety of Ashkenazi Jewry
> must necessarily descend from them is to make precisely the uncritical
> claim of uninterrupted genealogy Sand is eager to dispute in the wider
> context of Jewish history.
> His assumption that the Jewish state is an oxymoron built on illusions
> of homogeneity is belied by the country’s striking heterogeneity.
> else to explain the acceptance of the Beta Israel Ethiopian Jews or
> the Bene Israel Indians as Israeli Jews? Certainly that acceptance has
> never been without obstacles, and egregious discrimination has been
> shown by those who think they know what “real jews” should look
> Sand is right in believing that a more inclusive and elastic version
> of entry and exit points into the Jewish experience should encourage a
> debate in Israel of who is and who is not a “true” Jew. I could
> agree more, and for precisely the reason that Sand seems not to
> himself embrace: namely that the legitimacy of Israel both within and
> without the country depends not on some spurious notion of religious
> much less racial purity, but on the case made by a community of
> suffering, not just during the Holocaust but over centuries of
> expulsions and persecutions. Unlike the Roman deportations, these were
> not mythical.
> Sand would counter that such a refuge for the victims could have been
> in China, or on the moon, for all that Palestine had to do with the
> Jews. But since his book fails to sever the remembered connection
> between the ancestral land and Jewish experience ever since, it seems
> a bit much to ask Jews to do their bit for the sorely needed peace of
> the region by replacing an ethnic mythology with an act of equally
> arbitrary cultural oblivion.
> Simon Schama is an FT contributing editor
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