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SV: [ANE-2] Fwd: [agade] eREVIEWS: Of "The Invention of the Jewish People"

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  • Niels Peter Lemche
    Maybe people should also cast glimpse on the reader reviews on amazon.com:
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 19, 2009
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      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

      -----Oprindelig meddelelse-----
      Fra: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com [mailto:ANE-2@yahoogroups.com] På vegne af Frank Polak
      Sendt: 19. november 2009 17:15
      Til: biblical-studies@yahoogroups.com; ANE-2@yahoogroups.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@...>
      > 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
      > in
      > 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,
      > Israel’s
      > 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
      > written
      > in the 19th and early 20th centuries – by historians such as
      > Heinrich
      > 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
      > slaughter
      > 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
      > proselytising.
      >
      > 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
      > get
      > 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.
      > How
      > 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
      > like.
      > 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
      > hardly
      > 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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