Shlomo Sand Ridiculed by Historian Simon Schama


Beit She'arim Menorah - you know, just a little like the one we light 2000 years later because of our vivid imaginations

Beit She'arim Menorah - you know, just a little like the one we light 2000 years later because of our vivid imaginations

Some of you may recall our celebration of French journalistic standards which permitted “The Invention of the Jewish People,” a sad, ideologically bent book by Shlomo Sand to win the Aujourd’hui Award, “given to the best non-fiction political or historical work from French journalists.”

That version of Sand’s book, published originally in Hebrew, was the French language version. Unfortunately, the English speaking world is now in possession of this ode to hatred of the Jewish people and it is on sale in England and the US. It’s actually ranked in the mid-2000s on Amazon, which means books are selling.

What kind of person is Shlomo Sand? He is the kind of person who compares Israel in an interview to a child born of a rape.

“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.”

…“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.”

Therefore, we glean that he’s a scholar working at an Israeli university which affords him the freedom to attack his country and society viciously and then have his ideas travel the world with him so he can call the country subsidizing his salary, the child of a rape.

And you can imagine he has serious support from the anti-Israel crowd, Jewish especially.

In our previous post, we brought in some scholarly attacks that decimate his book, but my favorite new critique of his book is by prolific and popular historian, Simon Schama, definitely not an intellectual slouch.

Schama writes:

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.

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.

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.

Be sure to read the entire article in the Financial Times.

Very soon, expect to hear on campuses, in news programs on the radio and occasionally in TV programs that the Jewish people are a myth. This stuff used to be said by the neo-Nazi loonies who inhabit this world, but now we have a Jewish, son of Holocaust survivors, professor from an Israeli university, ideologue whose ideology so blinds him to the basic identity of the Jewish people that he has put this lie into the mainstream.

The problem with his argument is that HE’S the one who is touting the biological issue. It is clear to most Jews that their identity stems from our thousands of years of common heritage and that heritage is directly linked to our past in Judea and Israel. It isn’t material whether my genes are directly connected to those of some Jerusalemite from 2000 years ago – although they might well be – it’s that their ideas, beliefs, practices and lives have filtered down to our time and resonate with our identity. They define who we are, and not because of a couple of 19th Century historians, but precisely because our traditions, our shared histories, our literature and even the enduring hatred we’ve suffered, are a part of every Jew. If a prayer was being said 2000 years ago, and then 1000 years later a Jew who descends from a convert says the same prayer and teaches it to his children, and that prayer is repeated 500 years later and again a thousand years later by Jews, even if they are descended from converts to Judaism, that does not lessen their connection to the place where that prayer, language and culture originated. It does not change the fact that they faced Jerusalem when praying and wished that they could visit it and even live there upon the messiah’s arrival.

Whether Sand approves or not, these ideas that form us exist because our ancestors – and here I may mean biological and I could mean ancestry in terms of ideas, faith and religious practice – lived in Jerusalem and Hebron and Shechem and Judea and Samaria.

If his problem is that Israel, a state defining itself as a Jewish state, exist on disputed land that the Palestinians claim as theirs, then that’s an entirely different issue and question. Trying to use questionable history to address this complex situation is reprehensible.

If Walt & Mearsheimer’s “The Israel Lobby” wins TheMiddle’s “21st Century Protocols of the Elders of Zion” Award, Sand’s “The Invention of the Jewish People” wins the “Temple was Never Here, It Was in Nablus” Upside Down History Prize, which I dedicate to Yasser Arafat.

(photo is from this article about the Beit She’arim site)

UPDATE: Shlomo Sand responded to Schama in an interview. We covered his comments in the post Shlomo Sand is Angry at His Critics.


35 Comments

  1. jladi

    11/16/2009 at 10:55 am

    Most significant historians posit that the Hebrews, Bnei Israel, are an amalgam, which the author here notes. Personally, I happen to like Shaye Cohen’s book “The Beginnings of Jewishness” which describes the transformation of a people from Judea – the Judeans, into the Jews, which is the great mixture.

    Sand has added that the founders of Israel used a mythic historical narrative, Yerushalmi’s collective memory, to make a claim on the Land. In fact the author of this piece does distinctly that when he writes,

    “It is clear to most Jews that their identity stems from our thousands of years of common heritage and that heritage is directly linked to our past in Judea and Israel. It isn’t material whether my genes are directly connected to those of some Jerusalemite from 2000 years ago – although they might well be – it’s that their ideas, beliefs, practices and lives have filtered down to our time and resonate with our identity.”

    themiddle speaks of thousands of years of common heritage directly linked to our past in Israel, despite the fact that as Rabbinic Jews, most of our traditions were developed outside of the Land of Israel. The question that Sand asks then is a poignant one, and we can disagree with the answer, but it is a question that we all as Jews living after information must ask.
    In light of historical inquiry which undermines exclusive claims, what is the right of Jews to be in Israel?

    I agree with our author that it does not matter if my genes are directly connected, the fact of the matter is people of all types were conquered and infiltrated, assimilated new types and assimilated into other types. Our collective memory is one that assigns Zion a special status.

    I find it difficult to say that our entire tradition comes from Israel as most of our tradition does not. Most of the greats that we study never made it to Israel and many of the books we read were written in North Africa, Spain and Vilna. Don’t claim that our entire tradition is monolithic and expects one thing, it is demeaning and simply incorrect.

    Finally, Sand’s statement about Israeliness is one that I have felt deeply as an American who lives in Jerusalem. There is a distinct Israeli culture that does not understand me as an American Jew and which I myself do not understand.

  2. themiddle

    11/16/2009 at 12:42 pm

    I do not suggest for a minute that our heritage isn’t an amalgam shaped by centuries in the diaspora. Of course that’s the case. That’s not the point. The point is that everything in our culture as Jews originates in Israel. Without the Torah, without Hebrew, without Aramaic, without synagogues (which exist before the Temple’s destruction), without the 3 regalim, without sacrifices, and arguably even without the concept of oral law and priesthood, you do not have Judaism.

    Even if something is a reaction to the absence of Israel, say like locking in the oral laws or establishing prayer instead of sacrifice and rabbis instead of priests because of the destruction of the temple, it influences the development and evolution of Judaism.

    Sand tries to negate all of this because it’s not convenient for him in terms of his personal ideals to use this historic link as justification for a Jewish state. The way he gets around it is by saying that Jews aren’t really the heirs of the Israelites. By doing so he ignores the fact that Israel – the place – has been integral to Jewish prayer and concepts throughout our history.

    You know what? Arafat was Egyptian and so was Edward Said. Does Sand intend to claim they’re not Palestinian? What about a third generation Palestinian living in the US? Is he rooted to Palestine? What if his Palestinian father married a non-Arab or a non- Palestinian?

    It seems to me that Sand created his theory in pursuit of his own philosophies and ideology, not in pursuit of objective truth. That’s his right, but he deserves the criticism he has received. His supporters tend to fall into the anti-Israel/Zionism and even anti-Semitic camp while his opponents are scholars like Schama and Anita Shapira. That tells the tale.

    Btw, thank you for your thoughtful and insightful comment.

    • froylein

      11/16/2009 at 1:27 pm

      Sh.S. vs S.S[c]h.

      I see a pattern there. (day 1 of deliberate conspiracy theory hints)

  3. Yaakov

    11/16/2009 at 4:55 pm

    I recommend that anyone interested in the genetic aspect of this discussion read Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People, by Jon Entine (available very inexpensively at bookcloseouts.com). He delves deeply into the real and perceived genetic links between Jews (and other ethnic groups). Very well researched, and without an axe to grind.

  4. Kevin Brook

    11/16/2009 at 5:11 pm

    I second Yaakov’s recommendation of the book “Abraham’s Children”. I was interviewed in that book and I know from meeting Jon Entine and having other discussions with him that he had the highest journalistic standards. The DNA evidence showing common roots for most Jewish populations in the world today is valid science performed in an objective fashion even though Shlomo Sand tries to dismiss it. In my book “The Jews of Khazaria, Second Edition”, which comes out in softcover format in 12 days, I refute Sand’s ideas about the extent of convert ancestry in Ashkenazic Jews (which Sand got largely from Wexler and Koestler) and present the DNA evidence showing Ashkenazim are closely connected to Samaritans and Palestinian Arabs. Please read Chapter 10 in my book for the genetic as well as name evidence and other evidence – remember it’s only in the second edition. Disclaimer: I am proud to say I have sold many copies of Entine’s book.

  5. jladi

    11/17/2009 at 8:59 am

    Could you say that Sand’s deficit is that he does not apply his reasoning to other groups? Clearly, I am more happy than themiddle to place Jewish development outside of the Land. This is not a problem if we have a phenomenological approach to Jewish life. The nature of Israel is a group of people came here during a 100 year stretch during a time when the international zeitgeist was nationalism. Now in our postmodern world, we (some) see those reasons as less legitimate.

    As an aside, I have strong difficulty with the essentialist perspective on Israel, in viewing it within a hierarchical relationship to the diaspora. Too much of what I love about Judaism is classically diaspora and much of what I struggle with in Israel is for lack of a better term cannanite. I mean why is the secular Israeli living in ashdod “more Jewish” than the committed Reform or Conservative Jew living in Phili?

  6. themiddle

    11/17/2009 at 1:55 pm

    Sand has an advantage in dealing only with the Jewish people because our history is fairly unique among the nations. It is precisely the dispersal of Jewish life across so many places and over so many centuries which opens the door for his theories.

    Again, I am not attempting to dismiss or discount the importance of Judaism’s evolution over the course of the centuries in which the majority of Jews lived in places other than Israel/Judea. I am stressing that the faith, traditions, culture and collective longing of the Jewish people were always rooted in Israel and are founded on that lengthy period when Israelites and early Jews lived in what we know today as Israel and Judea and Samaria. Even the hatred and persecution of Jews for the centuries when they are in the diaspora, are rooted in early Israel. Without early movements like those of early Christianity or early Judaism, you don’t get Jesus and Paul and the enmity of Christians for so many centuries. Even Islam’s treatment of Jews and the results of that treatment and their influence over the lives of many Jewish communities can be related distantly to events that take place potentially in Israel.

    Your second paragraph is interesting and I believe this has to do with the tension between the diaspora and Israel and their respective communities. I don’t think the typical diaspora Jew thinks of herself as a lesser Jew than the Israeli Jew, but the Israeli Jew is a product of a movement whose ideology is that of return to this historic land. Just by living out this part of his ideology, he is bound to feel that he is closer to the centrality of his being a Jew. This isn’t so far-fetched if you consider Jewish messianism, a foundation of Jewish faith for many centuries, which calls for a return to Israel and to Jerusalem. That Ashdod secular Jew is physically closer to Jerusalem than the Philadelphia Jew. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with this idea, but I do think that’s where it originates.

  7. themiddle

    11/17/2009 at 2:10 pm

    Oh, I forgot. Your point about post-modernism and how nationalism is anachronistic is valid, but it happens to be applied to Israel in a way that no other country seems to have to apply it. France isn’t planning to pack itself up and neither are more modern creations like Jordan or Lebanon which have roots that only go back several decades. Sand isn’t telling Lebanon to absorb its Palestinians and become a new Lebanon as a result. He is asking that of Israel, however.

    Only Israel is asked to deny its own Jewish nationalism in order to facilitate this new “Israeli nationalism” that incorporates the Palestinians. Sand wants to take away the Jewish right to self-determination and his clever trick is to do it by eliminating critical elements of Jewish history, because they don’t suit him. If my Jewish, Israeli friend doesn’t look like a Beduin and has blue eyes and pale skin, then she must be the product of a conversion, of a made-up nationalism, and has no historic claim to the land which she must now share with its native sons, the Palestinians, even if they are born in Lebanon, Kuwait or London.

    Why? Why is her claim to nationalism and her right to self-determination as part of a people living on a particular land less important or valuable than the claim of any other person who is part of a nation? In some ways, actually, her claim is stronger, not just because of these ancient historic links that Sand tries to obfuscate, but also because of the modern wars and losses among her nation to secure this land; losses that came after they were attacked, not the other way around. Losses which, by the way, give Sand the security and peace of mind to work where he does and publish what he does.

  8. Larry

    11/18/2009 at 10:14 am

    HEY MIDDLE… great post. Even Tikkun Magazine’s review of the book criticized it. Hey.. to be on the Board of Directors… you gotta be affiliated with McGill University, Harvard, Wachtell, CSFB, Koor, ML, or all of the above. Hehe.. JUST KIDDING

  9. montana urban legend

    11/20/2009 at 1:34 am

    Oh wow!

    How wonderful of you to bring in Simon Schama to tear apart an argument by Sand that had nothing to do with the quote you supplied!

    I bet Sand is on firmer ground advocating a secular, pluralistic state – a normative argument and one different to, and in no way dependent upon, the imaginative historical argument that he promotes.

    It is much easier to accept that the religious tribalism that forms the basis for Jewish history is increasingly irrelevant to the identity of a modern, heterogeneous state. Especially one that claims to be disinterested in theocracy.

    Of course, this doesn’t mean that I believe Jews shouldn’t comprise a majority, or that Jewish culture shouldn’t predominate – at least until Arab Israeli identity relinquishes its captivation by “Palestinianization”. And that is a crucial caveat for the “post-Zionists” (or whatever) to consider.

  10. themiddle

    11/20/2009 at 2:32 am

    Glad you enjoyed it, MUL. ;)

  11. Alex

    11/22/2009 at 3:08 am

    History is no science. Even today when one reads different newspapers one gets news interpreted differently. The only way to figure out if Sand is right or wrong is to run genetic tests on Jews.
    Fortunalelly some tests were already performed, and it is obviose that Sand’s ideas are complete crap. There is no genetic correlation between modern ashkenazy jews and Khazars.
    As a scientist I wonder what kind of professional journals publish such crap.

    PS. Politically Sand is entitled to defend any strange idea, however, as a researcher, his history ideas wouldn’t pass a decent refereeing.

  12. Randy

    11/25/2009 at 11:07 pm

    There is historical record that speaks to a long history of
    Jews living in what we call modern Israel. Moreover, Torah is a living testament to the many editors fashioning what a people have read for over two thousand years. My orthodox and secure brothers and sisters are as much my family whether they live in Israel or elsewhere. For centuries Jews have faced East and yearned for the opportunity to return. In the end, if we can defend it, it will remain ours!

  13. themiddle

    11/26/2009 at 12:58 am

    The irony is that Sand contradicts himself. He claims there is no modern Jewish connection to the ancient land because the ancestors are not our ancestors. His emphasis to make this claim rests on the assumption, accepted by many historians, that there was no major expulsion of the Jews from ancient Israel and therefore he determines that the local population converted and assimilated. He then claims the reason we even have modern Jews is very aggressive proselytizing by Jews in the diaspora which brought in many outsiders into the religion. So which is it? Lots of Jews in the diaspora referring to the good old Land of Israel, or no Jews in the diaspora and then his theory holds little water. He ignores issues like the preponderance of last names like Levi and Cohen (and their variations) in Jewish communities worldwide and he misrepresents the reasons Jews did not move to Israel over the centuries, ignoring the Jewish communities which persisted despite challenging odds and also ignoring the many Jews who did travel to live in Israel over those centuries despite the hardships, dangers, lack of means of making a living and the absence of a sizable community and existence of hostile communities on the land. These contradictions, and I am no historian but these are basic knowledge and ideas that are well known, should send big red flashing lights above the heads of any of his readers and listeners.

    Of course, the problem is that so many people are hungry for the poison he’s peddling that they are more than happy to listen and accept what he says.

  14. montana urban legend

    11/26/2009 at 3:24 pm

    I enjoyed it! I enjoy!

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  15. Quotient

    12/6/2009 at 6:51 am

    Does a long hard and sincere yearning for something eventually earn you the right to possess the thing yearned for? And what if this thing presently happens to be in somebody else’s possession, and that somebody will not relinquish possession gratuitously? Have current possessors no rights if the yearners can demonstrate that a couple of millenia previously possession had been in the hands of their ancestors? However much or little truth, seen from the biological angle, there might be in Sand’s argument, he is 100% right in proclaiming that trying to base the legitimacy for a modern, civic democratic state on such things is just hocus pocus. Dangerous hocus pocus since it is totally one sided and will obviously never be accepted as legitimation by the nation which is excluded and disadvantaged by it. Resolutions 181 and 242 must be upheld as the real basis for the legitimizations of Israel and Palestine. It is ironic that Palestinians who traditionally have been most vehement in their rejections of the spirit in which the resolutions were formed, now seem ready to give it a try, whilst Israel shows itself more and more willing to ignore them and instead eager to graft the mythology onto the central stem of its governing policies.

  16. themiddle

    12/6/2009 at 4:47 pm

    Yearning is what makes people who they are. Do you negate Palestinian yearning now that a vast majority of Palestinians have been born outside of Israel?

    As for the issue of “hocus pocus” or whatever you’d like to call a nation that speaks in the same language as the people who lived there 2000 years ago and whose traditions and culture reflect life and faith in that physical space 2000 years earlier, it is not your place to define what constitutes “legitimacy for a modern, civic democratic state.” It is up to the Jewish nation which happens to have the same right of self-determination as any other people to determine that for itself.

    Even if it’s hocus pocus, and even if 99% of the residents of the planet reject it, it is not your place, Sand’s place, the Palestinians’ place or anybody else’s to determine for the Jewish nation where and how it should define itself. Do you ask the Germans or the French to explain themselves this way? Do you ask the Saudis or the Iraqis? How about Canadians or Americans? Do you even ask the Kurds or the Palestinians?

    When a Scottish person moves to the USA, acquires citizenship, makes a better living than most native Americans and then raises children there who call themselves “Americans,” do you challenge him or his children about their right to call themselves Americans? Do you challenge their country and its right to exist as a modern civic democracy? You don’t even think twice about it.

    In some ways, this is the claim that Sand is trying to make about Israel today. Like the good former Matzpen member that he is, he’ll happily tell you he’s “Israeli” rather than “Jewish.” Except that the point is that the US can define itself as it does because it did go through some wars and because over time it established its meaning of nationhood. Its values are changing but they are rooted in its history, a history which the US reserves the right to share only with those people it allows to immigrate and to whom it grants the rights to live as citizens or residents. If Israel seeks to define itself by history that you and he consider “hocus pocus,” that still remains the right of the Israelis and the Jewish nation.

    The issue, obviously, is that Jewish self-determination ends up in conflict over the same piece of land that Palestinian self-determination considers its own. However, that extremely challenging and potentially unresolvable conflicting claim has played itself out in wars, especially that of 1948, which was undeniably an existential war, in which one side attempted to find compromise and the other side – which didn’t – lost the war.

    Critically, if I have to respond to issues you raise about 181 and 242, the side that agreed to compromise had also been buying land legally and had established democratic foundations for its hoped-for self-determination in its historic homeland.

    In other words, a group that arrived in its yearned-for, ancient homeland, was seeking to achieve self-determination through democracy and legal means such as international agreements and the actual purchase of land, to achieve its goals. That they had to learn to defend themselves and then fight to win became part of the process because they had no choice. The sad history of UNGAR 181 and the 1948 War of Independence are perfect examples of this. Yet, it is precisely this process that has established Israel and given it its modern legitimacy. In fact, this is so clear that poor old Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim, and now Shlomo Zand, are doing their utmost to find ways to re-write history.

    However, you can’t turn back the clock when it suits you because you’ve lost the war you started. You can’t say “I reject 181 or 194,” launch a war, and then 50 years after you’ve lost that war and numerous others, conveniently revert to what you rejected earlier. It’s not as if they’re asking for 181 and 194 because they’ve had a change of heart. It’s because they consider them effective weapons against Israel. As for 242, we have yet to see serious consideration of that resolution by the Palestinians. Read the papers from the past week and you’ll learn that they’re trying to get around 242. They are certainly not accepting 242 any time soon. They would love to resurrect 181 and 194 or have them become UNSC resolutions, but not because they view them as a ticket to peace. Rather, they are viewed as an effective weapon in a desire to hurt and possibly destroy the idea of an Israel defined by Jewish self-determination.

    As for Israel “ignoring” 242, I would wager that if the Palestinians were serious tomorrow about a permanent peace along the lines of what Barak offered at Taba, it would pass both the government and a referendum inside Israel.

  17. Quotient

    12/7/2009 at 7:22 am

    “Do you ask the Germans or the French to explain themselves this way?” Well, let’s take an artificially constructed thought experiment on these lines. Let’s imagine that a quarter of a million Britons who feel a strong affiliation to the Viking element in their past, begin to yearn for a return to their Scandinavian origins. So they pack their things and set sail for Denmark, move in, buy up land, begin to build, create political institutions, and eventually in an area in the West of Jutland succeed in establishing themselves as a regional majority, declare themselves to be a state, democratically founded on their ancient homeland, and any Danes, who happen to be living in the area the British Vikings have chosen for themselves and their nation, who protest and resist, they drive out by force of arms. It would indeed be surprising if nobody, especially the Danes, expected them to explain what they think gives them the right to do this. They might then go to the United Nations and say “Look it’s like this: we’ve always had a Scandinavian yearning, we’ve kept our faith with Odin and Thor, we read the sagas of the Vikings and have kept and developed many of the good old Viking traditions like drinking and brawling, we understand and have revitalised runic script, and genticists have proved that we have strong racial links with the original inhabitants of this land. It’s not your place to determine how and where the Viking nation should define itself, we demand only that the UN recognise us and give us a seat and a vote at the Council. True, half a million Danes got displaced in the upheavals, and are now refugees, but there is plenty of room for them in Norway and Sweden, it shouldn’t be a problem for them to start a new life there. It is our right to defend ourselves against the Danish terrorists who are bent on destroying us by violent and undemocratic means.”
    themiddle – the logic of your argument would, it seems to me, dictate that this scenario would have to be deemed acceptable by the world community, and the Viking nation welcomed into the UN. Of course you need not trouble yourself too much with this fantasy, because you know as well as I it could never happen, but just suppose it did. Would Israel stand up in the United Nations and support the new nation? I do find your argument a little fascinating since – inadvertantly or otherwise – it does raise fundamental issues about what makes a nation ‘legitimate’ – indeed whether it is at all possible to legitimise a nation, and whether in fact the whole concept of ‘nationhood’ is not intrisically evil. A necessary evil some might say. But that’s why I say we have no choice but to invest authority on such issues in a democratic body of nations, and any nation which wishes to be considered legitimate will have to submit itself to the scrutiny of that body. Your alternative is, when it comes down to it, that might is right, since as I have demonstrated, anybody can then, in principle, decide that they are a nation, and begin looking around for some land to move into and take over. If they succeed then it’s just a question of holding on until enough time has gone by that ‘legitimacy’ becomes inevitable. This is a luxury which I believe no longer can be afforded. The world is now a globality, we are confronted for the first time in history with the real finiteness of it, and we have created problems for ourselves which transcend the boundaries of the introverted interests of nationalism. Israel got its foot in the door just in time and got its legitimation from the UN and that is good enough for me at any rate. But by the same stroke Palestine also got its legitimation. That’s also good enough for me and remains good even if the Palestinians lack of sophistication and familiarity with the democratic ethos led them to take up indefensively intransigent positions, and behave in a very politically naive and destructive way in the intervening years.
    You say you cannot turn the clock back when it suits you, yet there’s apparently no problem if the time span you want to turn it back extends over 2000 years. By your logic Israel lost a war with the Bar Kochba rebellion, so that’s it – they’re finished and no longer have any rights.
    If Israel wants to go it alone and argue its legitimacy within this archaic frame of reference, which nobody else can see the legitimacy of, then it should surrender its seat at the UN, and go it alone. But if it wants international recognition for its legitimacy, then it has to use the common modern frame of reference to define it, and has to acknowledge the existence and rights of the other people who were awarded national status in the same way at the same time, and respect them as equals. The world didn’t accept that Hitler began to redfine Poland and Czechoslovakia as provinces of the Third Reich, and won’t accept any Israeli attempt to engulf the West Bank as part of Greater Israel. Even though there might be very good reason to do so if Schlomo Sand is right, and the Palestinians are in fact more Jewish than the Jews by blood! Such is the democratic spirit of the UN – if the Palestinians want to become Jews and Israelis, then it must be on the basis of their own free will. Otherwise they should have the right to self determination as Palestinian muslims in their own land just as Israeli Jews should have the right to self determination as Israeli Jews in their own land. If I have understood him, this is the rationale Schlomo Sand wants to base his national rights on – very reasonably.

    • themiddle

      12/7/2009 at 4:23 pm

      The only thing Sand has reasonably shown is that academic freedom, freedom of speech and open-mindedness (his book was a bestseller) are important philosophies in Israel. Well, except for the right and centrist students at Tel Aviv University (where Sand teaches, ironically) who have complained that the faculty tends to be so left-wing that they’re reluctant to express their views for fear of reprisal.

      That you take Sand’s claim that the Palestinians are more Jewish than the Jews at face value really diminishes from your argument. In my previous post on this book, we considered that a joke. The Palestinians probably consider it a bigger joke, though it must give them great pleasure to see an Israeli, Jewish academic put this theory out there and garnering so much attention.

      Now to your claims.

      “Do you ask the Germans or the French to explain themselves this way?” Well, let’s take an artificially constructed thought experiment on these lines. Let’s imagine that a quarter of a million Britons who feel a strong affiliation to the Viking element in their past, begin to yearn for a return to their Scandinavian origins. So they pack their things and set sail for Denmark, move in, buy up land, begin to build, create political institutions, and eventually in an area in the West of Jutland succeed in establishing themselves as a regional majority, declare themselves to be a state, democratically founded on their ancient homeland,

      So far, so good. Don’t forget to include the idea that in order for this to be comparable to Israel, the Denmark to which they move must be a sub-province of a province of a larger empire, not a state and not a place that has been perceived as a state for 2000 years. However, yes, the notion that a group would form, move in slowly, buy up land, eventually build up political institutions and eventually declare themselves a state is perfectly reasonable. I suspect that Israeli Arabs may do precisely such a thing in the next 20-30 years and people like Sand and you will then agree that this is desirable.

      and any Danes, who happen to be living in the area the British Vikings have chosen for themselves and their nation, who protest and resist, they drive out by force of arms.

      Now we’re modifying history. To be equivalent to the Israel narrative, you would have to structure it as follows:

      “Not having any national or international political representation or movement of any significance, the local Scandinavians (they are not known as Danes yet) who happen to be living in the area the British Vikings have chosen for themselves and their nation, attack the British Vikings on an ongoing basis whenever the British Vikings buy land and try to erect structures on it to live in. Every few years, the majority local Scandinavians launch mass violent riots as well. These riots are illegal in and of themselves because the authorities frown upon violence and the land purchases made by the British Vikings are perfectly legal. In fact, their historic claim to this land is so obvious that both in the international diplomatic sphere and in that of the country mandated to control this territory, the land is slated to become a national home for the British Vikings.

      Over time, as the British Vikings continue to buy up land and build up the infrastructure of a state, the local Scandinavians benefit economically and their population increases dramatically through emigration from other areas of the Scandinavian provinces to this one. Their use of violence, however, does not diminish or end and becomes a tactical tool for their leadership. As a consequence, when war breaks out in an effort to conquer the territory and drive out the British Vikings (as evidenced by the removal of every last Jew from Jordanian controlled territory in 1948-1949), the victorious British Vikings watch as many local Scandinavians flee and encourage others to join them so as to prevent continuation of violence in the future. Despite this, they permit one seventh as many local Scandinavians to remain as had left even as the other Scandinavians evict every British Viking from the land they control. ”

      It would indeed be surprising if nobody, especially the Danes, expected them to explain what they think gives them the right to do this. They might then go to the United Nations and say “Look it’s like this: we’ve always had a Scandinavian yearning, we’ve kept our faith with Odin and Thor, we read the sagas of the Vikings and have kept and developed many of the good old Viking traditions like drinking and brawling, we understand and have revitalised runic script, and genticists have proved that we have strong racial links with the original inhabitants of this land. It’s not your place to determine how and where the Viking nation should define itself, we demand only that the UN recognise us and give us a seat and a vote at the Council. True, half a million Danes got displaced in the upheavals, and are now refugees, but there is plenty of room for them in Norway and Sweden, it shouldn’t be a problem for them to start a new life there. It is our right to defend ourselves against the Danish terrorists who are bent on destroying us by violent and undemocratic means.”

      They could also point to the Viking Sea Scrolls. Yes.

      And to the rest of what you wrote, they would add: “And of course, during the upheavals launched by the local Scandinavians in concert with several Scandinavian countries, one percent of our population was killed and five times as many were injured, numbers that are not reflected in the cost of life or limb to the local Scandinavians. More important, however, is that our little nation had to absorb approximately 15% more refugees from Scandinavian countries than local Scandinavian refugees who were created by this war that was imposed upon us. Despite the intense difficulty in absorbing so many refugees in such a short space of time, we did it. On this basis, it is difficult for us to see why the countries surrounding us, who were directly involved starting and fighting in the tragic war here, cannot absorb those refugees who are on their side. In terms of land alone, these countries control large multiples of the land we control. Norway and Sweden can certainly absorb them just as we absorbed our refugees.”

      themiddle – the logic of your argument would, it seems to me, dictate that this scenario would have to be deemed acceptable by the world community, and the Viking nation welcomed into the UN. Of course you need not trouble yourself too much with this fantasy, because you know as well as I it could never happen, but just suppose it did.

      I just did suppose it did. You just need to get the history down a little more accurately and everything makes much more sense, doesn’t it?

      I do find your argument a little fascinating since – inadvertantly or otherwise – it does raise fundamental issues about what makes a nation ‘legitimate’ – indeed whether it is at all possible to legitimise a nation, and whether in fact the whole concept of ‘nationhood’ is not intrisically evil. A necessary evil some might say. But that’s why I say we have no choice but to invest authority on such issues in a democratic body of nations, and any nation which wishes to be considered legitimate will have to submit itself to the scrutiny of that body.

      Yes, but we don’t ask that question of Lithuania or China or Zimbabwe or Iraq or Saudi Arabia, etc. Just of Israel. Modern Arab states such as Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have borders and nationalities determined around the same time as Israel’s. Yet they are not asked to prove their historic links to anything or asked to question their right to self-determination.

      Your alternative is, when it comes down to it, that might is right, since as I have demonstrated, anybody can then, in principle, decide that they are a nation, and begin looking around for some land to move into and take over.

      You most certainly didn’t prove that.

      The Jews have a real historic link to this land. It’s not just claimed, it is factual. Jesus himself went to read the Torah at synagogue according to the New Testament. Jesus was, to remind you, a Jew. You don’t believe in the veracity of the New Testament? Okay, the Dead Sea Scrolls are real and they contain the same books as you will find in the Torah of the 13th Century Jew and the 21st Century Jew. The Temple Mount is real and as my photo at the top of this post shows, there are numerous examples of Jewish traditions which exist to this day representing the history of the Jewish people on this land. It’s not just an imaginary connection and it’s not just a desire by a bunch of people to move here. There are strong historical, religious and ideological links to this land, not to mention an ongoing presence, even if small at times, of Jews living on this land for 3000 years.

      If they succeed then it’s just a question of holding on until enough time has gone by that ‘legitimacy’ becomes inevitable.

      The legitimacy in this case was granted before the state was founded. The war of 1948, started by the other side, cemented the claim.

      This is a luxury which I believe no longer can be afforded. The world is now a globality, we are confronted for the first time in history with the real finiteness of it, and we have created problems for ourselves which transcend the boundaries of the introverted interests of nationalism. Israel got its foot in the door just in time and got its legitimation from the UN and that is good enough for me at any rate.

      Yes, the UN did say yes. However, your notion of globalization is a personal one, maybe shared by some leftists. Most French, Americans, British, Chinese, etc. would reject the idea of melding all countries into one big globe. Better yet, ask the Kurds, Tibetans and Chechnyans whether they agree with your premise.

      But by the same stroke Palestine also got its legitimation.

      Which they rejected.

      That’s also good enough for me and remains good even if the Palestinians lack of sophistication and familiarity with the democratic ethos led them to take up indefensively intransigent positions, and behave in a very politically naive and destructive way in the intervening years.

      Don’t be so condescending to the Palestinians. They and the other Arab states were simply unwilling to concede any land to the Jewish people. They had a different view of what the outcome should be and they have acted upon that belief for the many decades of this conflict. To suggest that their naivete has led to this self-destructiveness is simply condescension. Arafat knew what he was doing, as does Abbas, as did the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who had enough political acumen to go and ally his people with the Nazis.

      You say you cannot turn the clock back when it suits you, yet there’s apparently no problem if the time span you want to turn it back extends over 2000 years. By your logic Israel lost a war with the Bar Kochba rebellion, so that’s it – they’re finished and no longer have any rights.

      I didn’t create this rule, the UN did. The UNHCR is clear that refugees are only refugees in the first generation. Subsequent generations are not refugees. This claim does not apply to only one group of refugees in the entire world: the Palestinians. Instead of being under the auspices of the UNHCR, they are the only group to have their own UN body to care for them, the UNRWA with its ridiculous claim that refugee-hood lasts forever, regardless of which generation we’ve moved to.

      By my logic, the Palestinians would do exactly what you describe in the British Viking scenario in order to establish their own state. That’s why I suspect that Israeli Arabs will do this in the not-too-distant future. This is why, in theory, the Palestinians can attempts to create a Palestine in Judea Samaria/West Bank and Gaza. In fact, Israel has offered them such a state and they’ve refused in 2000, 2001 and 2008.

      If Israel wants to go it alone and argue its legitimacy within this archaic frame of reference, which nobody else can see the legitimacy of, then it should surrender its seat at the UN, and go it alone. But if it wants international recognition for its legitimacy, then it has to use the common modern frame of reference to define it, and has to acknowledge the existence and rights of the other people who were awarded national status in the same way at the same time, and respect them as equals.

      But Israel has accepted UNSCR 242 and 338. It even accepted 181 once upon a time. It is the Palestinians who rejected 181, 194 and now are trying to do an end-run around 242 and 338 and claim that 181 and 194 are legitimate (even though they are General Assembly resolutions and therefore do not constitute international laws).

      Israel has offered the Palestinians the right to have a state and even found solutions for Jerusalem such as internationalizing it (Olmert in 2008) or sharing it (Barak in 2001). The Palestinians have rejected all offers. The problem hasn’t been that that the Israelis won’t give the Palestinians “equality,” it’s that the Palestinians don’t want to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, they seek to change Israel’s demographics so that it becomes a “Palestine,” and they reject any sharing of Jerusalem that doesn’t give them sovereignty over its holy sites, particularly the Temple Mount.

      Why are you putting the blame at Israel’s feet?

      The world didn’t accept that Hitler began to redfine Poland and Czechoslovakia as provinces of the Third Reich, and won’t accept any Israeli attempt to engulf the West Bank as part of Greater Israel.

      That may be true. But please, let’s not go to comparisons with Nazis. If Jordan hadn’t conquered the area they named “The West Bank,” and made it Jew-free, then perhaps we’d be having a different conversation about this land today.

      Even though there might be very good reason to do so if Schlomo Sand is right, and the Palestinians are in fact more Jewish than the Jews by blood! Such is the democratic spirit of the UN – if the Palestinians want to become Jews and Israelis, then it must be on the basis of their own free will. Otherwise they should have the right to self determination as Palestinian muslims in their own land just as Israeli Jews should have the right to self determination as Israeli Jews in their own land. If I have understood him, this is the rationale Schlomo Sand wants to base his national rights on – very reasonably.

      Just as Simon Schama mocks Sand, most serious scholars of Jewish history who have reviewed his book, consider it an inferior work colored by his politics. You seem like a fairly intelligent and reasonable person, perhaps you should do the same.

  18. Quotient

    12/9/2009 at 7:02 am

    To themiddle
    I have to admit I don’t recall the 2008 offer, I probably ignored it or saw from the start there wasn’t really anything in it. The 2000 offer I certainly can understand the Palestinians rejected, the 2001 offer however was definitely interesting but as I recall it was sadly more of an academic game played by three politicians who each were lame ducks by this time, and there was no real chance of it being implemented. But anyhow that is all by the by, the discussion here hinges on what should be acceptable for a nation to pin its claim to sovereignty over a piece of land on, and my argument is that the age in world history has passed where it was acceptable for a powerful nation to simply barge in and take over a piece of inhabited land and colonise it, and justify this action on the grounds that since the inhabitants were primitive the land therefore wasn’t sovereign, and they were in need of civilising anyway. As I say Israel got its foot in the door just in time, and you know as well as I that had the Zionist project started 70, 50 or even just 30 years later it would never have been accepted internationally. And of course I know that you counter to this the point that the Zionist project wasn’t just a crude colonisation as in the case of Australia, but was an unique case of a real people with a true national identity and a real need of a home, coming home to the land of their birth and building a beacon of democracy among a rabble of corrupt despots, dictators and feuding tribesmen. It sounds so lovely and epical, and would be too if only the land hadn’t already been inhabited. That these local inhabitants had not clearly defined themselves as a political entity, had not declared themselves to be a state, in other words were not yet politically mature, doesn’t, in my opinion, constitute an excuse for ignoring their existence. Whatever route you choose to legitimation for your new nation, the first question the modern international community will ask is, “Was there an indigenous population in place prior to the arrival of the members of the new nation? If so did the establishment of the new nation require the displacement of the indegenous people? If so, were the indigenous people informed and consulted regarding the plans, and what was their reaction?” The Balfour declaration, published at a time when the colonialist era still wasn’t over, and regarded as I understand it, as the primary document signalling an international acceptance of the legitimation of Israel, was quite clear about the condition for such acceptance: nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine…
    Since I wasn’t writing history I cannot be modifying it either, but I get your point – without agreeing. The net result of the conflict was as described. You are naturally entitled to add your selected details, but I haven’t modified anything. 700,000 Arabic people left the area which was declared Israel in 1948, and did not do so (as so often proclaimed in the mythology) in some strategic ploy initiated by the Arab armies, but under fear of death and destruction from advancing Jewish forces. The expulsion was necessary to avoid Jews becoming a minority in the state they were creating and expanding at the same time. All academically respectable and honest historical accounts now agree on this point.
    But this is still somewhat by the by because it’s not this road to legitimation which Schlomo Sand is questioning. Schlomo Sand is not questioning the absolute right of Israel to exist or he’d get out. Neither am I. I have lived in Israel for a period and don’t need convincing that there is a strong Jewish affiliation with the history and culture of the region. What I question is that this affilialation confers unquestionable rights of preference and supremacy in relation to another group of people whose claim to the right of a national existence in the region must by all non-mystical earthly accounts be at least as valid as the Israeli claim. That there has over millenia existed a ‘special’ race of people for whom a special ‘chosen’ land has been divinely appointed, who fit together like hand and glove, and anybody who is not one of this special race but who, by accident of happening to be descended from great great grandparents who inhabited and farmed the land before the return of the specials, must now bow to the priorities of the specials, and define their possiblities for a national life within the ever shrinking boundaries proscribed unilaterally by the expanding needs and demands of the specials.
    Schlomo Sand argues the case much better than I ever could, and the curious thing is that his detractors agree that nothing he says is new or previously unknown. Yet I never discovered it in my two years in Israel Palestine. I was handed the Zionist myth and believed it. But what the Zionists really knew I never heard about. It’s been an amazingly well kept secret, and all Schlomo Sand has done really is to rumble it. That’s not only an enormous eye-opener for me, and all the other dupes like me, I’m sure in the long run it will serve the real interests of Israel. When I was in Israel/Palestine and asked Israelis where the Palestinians came from they mostly just evaded the question or said they didn’t know. Palestinians just said “Nowhere, we’ve always been here.” I understand this a lot better now thanks to Schlomo Sand.

    • themiddle

      12/9/2009 at 9:13 pm

      Quotient:

      I have to admit I don’t recall the 2008 offer, I probably ignored it or saw from the start there wasn’t really anything in it.

      Olmert offered about 94% of the West Bank with about 5.7% trade-off land inside Israel. He also offered to internationalize Jerusalem with 5 Arab countries as co-managers of the city. That the Palestinians didn’t accept this offer is unbelievable. That people keep supporting their position after that is even more unbelievable.

      The 2000 offer I certainly can understand the Palestinians rejected

      Right, because it’s every day that a people who have never had a state are offered one. I’m sure some Kurds vomited when they heard.

      More important is that not only was this offer rejected but the Palestinians launched a war against Israeli civilians just after the offer was made.

      , the 2001 offer however was definitely interesting but as I recall it was sadly more of an academic game played by three politicians who each were lame ducks by this time, and there was no real chance of it being implemented.

      It was killed by Barak because as the elections were approaching, the citizens of Israel thought he was insane to continue negotiating even as the Palestinians were launching suicide bombings attacks. The negotiations were conducted in good faith by Israel which offered far more than they had at Camp David. The Palestinians barely budged on any positions. It didn’t have to be academic.

      But anyhow that is all by the by, the discussion here hinges on what should be acceptable for a nation to pin its claim to sovereignty over a piece of land on, and my argument is that the age in world history has passed where it was acceptable for a powerful nation to simply barge in and take over a piece of inhabited land and colonise it, and justify this action on the grounds that since the inhabitants were primitive the land therefore wasn’t sovereign, and they were in need of civilising anyway.

      Zionism never made such a claim and never behaved that way. Once again, it did not “barge in.” Rather, Jews were already living there for 3000 years. Of the new;y arrived Jews, they arrived legally, purchased land legally and at exorbitant prices and proceeded to build impressive cities, economic infrastructure and to work the land. They never justified any of this on the basis of the local Arabs’ “primitiveness,” even if there were those who believed or who said so. In fact, there was never any intention of achieving anything other than a democracy where the local Arabs were voters. Even Jabotinsky believed this. You keep putting up straw men.

      As I say Israel got its foot in the door just in time, and you know as well as I that had the Zionist project started 70, 50 or even just 30 years later it would never have been accepted internationally.

      I’m not sure about that. If some group started to buy land somewhere in the world today, once those purchases would reach a critical mass and sufficient people would move to live there, there could very well be changes in the status of this land. Just as a minor but somewhat related example, consider that the 400,000 Muslims in Ontario, Canada tried to make that province with its 10 million citizens permit the Muslims to live under Sh’aria law.

      And of course I know that you counter to this the point that the Zionist project wasn’t just a crude colonisation as in the case of Australia, but was an unique case of a real people with a true national identity and a real need of a home, coming home to the land of their birth and building a beacon of democracy among a rabble of corrupt despots, dictators and feuding tribesmen. It sounds so lovely and epical, and would be too if only the land hadn’t already been inhabited. That these local inhabitants had not clearly defined themselves as a political entity, had not declared themselves to be a state, in other words were not yet politically mature, doesn’t, in my opinion, constitute an excuse for ignoring their existence.

      Their existence wasn’t ignored. Their existence could not be ignored because of their violence against the Jews and the resulting Jewish organization to combat these attacks. More important, as I have written already, the idea was to include the Arabs as voters in the new democracy that would be founded there. Over the decades of Arab violence and refusal on any kind of compromise, the Jewish position changed. However, even as the Jews declared their state, they specifically took the Arabs into account and called upon them to be citizens with freedom of religion and to those who live outside of Israel, to be good neighbors. Read the Declaration of Independence of 1948.

      Whatever route you choose to legitimation for your new nation, the first question the modern international community will ask is, “Was there an indigenous population in place prior to the arrival of the members of the new nation? If so did the establishment of the new nation require the displacement of the indegenous people? If so, were the indigenous people informed and consulted regarding the plans, and what was their reaction?” The Balfour declaration, published at a time when the colonialist era still wasn’t over, and regarded as I understand it, as the primary document signalling an international acceptance of the legitimation of Israel, was quite clear about the condition for such acceptance: nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine…

      And nothing was done. Of course, neither Balfour nor the Zionists anticipated the decades of attacks culminating in a war launched not only by the local Arabs, but by their nationalized brethren, who were nationalized by precisely the same terms that created the Balfour Declaration and the assurances to the Jews about the Western part of Palestine.

      Since I wasn’t writing history I cannot be modifying it either, but I get your point – without agreeing. The net result of the conflict was as described. You are naturally entitled to add your selected details, but I haven’t modified anything. 700,000 Arabic people left the area which was declared Israel in 1948, and did not do so (as so often proclaimed in the mythology) in some strategic ploy initiated by the Arab armies, but under fear of death and destruction from advancing Jewish forces. The expulsion was necessary to avoid Jews becoming a minority in the state they were creating and expanding at the same time. All academically respectable and honest historical accounts now agree on this point.

      You are mistaken, there are still many historians which disagree with this version of history. It’s just that in the same way that Sand has filled a gap in people’s perceptions of the conflict that satisfies their desire to support the Palestinians, the same happened with the work of the so-called “New Historians.” We have a BBC and a PBS documentary sections on this site (search under “History Lesson”) where you will find refutation of the claims you are making. Certainly some Palestinians left because they feared the Jews and some were driven out by the Jews, but a substantial number, perhaps more than half left because they were led to fear by their own propaganda or because of encouragement from Arab armies. For example, whatever happened at Deir Yassin, we have footage on this site from a BBC documentary where the two men who were responsible for reporting it on Arab radio admit that they made a mistake in embellishing the horror of the event because it caused many Palestinian families to flee.

      But this is still somewhat by the by because it’s not this road to legitimation which Schlomo Sand is questioning. Schlomo Sand is not questioning the absolute right of Israel to exist or he’d get out. Neither am I. I have lived in Israel for a period and don’t need convincing that there is a strong Jewish affiliation with the history and culture of the region. What I question is that this affilialation confers unquestionable rights of preference and supremacy in relation to another group of people whose claim to the right of a national existence in the region must by all non-mystical earthly accounts be at least as valid as the Israeli claim.

      Good! That’s a fair question. However, it’s not the question he asks as much as he asks whether any right exists at all since the Jews are really the Jews. Just as you stated, when you read Sand, you walk away thinking about the Jews as a non-nation that made up nationhood and then proceeded to act just like European colonialists. While they were doing this, the real Jews, in the form of Muslim and some Christian Palestinians, were becoming the victims of these colonialist usurpers.

      Excuse me while I vomit.

      As I’ve already expressed in this discussion and in the post, this is not just bullshit but it’s propaganda and nothing else. He has a political viewpoint and it is the mirror to which he holds up the history he imagines.

      More important is the suggestion, repeated by you, that the Jews who founded and support Israel believe in their “unquestionable rights of preference and supremacy in relation…[to the Palestinians].” This is patently untrue. Zionism did not come in with this philosophy and even though today there are pockets of Israeli society which espouse this view, there are also pockets that reject it vehemently to the point of supporting the view that the Palestinians have greater claim. Instead of promulgating this view, you would do well to recognize that when people are buying land and when their leading philosophers want to establish a country with their values but to do so as a functioning democracy where their values are up against those of their co-nationalists, the Arabs, their intentions do not reflect “unquestionable rights of preference and supremacy.” Not even close. In fact, even as the war of 1948 broke out, the Jews were a considerable minority relative to the Arabs and they were feeling intensely threatened for a long part of it.

      It is that war which legitimized what happened. In fact, all you need to do is look at how the Arabs behaved during and after that war, where not a single living Jew remained in any Arab-conquered territory, to understand the nature of the 1948 War and to understand why Israel ended up with a desire to remove many of those Arabs who did not leave of their own volition.

      That there has over millenia existed a ’special’ race of people for whom a special ‘chosen’ land has been divinely appointed, who fit together like hand and glove, and anybody who is not one of this special race but who, by accident of happening to be descended from great great grandparents who inhabited and farmed the land before the return of the specials, must now bow to the priorities of the specials, and define their possiblities for a national life within the ever shrinking boundaries proscribed unilaterally by the expanding needs and demands of the specials.

      Um, dude, the people who created Israel were secular. They did not believe this “chosen” business or “divine appointment.” They certainly did not believe in the concept of “race” but rather of nationalism. The people who believe in the “chosen” people view of things are more plentiful now but were a tiny minority in 1948 and certainly in the decades preceding it. Zionism is and was a secular nationalist philosophy. Nothing more.

      As for the second part where you create even more fanciful myth regarding “specials” and the “indigenous,” for the first thing, recognize that many of the “indigenous” were also new arrivals on the land – recent like the Jewish newcomers. Second, the whole notion of who is a Palestinian becomes distorted in 1949 because UNRWA declares that any family living in Palestine from 1946 on can claim refugee status. Between 100,000 to 200,000 people magically joined the rolls. However, even if every single Palestinian was born in Palestine to families there for centuries and even if every single Jew was a new arrival (you do know that Jerusalem was majority Jewish throughout the 1800s, right?), the outcome of the first half of the Twentieth Century has absolutely nothing do with a philosophy of supremacy and of “specialness.” Perhaps their vision came into conflict with the lives of the local Arabs, but it was the Arabs who believed themselves to be “special” and their violence to be just in the eyes of their god since no non-Muslim can control and live on Muslim land. The Zionists sought to accomplish their goal of Jewish statehood by legitimate and democratic means. They wanted to do it because they believed that as a nation they had a right to do so and because they had a need to do so. This had nothing to do with the Arabs. Consider that in the 1904 (it might be the 1906) Zionist Congress, the majority voted not to build the new Jewish state in Palestine. It took a minority walking out and threatening to divide the movement if the historic connection to the land of Israel was ignored, to overturn this vote and consider Palestine as the only possible home for the new Jewish state. If you are a group who believes in “specialness” which is connected to this land, how do you vote to build your country elsewhere?

      You don’t.

      Schlomo Sand argues the case much better than I ever could, and the curious thing is that his detractors agree that nothing he says is new or previously unknown. Yet I never discovered it in my two years in Israel Palestine.

      Perhaps you were reading in all the wrong places? He’s the one who goes on and on about how the connection to the Khazars was hidden. What utter bullshit. We all knew of it and read it. It was a point of pride that an entire nation would convert since the Jews had no military or other form of power to elicit this conversion.

      I was handed the Zionist myth and believed it.

      I thought you just told me that all historians now accept the revised history. These historians have been coming out with books for 15-20 years now. How could you be “handed the Zionist myth?” You were hanging out in the wrong places. For a while Benny Morris was being taught in Israeli schools to schoolchildren. They had to make a law last year forbidding the teaching of the establishment of the state as a “naqba.” Where are all these conspiracies?

      I’ll tell you where they are: at Tel Aviv University. That’s where the political science group has about 15 faculty members who represent strong leftist views.

      But what the Zionists really knew I never heard about. It’s been an amazingly well kept secret, and all Schlomo Sand has done really is to rumble it.

      Again, what are you talking about? Open the Encyclopedia Judaica and read about the Khazars. Read about the existing and foreign Jewish communities that existed. It’s in the ENCYCLOPEDIA. What conspiracy? Every review by every Jewish scholar that I’ve seen has commented that the supposed hidden secrets were information that was open and readily available.

      That’s not only an enormous eye-opener for me, and all the other dupes like me, I’m sure in the long run it will serve the real interests of Israel. When I was in Israel/Palestine and asked Israelis where the Palestinians came from they mostly just evaded the question or said they didn’t know.

      Maybe you hang around stupid people?

      When I’m in Israel, I have very sophisticated conversations about these topics and people either really don’t know because they are ignorant, or they know extremely well and discuss those views openly.

      Palestinians just said “Nowhere, we’ve always been here.” I understand this a lot better now thanks to Schlomo Sand.

      I guess you’ve been talking to stupid Palestinians as well. Not all Palestinians have been there always, some immigrated during the 20th Century and some immigrated earlier. Some found it convenient to join the UNRWA rolls in 1949. We won’t even get into the question of the racial aspect of Arabs and their arrival in Palestine in the 7th Century, just as we won’t go into the ever-present Jewish communities in Tzfat (Safed), Tiberias, Jerusalem (the “east” part) and Hebron. And of course, when you ask Jews from Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya where they come from, they can also answer, “We’ve always been here.”

      And by the way, you certainly seem assured about Sand’s book that you said above you hadn’t even read yet.

  19. Pingback: Jewlicious » Shlomo Sand Excoriated for Shoddy History Once Again

  20. Judy Pierson

    3/9/2010 at 4:40 am

    Reading the article and some of the comments confirm the sad truth that modern day Jews are incapable of reading or hearing anything that doe not fit in with their own ideas about Jews or Israel without accusing the person of being anti-semitic or self hating. Only when these facile terms of abuse cease can any form of intelligent debate take place about the place of Israel in the world today and how the problems of the Middle East can be resolve.

  21. themiddle

    3/9/2010 at 4:56 am

    Well, trust me when I tell you that we, as modern day Jews, would love to cancel out the term anti-Semitic. Why don’t you work on making the world a better place without generalizing about modern day Jews and maybe that will help a little?

  22. KikKe_PatroL

    4/16/2010 at 10:11 am

    you racist jew impostors here, don’t really believe anyone believes your hype and sayanim lies anymore do you? see what use your anti-semitic shield will be at the next false flag attack you pull off. its not a joke anymore, the goyim have awoken, you can count me out of this hebrew bullsh@t I was born into. The christians and raggers treat us well, easy to manipulate and swindle, but we abuse them and milk them dry till they can produce no more. That is not smart judahism, that is stupid talmudism. You liars above can have it, my lot is now amongst the gentiles, I hope they never find out I was once too a jew impostor doing evil to them. The ‘jews’ and ‘israel’ scam is over, time to lay low for another century till it blows over, and new cash cows are born with no knowledge of ‘us’ ;)

    • themiddle

      4/16/2010 at 12:48 pm

      Nobody EVER leaves the hive, you idiot. We are reporting you to the Head Office. They will take care of you.

  23. KikKe_PatroL

    4/16/2010 at 10:38 pm

    Lmao The Hive has turned to a sticky messy wad of gellatine dangling from a rotting tree, run by inferior mental defects worshipping Lucifer, with back room slavery, ritual sacrifice, child paedophilia, blood letting and cannibalism to keep them amused. The Hive and Head Office can enjoy the goyims affections and appreciation for all that, which is not far off. Look at our so called ‘jewish’ history and what the goyim will do. They are justified to fight and eradicate our senseless mindless evil. Our news grip is slipping, all other controls on information have degraded, 911 and the hollow co$t is running out of steam, even the bought goy assisting us will betray us when they sense danger from their own.
    @themiddle, I’m betting your fake semite butt is whiter than mine, are you not sick of the whole deal being a manipulated goyim yourself, manipulating other goyim? Is living easy, talking in circles, and dying stupid really that clever in your mind? Real bees have a better hive system than we backstab liar fake ‘jews’. The only thing I can count on from my ‘fellow jews’ is we swindle the goy working together, or I get swindled if I drop my guard. This stuff ‘taught’ to us is just plain stupid, the goy are not the problem, we the ‘jewish goy’ controlled by our liar rabbis and their pharisee handlers are the problem. F @ ck the Hive, I have enough jars of kosher honey saved to sweeten up the goyim. I do not need their negative attention that is amost around the corner. Time to move on to the next village 4 me ;)

  24. themiddle

    4/16/2010 at 11:05 pm

    Dude, we have logged your IP and sent it to the Powers That Be. You are fucked.

    Enjoy your life.

  25. Stewart

    6/7/2010 at 12:23 pm

    BTW Schama has recently retracted on sand`s book. He now considers it his Book of the Year…..just in case you`re interested!

  26. themiddle

    6/7/2010 at 2:54 pm

    Stewart, btw, that was before Schama saw this little post of mine. Expect him to retract any positive comment he may have made about Sand.

    Go ahead, click on that link and weep. And then, please, encourage Sand to provide us all with refunds.

  27. Eleonora

    6/13/2010 at 4:22 pm

    I would have loved in a way to participate in this discussion but reading the threats and insults which are directed at participants who don’t go along I guess I keep my opinion to myself. Is this what’s waiting for disagreeing people?

    Sad!

  28. Pingback: S.S. – We Sweden

  29. Joanne

    6/20/2011 at 2:04 am

    Unfortunately, I saw an example of this recently, in this tape of a talk Benny Morris gave at the LSE. One questioner mentions the fascinating book by Sand. Morris handled her with patience and respect. I wouldn’t have been able to.

    The tape is here:
    www2.lse.ac.uk...

  30. Joanne

    6/20/2011 at 2:06 am

    Sorry, I should have added that the his talk was called “Reconsidering the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.” And it was given on June 14, 2011.

  31. J. S.

    11/26/2012 at 10:03 pm

    This is strictly my opinion and I do not intend to get into a long drawn out debate but for what it’s worth I find Shlomo Sand’s assertion that we are not a people offensive and sickening. Not only do I believe his foolishness will inevitably fall into the hands of those who propagate the idiotic notion Jews are nothing but fake khazers (who btw have nothing in common with their saviour Jesus. Yes, I have seen Christians use this to explain their worship of one Jew simultaneously explaining their hatred of the rest of us-nobody said racism takes logic and common sense!) I also believe it is utterly disgraceful to the millions of people-religious and non-religious alike who were raped, tortured, enslaved and murdered for thousands of years. We undoubtedly are a people-I see absolutely no difference between a Russian Jew and an Ethiopian Jew or an Indian Jew. Yes, I believe we all share a common like somewhere down the line and of course as any people who have migrated regardless of reason we intermarried or accepted converts along the generations. That being said, the return to Israel while desired for good reason was never bound to go smoothly, it has increased hatred against Jews and given more fuel for wing-nuts who still believe in Jewish world domination theories, it has also intentionally or unintentional (doesn’t matter, the result is the same) displaced many of the people who were already living there (and yes I’m aware there was always a Jewish presence and that other Palestinians and Arabs have since immigrated). Furthermore I lived in Israel for two years and I can honestly say I believe the cultural prejudice between the two sides is equal, not one-sided. I absolutely believe Jews are a people and we have earned our right to be considered as such. I also believe we have the right to want a safe and stable homeland, but that is not what we have created in Israel. I understand the yearning of our ancestral homeland, but I feel more strongly that no more Jewish blood should be shed in a never ending struggle to have our peace. We still don’t have our peace nor our right to exist as agreed upon by our neighbors. We also by virtue of war not only endure the continued spillng of our blood, but we spill the blood of others-both innocent and guilty alike-on both sides. I would be most supportive of a Jewish state where the land is not in dispute so we can finally have thd peace nobody believes we deserve. I’m sorry to anyone I’ve offended in advance as my views can certainly be argued by both sides of this argument but I’m not going to further engage. As you may well have gleened, I’m not one for fighting, but for peace and we all know that day will likely never come in Israel.

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