Shlomo Sand’s explosive The Invention of the Jewish People has been causing quite a stir since its publication this month. The Jewish Chronicle contributes to the debate with Simon Round’s interview with Shlomo Sand. Sand explains:
“I began to be bothered by the question of what is a Jew. I wanted to know — what is a people. What is a nation? What is a race?… 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… As I say to my students, Israeli and Arab, it is more important to have wings than roots. A people which has to justify their existence in biological terms is in very bad shape.”