Despite the fragmented and incomplete historical record, experts pretty much agree that some popular beliefs about Jewish history simply don’t hold up: there was no sudden expulsion of all Jews from Jerusalem in A.D. 70, for instance. What’s more, modern Jews owe their ancestry as much to converts from the first millennium and early Middle Ages as to the Jews of antiquity…
But while these ideas are commonplace among historians, they still manage to provoke controversy each time they surface in public, beyond the scholarly world. The latest example is the book “The Invention of the Jewish People,” which spent months on the best-seller list in Israel and is now available in English. Mixing respected scholarship with dubious theories, the author, Shlomo Sand, a professor at Tel Aviv University, frames the narrative as a startling exposure of suppressed historical facts. The translated version of his polemic has sparked a new wave of coverage in Britain and has provoked spirited debates online and in seminar rooms.
Professor Sand, a scholar of modern France, not Jewish history, candidly states his aim is to undercut the Jews’ claims to the land of Israel by demonstrating that they do not constitute “a people,” with a shared racial or biological past. The book has been extravagantly denounced and praised, often on the basis of whether or not the reader agrees with his politics.
The vehement response to these familiar arguments — both the reasonable and the outrageous — highlights the challenge of disentangling historical fact from the sticky web of religious and political myth and memory…”
Read the full article here.
On Sunday 29 November, Shlomo Sand will return to London to speak at Historical Materialism Annual Conference 2009 Another World is Necessary: Crisis, Struggle and Political Alternatives, 27-29 November at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies, University of London. Shlomo Sand will be debating with John Rose and Robert Fine: A DEBATE ON ZIONISM, ANTISEMITISM AND THE LEFT.