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The Invention of the Jewish People Hardcover – October 19, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-1844674220 ISBN-10: 1844674223 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 332 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; First Edition edition (October 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844674223
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844674220
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #374,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Israel’s Declaration of Independence states that the Jewish people arose in the Land of Israel and was exiled from its homeland. Every Israeli schoolchild is taught that this happened during the period of the Roman rile, in 70 CE. The nation remained loyal to its land, to which it began to return after two millennia of exile. Wrong, says the historian Shlomo Sand, in one of the most fascinating and challenging books published here in a long time. There was never a Jewish people, only a Jewish religion, and the exile also never happened—hence there was no return.”—Tom Segev, Haaretz

“The reader will have understood the message: what this well-documented and fearless book explodes is the myth of a unique Jewish people, miraculously preserved, in contrast to all the other peoples, from external contamination ... [Sand’s] conclusions, which are prudently formulated, nonetheless lead one towards a sole solution: the construction of a secular and democratic Israel.”—Jacques Julliard, Le Nouvel Observateur

“Shlomo Sand has written a remarkable book ... Anyone interested in understanding the contemporary Middle East should read it.”—Tony Judt, author of Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945

The Invention of the Jewish People is an indispensable challenge and a very complex intellectual exercise ... a more secure society [than Israel] would include the book in the core curriculum of its school system.”—Avraham Burg, former Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Yedioth Ahronoth

About the Author

Shlomo Sand studied history at the University of Tel Aviv and at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, in Paris. He currently teaches contemporary history at the University of Tel Aviv. His books include The Invention of the Jewish People, On the Nation and the Jewish People, L’Illusion du politique: Georges Sorel et le débat intellectuel 1900, Georges Sorel en son temps, Le XXe siècle à l’écran and Les Mots et la terre: les intellectuels en Israël.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

467 of 511 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau on November 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
About a fifth of this book shows how Biblical criticism and archaeological discoveries have undermined the reliability of the Hebrew Bible as history. Archaeology, among other things, has played havoc with the chronology of the Bible, especially in connection with the invasion of Canaan, nor has it found any evidence that would support the story of the Exodus or the splendour of Solomon's kingdom.

But the main subject of the book is the denial that there is such a thing as the Jewish People, descended from the inhabitants of Biblical Palestine from which they have been scattered, and that they are a nation which has now returned to the land of its ancestors. This undermines one of the principal arguments with which the State of Israel legitimizes itself. (There are, of course, other arguments which Sand does not discuss in any depth.)

He says that the Jews began to see themselves as an ethnic people, rather than as a religious community, in the 19th century. (In a 40 page long and massively theoretical opening chapter, Sand explains why for him the word `people' implies ethnicity - hence the provocative title of his book. Others might well say that what has for centuries kept the Jewish `people' together was not their ethnicity but their religion, and even secular Jews belong to that people because their ancestors were religious Jews.) He traces the claim of the Jews to be a nation from the 1880s - when scholars like Heinrich Graetz described the work of Julius Wellhausen, the father of modern Biblical Criticism, as anti-Jewish - to those who present the Biblical account as the foundation charter of the State of Israel, where it is the staple of the state educational system.
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486 of 561 people found the following review helpful By F. Bernadotte on October 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although he never mentions the "two-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in "The Invention of the Jewish People" Israeli historian Shlomo Sand implicitly rejects it in favor of what has come to be called the "one-state solution":

"The ideal project for solving the century-long conflict...would be the creation of a democratic binational state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River." (p. 311)

Sand, however, is deeply pessimistic concerning the likelihood of any solution being reached at all. Implicitly he takes the position that the possibility of peace rests not so much on the Palestinians, or on the Arabs in general, as on the Israeli Jews themselves. They must somehow come to understand that the Israeli policy of apartheid (Sand's term, p. 309), and the false notion that Israel can be a "Jewish state" and yet a democracy at the same time, doom the chances of peace. But is it possible that the Israelis will ever come to believe that they must share the land on an equal basis with the Palestinian non-Jews?

Sand identifies two major factors - two associated myths -- which stand in the way. These have served the Zionist cause well but they are historically false: the myth of the Jewish "people" and the myth of the "exile" of this people from the land of Israel. If essentially there is no Jewish people -- rather only a Jewish religion; and if the Jewish diaspora was driven not by forced exile -- rather by the impulse to proselytize, then the Zionist-sponsored "return" of the Jewish "people" to the land of Israel in the mid twentieth century has lost its entire theoretical framework.

Sand is a scholar and in style the book is a scholarly work. The general reader may be put off at first.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By W Greenhalf on December 7, 2013
Format: Paperback
The basic premise of Shlomo Sand's book should be totally uncontroversial, I can see that the delivery might cause offense to some ultra Zionists, but it is common sense that no group of people could possibly remain racially pure while scattered across Europe and the middle East (and ultimately across the entire world).

Jewish is on the one hand a term defining a religion, on the other a race, but more than both it has become a self defined term. If I say I am Jewish you will find it very difficult to disprove my assertion (I do not need to be circumcised, I do not need to go to synagogue and although you may believe my Mother will need to be Jewish - frankly I don't need to agree with you). If I tell my Children they are Jewish they will probably believe me. If my children tell their children they are Jewish they will almost certainly think they are Jewish and identify with every other person who says they are Jewish, regardless of DNA or religion. Anyone who believes that integration of "outsiders" as Jews over the many centuries of the diaspora has not made the Jews at the very least a hybrid group frankly needs to believe in a supernatural force. I would never wish to argue with someones faith - but a faith in a God who requires racial purity is just a little worrying.

It is also a little worrying that so many obviously intelligent and reasonable people have taken such vehement offence when reading "The invention of the Jewish People". Perhaps it is the title? Perhaps it is a perceived threat to the state of Israel? I find the most frightening arguments those based on the DNA analysis. I am a molecular biologist, I have read with great interest the papers on mapping human population spread using DNA profiles.
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More About the Author

Shlomo Sand studied history at the University of Tel Aviv and at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, in Paris. He currently teaches contemporary history at the University of Tel Aviv. His books include The Invention of the Jewish People, L'Illusion du politique: Georges Sorel et le débat intellectuel 1900, Georges Sorel en son temps, Le XXe siècle à l'écran and Les Mots et la terre: les intellectuels en Israël.