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The Invention of the Jewish People Paperback – June 14, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (June 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844676234
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844676231
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (144 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Sand’s questions about how Israel’s democracy can be liberalized and stabilized are thought-provoking and deserve serious discussion.”—Haaretz

“Perhaps books combining passion and erudition don’t change political situations, but if they did, this one would count as a landmark.”—Eric Hobsbawm, Observer

“[Sand’s] quiet earthquake of a book is shaking historical faith in the link between Judaism and Israel.”—Rafael Behr, Observer

“Anyone interested in understanding the contemporary Middle East should read this book.”—Tony Judt

“Extravagantly denounced and praised.”—New York Times

“No discussion of the region any longer seems complete without acknowledgement of this book.”—Independent on Sunday, Best History Books of 2009

“A radical dismantling of a national myth.”—Guardian

“Almost too baseless to debunk.”—Jewish Journal

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.

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.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

439 of 478 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 1000 REVIEWER 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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469 of 541 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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243 of 290 people found the following review helpful By D. ROSEN on October 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
(this review is of the Hebrew edition, published by Resling in 2008)

"The Invention of the Jewish People" is one of the most original, intriguing and thought provoking book I have read this year. Professor Sand begins by laying out the difficulties in "objectively" determining identity through the stories of 4 different people he has interacted with in Israel and abroad, and then proceeds to discuss how the concept of national identity as a core tenet of European nationalism evolved, with important differences in how it did so in Eastern versus Western Europe. He discusses the importance of promulgating and emplying founding myths in creating cohesive nations out of the hitherto mostly indifferent and politically nonincluded masses, and then proceeds to examine those of the Jewish People, which, despite what one might think, was not always regarded as such, either by itself or others throughout the ages (similar to the French People, German Volk, or Russian People). He starts by examining the biblical history of the Exodus from Egypt, the traces of which, despite its described magnitude, have never been found by archeologists, proceeds to explore the exile from Judaea after the destruction of the temple (which seems to have been a Christian theological concept and not one embraced by Jewish or non-Jewish historians of the first half millenium). He continues to discuss the mass conversions to Judaism in Arabia, North Africa, and Khazaria, and ends by analyzing identity politics in Israel and their significance to Israel's future.

While there has been (and is sure to be more) controversy about some of Professor Sand's conclusions, it cannot be denied that this is a brilliant piece of scholarship, and it should be read by anyone, Israeli and non-Israeli, Jewish or not, who is interested in getting a broader perspective on how identity is defined, and how mutable these definitions can be over time.
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