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

3.6 out of 5 stars 191 customer reviews

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  • The Invention of the Land of Israel: From Holy Land to Homeland
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  • Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel
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Editorial Reviews


“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.

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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: 5.5 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (191 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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