Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Scholars on Shlomo Sand

I've finished reading Shlomo Sand's The Invention of the Jewish People. Who knows, perhaps I'll find the time to write a review of it (it's an astonishingly poorly researched book that will be lapped up enthusiastically by all the usual suspects). In the meantime, here's a quick round-up of some serious reviews by real scholars.

Israel Bartal published his review in Haaretz, where it's no longer accessible - but The Zionist Conspiracy blog (true to its name) saved it online for us here.

Anita Shapira published her review in The Journal of Israeli History; you can find it online here.

Hillel Halkin lacks the academic stature of Bartal and Shapira, but he's a knowledgeable fellow and writes well; here's his TNR review.


Barry Meislin said...

Balaam rides again?

Anonymous said...

Yaacov -

What drives a person like Sand?


AKUS said...

Yakov - for once it appears you are behind the times.

Sand's book has ALREADY been taken up by all the usual suspects who use it to delegitimize Israel, and, of course, the Jews.

I would guess its the most frequently cited book about Jews. Just keep an eye on the comments on any thread on Comment is Free - hardly a day goes by without another reference to it.

I understand his specialty is French cinema.

Yaacov said...

Barry -

well actually, Balaam apparently did have prophetic powers, even if he was on the wrong side. So that comparison sort of doesn't work.

Nycerbarb -

The short pithy answer is that his father was a non-Zionist Communists, and so is he. For all his claim at original thinking etc etc, he's simply thinking the way his father taught him when he was a kid.


well, sort of. The book is at 17,000 on Amazon, which indicates it has sold only a few thousand copies since its publication earlier this year. So your friends commenting on CiF have mostly not even read it. They've heard about it and that's enough. Reading it would take time, a bit of effort (it's written in academic language), and nothing would come of the effort anyway. It's not as if they're participating in a serious discussion. Their mind is made up, and the existence of Sand's book supplies them with an additional talking point.

JG Campbell said...

There was also a scathing review of Sand by Martin Goodman, professor of Jewish Studies at Oxford University, in the Times Literary Supplement on 26 Feb 2010. It concentrates on the wild inaccuracy of what Sand says regarding the history of Jews in the Roman period (both in Palestine and in the Diaspora).

The review is, I think, now hidden behind the Times paywall. But this quotation gives the flavour:

“What has possessed Shlomo Sand, a Tel Aviv historian of contemporary European history, to write about a subject of which he patently knows so little? The answer is refreshingly simple. His aim, which he does not try to disguise, is to undermine the claim of Israeli Jews who come from diaspora communities to have returned to the land from which their people originated. He hopes thereby to help to turn the state of Israel into a more equal democratic society in which the origins of its Jewish and Arab inhabitants are ignored.
Now, Sand’s political concerns for the present and the future may indeed be justified, since there is no doubt that keeping the state of Israel both Jewish and democratic is proving by no means easy – not at all a new insight, as the many studies cited by Sand himself in his final chapter go to show. But this political stance cannot be justified by an appeal to invented history. It is not just Sand’s ancient history that is faulty. His account of the historiography of the Jews over the past two centuries, with his constant polemic against Zionist historians, is ludicrous.”

Sand wrote a letter in response, still available here:

And Goodman in turn replied:


modernity said...

Go on, review it....you know you want to :)

AKUS said...

I just saw this article:


Curiously, at the end, it points out that about 20% of Spanish males have Jewish genes. Spain is the most anti-Semitic country in Europe.