Monday, September 27, 2010

Shlomo Sand's Theoretical Arrogance

I'm in the process of writing a thorough review of Shlomo Sand's The Invention of the Jewish People. Once I'm finished I'll send it off to a journal or two. If they publish it, I'll link to it here. If they don't, or even if they request significant modifications, as is wont to happen, I expect not to have the time and I'll post it here. Such is the life of a non-academic with other things to do. In the meantime, however, Haaretz has been hosting an article of his at the top of their webpage for a number of days already: perhaps they'd like lots of us to read it. It starts off with some petty psychoanalysis:
A Jewish state or an Israeli democracy? In the talks that appear to be taking place between Israel and the Palestinians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked his negotiating partner to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. One can understand the prime minister: A man so little observant of the Jewish religious tradition is unsure of his Jewish identity, hence his insecurity about the identity of his state - and the need to seek validation from our neighbors.
Then he turns to theorizing:
Most Israelis would respond to this by saying Judaism and Jewishness represent not a religion but a people, so Israel must belong not to all its citizens but to the Jews of the world, who, as we know, prefer not to live here.Strange, I didn't know you could only join a people via religious conversion and not by taking part in its day-to-day culture. But perhaps there's a secular Jewish people-culture I'm not aware of? 
Did you see the cat coming out of the bag? Sand approaches the subject of Jewish nationality with the tools that seemed to work for European nation states before they began dismantling them, and since the Jews don't fit into those pigeonholes, it must be that they're fooling themselves. You can't be a nation if you don't follow the rules as defined by Shlomo Sand, and if you insist then you're cheating and deserve to be reprimanded. And forced to desist, too.


Sérgio said...

This guy´s intellectual honesty was built on Sand. :)

Anonymous said...

Well anyone arguing that Yiddish comes from a Slavic base rather than a German one...
Gott helf dir Gottenyu, yei Bogu!

re: Anita Shapira p69

Anonymous said...

it may be OT or not and I don't know whether I'll manage to listen to all of this after I've been told in the introduction that this BDS-Campaigner and member of the "famous" Barghouti-family is one of the many? Palestinian Ghandis

it's from April 30 but it may be interesting for the record or in case somebody has the stamina to imbibe it. Barghouti starts of in a holier than thou intonation, so be warned.

-judging from last Latma TV amazing enough Caroline Glick and this Barghouti agree that Netanyahu is all wrong. makes me guess that he could be the right man for right now?

-the man is jaw-dropping and convinces me once again that you cannot debate his caliber in a strightforward way because he is such an accomplished mixer of fact and fiction at such high speed that you will alway look like a fool trying to talk like a gentleman to him. So what remains? acting extremely gross and call him a liar to his face to which he will retort by throwing back at you the one minuscule truth which was embedded in the foul stuff or attack over the flank as the military would call it i.e. stay on the look-out for a side-issue, ridicule him on it and make him deal with it. Take the example of his claiming "apartheid" is worst in the West-Bank because roads are "segregrated" which didn't even apply to Jim Crow. To the best of my knowledge busses were segregated during Jim Crow but are not in the West-Bank, what would he come back with then? Somehow he makes me feel like he would have a lot more of these fake asses up his sleeve.

- when he talks about Israel taking Gaza to task I felt an urgend desire to revive the old custom of the duel, like somebody should walk up to him and just slap his face (Ohrfeige) and thus force him to meet at dawn to be killed. Basically he is saying when somebody attacks me with a knife I can only defend myself with a knife of the same length. Also I'd like these people to be asked to define what they call children and what they call small children. There is a double standard there on who is a child in Gaza and what the international community is debating as an age after which a child soldier looses his/her right to be called a child. They should be called out on it without mercy. I can check it up for Gazans childhood ends at 18, for Africans and all the rest a number of years earlier.

- of how little use debunking these people is that he repeats the "Gaza is most densely populated area of the world". They don't care how often you debunk a lie they keep repeating it and nobody dares to call these oh so old family people what they really are - thugs, liars, confidence tricksters

- he has done a film with Daniel Barenboim, complains that Israelis are not curious about them - well I am not curious about liars, I try to stay away from them as much I can.

- Christopher Lydon who is normally an energetic interfering interviewer in this piece let Barghouti ramble on unchallenged and in the end swooned his admiration.


Mustafa Barghouti: Is there Room for Gandhi in Palestine?

peterthehungarian said...

Some very sad facts of modern life:

-Ignorant, uninteligent and untalented persons like Sand can become university professors
-respected (in the past anyway) newspapers like Ha'aretz can publish any ashtonishing bullshit if it corresponds with their political agenda
-intellectual honesty and the knowledge of the relevant subjects are not required anymore in intellectual circles - only keeping the partyline
etc. etc

peterthehungarian said...

Maybe Sand is supported by George Soros and Consolacion Esdicul?

Anonymous said...

the most interesting fact from that Happy Valley Saga is that the guy who is said to have "pushed" Consolacion to donate is said to have a mathematical model by which he manages to win money at horse races consistently.

he should be a professor educating those mathematicians who then construct the models for the economy - might prevent another crash

other than that maybe Sand is aspiring to a job at JStreet - from everything I've seen they like it opaque.

Peter Beinart is busy pontificating also, I think he is a professor somewhere also - poor students. It's called How U.S. Jews Strangle Peace Talks and is at The Daily Beast - I think "strangle" is a nice and evocative verb and as far as I remember somewhat new in the register of crimes preferred by Jews.


Sylvia said...

I have been looking at his French connection. Shlomo Sand studied under Vidal Naquet in France. He has several books, book chapters and articles in French appended to his name. He was repeatedly invited to teach in France as guest lecturer and visiting professor.
He co-founded a French academic journal on the XIXth century -in French - of which he is listed as editor and where he published a number of learned articles (namely on Georges Sorel, a French theorist of colonialism).
This are the very impressive credentials that helped him build his reputation as an expert of French culture and esrned him his tenure in an Israeli UNiversity.

And yet, Shlomo Sand doesn't really know French. He speaks it very badly with several grammatical and syntactic errors in practically every sentence and this, even in prepared talks. I would say his is a 10th grade level of Foreign language French, and I am being generous.
There is no way he could have written those books and articles himself.

NormanF said...

A professor who doesn't know how outsiders join the Jewish nation?

The big mystery is how TA, as Steven Plaut put it, hired him in the first place.

Bryan said...

Isn't Im Tirtzu having a tussle with the head of TAU as well as the head of BGU? I wouldn't necessarily be shocked if TAU hired someone because of their ideological background.

Sérgio said...


I won´t get your bait...humm, just a little comment. :) Sand comes from humanities departments, he spreads his shit and still is a prof (probably he read a lot of Heidegger and his descendants). At least those mathematicians that went after quick cash almost certainly lost their jobs (and credibility). As for the losses, well, that´s what the financial market is: a big cassino and everyone should know the risks.

Anonymous said...

you make me feel really sorry for myself, for once I didn't even think of you let alone of baiting you - think of all the glee I missed by not realizing what I did ;-)

in complete honesty I am fascinated that there is a fellow with a mathematical model which allows him to generate a steady profit from horse racing. I found that intriguing since I don't believe that forecasting is possible. But maybe horses (and jockeys?) are so consistent in their performance that with ample data collected something is other than at roulette possible.

judging from Yaacov's 2 quotes Shlomo Sand is way beyond my intellectual possibilities as is Heidegger and lots of others. I believe, if somebody has to say something he/she can do it in simple straightforward sentences. If he/she cannot the reason may of course be that he/she is still struggling with the subject but those read very different from the tying knots into my brain structure guys like. For years and years I'm reading now about identity and believe it or not I still have no idea what it is.


Sérgio said...


In fact, there were some mathematicians and/or physicists that were prohibited to ented cassinos in the US because they could reliably predict roulette results (there was a doc. on discovery or something). It is not that astouding *in principle* because the roulette, although it is a randomizing device, it is in fact a mechanical system. So, if you apply Newton´s laws of motion *and* knew the initial conditions with precision you could predict the results.

Same with coin tossing. There is this outstanding probabilist from Stanford, called Persi Diaconis, who was a magician before earning a PhD. He´s able to consistenly toss say, 10 heads in sequence, by carefully controlling the coin´s initial velocities.

Anonymous said...

That guy Yonatan Shapira, who you wrote about a few weeks ago, is on the new Gaza Flotilla. Maybe he just wants his name in the papers?


David Boxenhorn said...

I read a long review of Sand's book some time ago. What I noticed most was that he seemed to assume a racial definition of the Jewish people, rather than the Jewish people's own definition of itself, which includes conversion. (A 1% conversion rate over 1000 years will dilute the original genetic signal by 50%.)

Pastrami&Knockwurst said...

The Invention of the Irish People

People who today regard themselves as Irish are either perpetuating a fraud or victims of it. That’s because the “Irish” are not a people and the idea that they have continuously inhabited the island of Ireland over a period going back two thousand or more years is a myth invented by the revivers of the ideology known as “Irish nationalism” in the nineteenth century....

Anonymous said...

somewhere in this lovely series
is one about race - in it they had a black man in California with not a single "black" marker or gene or whatever.

This whole common blood thing seems to me to be until now an amusing parlour game and I hope it stays that way until eternity.

It may have its uses for historians and their brethren because I am told that migration maps may be made more accurate by it or made to reach further back but as a marker to decide who belongs to a community and who doesn't should in any serious sense be taboo.

Right now we have a bestseller touring the country claiming that these inherit stupidity and those inherit intelligence and that both is destiny. Though he gets bashed for that part of his book, It is still unsavoury stuff having come from a high-up in society reputedly serious person. If he says it, then Hans and Liese may certainly be excused, if they believe it to be true?


Sylvia said...

To start an academic career with behind you a prestigious foreign academic journal of intellectual history, which has made public a lot of formerly unpublished manuscripts of XIXth-to-XXth French intellectuals, is I think more than enough to get you hired. Besides, Shlomo Sand is a Zionist - just like the majority of Israelis, who favors the two-state solution - like the majority of Israelis. So ideologically, he would have the same chances as any other Ashkenazi communist.

On the other hand, you should know that Shlomo Sand is not the only nor the first "Khazarian" at TA University. Paul Wexler, also a professor at TAU and his own colleague, has written a similar thesis via "philology" in his books "The non-Jewish origins of the Ashkenazic Jews: and "the non-Jewish origins of the Sephardic Jews" and those books were also hotly debated on the Internet as I recall in the late 1990s.
I checked the book for any reference to Paul Wexler, whom Sand plundered for his Khazar thesis. The first - and incomplete - reference to Wexler's work is a note on page 202 of the "Invention of the Jewish people". You have to go through the entire book before you discover that someone else has written before him a pseudo-academic work about the Khazars as the ancestors of Jews.
This kind of academic dishonesty is characteristic of the book - and the man.


Sylvia said...

Indeed that's what the book is really about. It is also plain racist, with ruminations here and there as to who is of "higher lineages" (the Europeans of course) and who outdid whom - Ashkenazi "Khazars" or "Berbers-converts-to Judaism" -
Regardless of its purported thesis, this book is utterly disgusting.

joseph said...

Dr, Lozowick,
This has to be the wackiest thing I've read in a long time. Judaism isn't a religion? Is Islam? How about Buddhism? France has a certain culture, so does Saudi Arabia. Do Nazis and other anti-semites wish to kill us because they don't like our culture???? Judaism is most certainly a religion and to say it is merely Yiddishkeit is simply insane. It seems to me that Sand, who is not married to a Jewish woman as I understand it, knows much less than Netanyahu about what it means to be Jewish.


Scott Smythe said...

"Professor" Sands hypothesis fit seemingly well with Muslim clerics who claim that Jews are not human at all, but dogs, apes and pigs.