By Simon Rocker
November 24, 2009
In last week’s Financial Times, Simon Schama dismissed the claims of Tel Aviv University professor Shlomo Sand, over here recently to launch the English edition of his controversial new book, The Invention of the Jewish People.
Sand argues that the idea of a single Jewish people descended from the inhabitants of ancient Israel was a 19th century myth fostered by the advocates of Zionism to justify a return to the land: instead diaspora Jews are scattered religious communities (who were often the product of conversion).
Schama attacks the “sensationalist assertion that somehow, the truth about Jewish culture and history, especially the ‘exile which never happened’, has been suppressed in the interests of racially pure demands of Zionist orthodoxy. This, to put it mildly, is a stretch.”
Schama also writes: “Sand confuses ethnicity – which, in the case of the Jews, is indeed impure, heterogeneous and much travelled – with an identity that evolves as the product of common historical experience. Rabbinical arguments may rest on an imaginary definition of ethnicity, but the legitimacy of a Jewish homeland does not. Ultimately, Israel’s case is the remedy for atrocity, about which Sand has nothing to say.”