By Jonathan Hoffman
February 20, 2013
The good news is that Shlomo Sand (at the Frontline Club in London on Tuesday night) has become so extreme that he will convince no-one. Only a hardened antisemite could possibly find him credible, and that only because he appears to give that prejudice an intellectual underpinning.
Maybe it was Simon Schama's ridicule that pushed him to the extreme:
When he was a younger academic Sand was open about the fact that he grew up in the Communist Party and viewed himself as a Marxist. He had no criticisms of Stalinism.
He was introduced by Donald Sassoon. You can see why he was chosen. He talks about the 'failure of Zionism' (because more Jews live outside than inside Israel!) and says that Israel "is the land of the poor Jews" because most Egyptian Jews (his family was Egyptian) did not go there. I reminded him that Israel is an OECD member and has more companies on NASDAQ than any other nation outside the USA.
Then to Shlomo Sand. Sand said Jews consider themselves a 'people' for purely selfish reasons - they want to own land and a people can own land whereas a religion cannot. Zionism and Judaism are opposed, he says. He claims there are no mentions of Israel in the Bible and there was no exodus of Jews after the destruction of the Temple by the Romans. In the 19th Century, he says, Rabbis opposed Zionism, that's why the First Zionist Congress had to be in Basel and not Munich. He claims that the Talmud forbids Jews to go to Palestine; that "political public antisemitism" has disappeared; and that 'secular' Jews will diappear too because they define themselves by the Shoah and by antisemitism (cue for plug for next book which will be called "The Invention of the Secular Jew"). He calls Israel a racist state.
Fortunately Sand's lies were exposed by a number of good questioners. The lies can be seen in this link:
I flicked through Sand's book. One of the puffs he cites in the front is a quote from Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg:
I am one of many Jews who would agree with Sand that a decisive factor in the future of Israel will be its capacity to be far more attentive to the narratives and rights of its Palestinian and other non-Jewish citizens
But of course he omits the next part of Rabbi Wittenberg's article (it's from his Guardian review of Sand's earlier book):
But the book is a great disappointment. Its sweeping attempt to take apart the entire history of the Jewish people from its origins to present day Israel and prove it to be a wilful fabrication is marred by tendentious premises, the misreading of key events and the ignoring of central texts and institutions.
I told Rabbi Wittenberg that his Guardian article had been selectively used to plug Sand's book. He said:
I gave the last book a very negative review and certainly would not wish the partial and out-of-context quote at the front of the new book to imply any endorsement whatsoever. I have not read the new book and have no intention of doing so
That's Sand all over: an academic fraud who cherrypicks sources that he pretends proves his point and even takes them out of context when it suits him.....
UPDATE: Excellent piece by Richard Millett on Sand's SOAS talk on Wednesday night: