Sand in the eyes of Jewry

Another poor quality post, but the graphomania came on.

I’ve never heard Andrew Marr as breathlessly interested in a guest as he was in Shlomo Sand today on BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week. Shlomo Sand has written a book, which he hopes will change the Middle East context, about Jews as an invented people.

Aren’t all nations. So what? Search me if I, an atheist and non-practioner, know what it is to be Jewish. To me it just means that I take antisemitism personally on behalf of my dead family and my refugee granny – nothing more. I might go to Israel before I die – my parents met on a kibbutz, you could say that Israel made me. I met practically all the Jews I know because of the boycott of Israel and the racist scum it brought out – I even made one or two friends. That is how peopleness works, too – sensitivities draw people together in interest groups, which go on to develop their own culture, etc. Or racism brings out the steel and stubborness in people touched by it, who appreciate the steel and stubborness in each other. My hunch is that when the antisemitism goes away, the peopleness will go away, for the reasons Sand says, leaving only the faith. I’m content with that, in its time. But post-Enlightenment German Jews tried it the other way round and assimilated, abandoning their Jewish identity, and their children ended up eating gas anyway. Shlomo Sand is trying it the other way round again, and he’s a bit previous.

His book is about the nation-building project of Zionism. On Start the Week, butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. It was the first I’d heard of him, really. I was impressed! Potentially his work could undermine the ideology of the religious Zionists of the settler movement. Good luck to him, if that was what he was about. But the main question is, has he managed to shake off the far right and the malfunctioning post-left?

No. You can find the pieces below on the web for yourself – I don’t give those people my links.

Gilad Atzmon has approvingly used Sands as an occasion to call again for the de-judaication of Jews (a large article with Jew=Nazi comparions and the gratuitous inclusion of a blood-sucking mohel). I found that Atzmon piece on the book’s official site. Disgrace.

Philip Weiss found Sand “ravishing” and viewed him as “fiercely anti-Zionist”. Uh-oh – Sand’s solution to antisemitism was apparently:

“I am anti-racist. And an anti-anti-semite,” he said. “But look at me, do you think I hate the Jewish?” More devil eyes flashing. “I don’t hate myself… I hate the Jewish people? But that doesn’t exist. How can I hate something that doesn’t exist?”

That’s not how it works, you tosser.

Sand says he doesn’t consider himself anti-Zionist (he’s got himself wrong, then) but Weiss gives the impression he’s a dandy counter-hegemon.

I am happy if somebody strikes a blow at religious entitlement to a piece of land, as long as they shake off the ardent and verbose antisemites who are trying to hump their leg. Shlomo Sand doesn’t, and forfeits credibility.

For what reason?

On the History News Network, Gordon Haber:

“And (as Sand’s reasoning has it) if the myth is a lie-if there is no genealogical connection between today’s Jews and those of Provincia Judea-then there is no justification for a Jewish state.

This, to me, sounds like a leap. But some of Sand’s arguments are not easily dismissed. At least I thought so when I started his book, which I wanted to read with an open mind. But as the arguments piled up, I became suspicious. There is a consistent tone of outrage here: Sand comes off like the relative that corners you every Thanksgiving to harangue you about politics. But it’s not merely a matter of literary style. The tone made me question the author’s disinterest. It made me wonder if he too is distorting history for political ends.”

“So then why does Sand sees conspiracies, or at least ahistorical motivations, where they don’t always exist? Perhaps because his desire for a truly egalitarian Israel has destroyed his objectivity. This impression was confirmed when I watched a clip of Sand on French TV, wherein he comes off as articulate, passionate, and unhinged.”

Editor of the Chonicle of Higher Education, reviewer Evan Goldstein draws the necessary parallel’s with Arthur Koestler’s fit of pique, The Thirteenth Tribe. He ends:

“I recently called Mr. [I thought he had a doctorate] Sand in Paris, where he is on sabbatical, to ask if he is concerned that “The Invention of the Jewish People” will be exploited for pernicious ends. “I don’t care if crazy anti-Semites in the United States use my book,” he said in Israeli-accented English. “Anti-Semitism in the West, for the moment, is not a problem.” Still, he is worried about how the forthcoming Arabic translation might be received in the Muslim world, where, he says, anti-Semitism is growing. I ask if the confident tenor of his book might exacerbate the problem. He falls quiet for a moment. “Maybe my tone was too affirmative on the question of the Khazars,” he reluctantly concedes. “If I were to write it today I would be much more careful.” Such an admission, however, is unlikely to sway the sinister conspiracists who find the Khazar theory a useful invention.”

Fancy thinking that anti-semitism doesn’t matter when you are trying to de-legitimise the idea of a Jewish people. How irresponsible and self-indulgent can a man get?

Why didn’t Andrew Marr say anything?

Read Eve Garrard on Tony Judt’s (whose words you’ll also find on the book’s official site) ‘getting into bed with racists’ comments:

“Judt says that he, and those who share his views, have to tell what they take to be the truth, even if this means that they end up in bed with the wrong people, with racists and anti-Semites, for example.”

Read the whole thing – it’s well worth it.

2 thoughts on “Sand in the eyes of Jewry

  1. Excellent post, I can’t remember but I thought there were many holes in his arguments, and the whole Khazar stuff constant staple on neo-Nazi web sites, in their campaign to the legitimise the very existence of Jews.

    I had a quick look for some reviews couldn’t find many, but I’m sure they exist, I seem to remember reading one many months ago.

  2. Pingback: Back Again: Updates, Rants and Invitations « The New Centrist

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