The Invention of the Jewish People

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Overview

A historical tour de force, The Invention of the Jewish People offers a groundbreaking account of Jewish and Israeli history. Exploding the myth that there was a forced Jewish exile in the first century at the hands of the Romans, Israeli historian Shlomo Sand argues that most modern Jews descend from converts, whose native lands were scattered across the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

In this iconoclastic work, which spent nineteen weeks on the Israeli bestseller list and won ...

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The Invention of the Jewish People

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Overview

A historical tour de force, The Invention of the Jewish People offers a groundbreaking account of Jewish and Israeli history. Exploding the myth that there was a forced Jewish exile in the first century at the hands of the Romans, Israeli historian Shlomo Sand argues that most modern Jews descend from converts, whose native lands were scattered across the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

In this iconoclastic work, which spent nineteen weeks on the Israeli bestseller list and won the coveted Aujourd'hui Award in France, Sand provides the intellectual foundations for a new vision of Israel's future.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times
“Extravagantly denounced and praised.”
Eric Hobsbawm
“Perhaps books combining passion and erudition don't change political situations, but if they did, this one would count as a landmark.”
Tony Judt
“Anyone interested in understanding the contemporary Middle East should read this book.”
From the Publisher
“Sand’s questions about how Israel’s democracy can be liberalized and stabilized are thought-provoking and deserve serious discussion.”—Haaretz

“Perhaps books combining passion and erudition don’t change political situations, but if they did, this one would count as a landmark.”—Eric Hobsbawm, Observer

“[Sand’s] quiet earthquake of a book is shaking historical faith in the link between Judaism and Israel.”—Rafael Behr, Observer

“Anyone interested in understanding the contemporary Middle East should read this book.”—Tony Judt

“Extravagantly denounced and praised.”—New York Times

“No discussion of the region any longer seems complete without acknowledgement of this book.”—Independent on Sunday, Best History Books of 2009

“A radical dismantling of a national myth.”—Guardian

“Almost too baseless to debunk.”—Jewish Journal

Haaretz
“Sand's questions about how Israel's democracy can be liberalized and stabilized are thought-provoking and deserve serious discussion.”
Observer
“Perhaps books combining passion and erudition don't change political situations, but if they did, this one would count as a landmark.”— Eric Hobsbawm
Le Nouvel Observateur
The reader will have understood the message: what this well-documented and fearless book explodes is the myth of a unique Jewish people, miraculously preserved, in contrast to all the other peoples, from external contamination … [Sand’s] conclusions, which are prudently formulated, nonetheless lead one towards a sole solution: the construction of a secular and democratic Israel.— Jacques Julliard
Tom Segev - Haaretz
“Israel's Declaration of Independence states that the Jewish people arose in the Land of Israel and was exiled from its homeland. Every Israeli schoolchild is taught that this happened during the period of the Roman rile, in 70 CE. The nation remained loyal to its land, to which it began to return after two millennia of exile. Wrong, says the historian Shlomo Sand, in one of the most fascinating and challenging books published here in a long time.
There was never a Jewish people, only a Jewish religion, and the exile also never happened—hence there was no return.”
Jacques Julliard - Le Nouvel Observateur
“The reader will have understood the message: what this well-documented and fearless book explodes is the myth of a unique Jewish people, miraculously preserved, in contrast to all the other peoples, from external contamination … [Sand’s] conclusions, which are prudently formulated, nonetheless lead one towards a sole solution: the construction of a secular and democratic Israel.”
Avraham Burg
The Invention of the Jewish People is an indispensable challenge and a very complex intellectual exercise…a more secure society [than Israel] would include the book in the core curriculum of its school system.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781844676231
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 6/14/2010
  • Pages: 344
  • Sales rank: 253,698
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface to the English-Language Edition ix

Introduction: Burdens of Memory 1

Identity in Movement 1

Constructed Memories 14

1 Making Nations: Sovereignty and Equality 23

Lexicon: "People" and Ethnos 24

The Nation: Boundaries and Definitions 31

From Ideology to Identity 39

From Ethnic Myth to Civil Imaginary 45

The Intellectual as the Nation's "Prince" 54

2 Mythistory: In the Beginning, God Created the People 64

The Early Shaping of Jewish History 65

The Old Testament as Mythistory 71

Race and Nation 78

A Historians' Dispute 81

A Protonationalist View from the East 87

An Ethnicist Stage in the West 95

The First Steps of Historiography in Zion 100

Politics and Archaeology 107

The Earth Rebels against Mythistory 115

The Bible as Metaphor 123

3 The Invention of the Exile: Proselytism and Conversion 129

The "People" Exiled in 70 CE 130

Exile without Expulsion-History in the Twilight Zone 136

Against Its Will, the People Emigrate from the Homeland 143

"All Nations Shall Flow Unto It" 150

The Hasmoneans Impose Judaism on Their Neighbors 154

From Hellenistic Sphere to Mesopotamian Territory 161

Judaizing in the Shadow of Rome 166

How Rabbinical Judaism Viewed Proselytizing 173

The Sad Fate of the Judeans 178

Remembering and Forgetting the "People of the Land" 182

4 Realms of Silence: In Search of Lost (JEWISH) Time 190

Arabia Felix: The Proselytized Kingdom of Himyar 192

Phoenicians and Berbers: The Mysterious Queen Kahina 199

Jewish Kagans? A Strange Empire Rises in the East 210

Khazars and Judaism: A Long Love Affair? 218

Modern Research Explores the Khazar Past 230

The Enigma: The Origin of Eastern Europe's Jews 238

5 The Distinction: Identity Politics in Israel 250

Zionism and Heredity 256

The Scientific Puppet and the Racist Hunchback 272

Founding an Ethnos State 280

"Jewish and Democratic"-An Oxymoron? 292

Ethnocracy in the Age of Globalization 307

Afterword 314

Acknowledgments 326

Index 327

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Blend of Myths and Historical Facts Underpinning Any Nationalist Cause

    Shlomo Sand bluntly challenges the official narrative surrounding the history of the Jewish people from antiquity to the rebirth of Israel. Mr. Sand wants to convince his audience that the Jews are descendants from a great variety of cultural-linguistic groups that appeared and settled in different areas of the world, rather than a single population that shared a common origin in what is today Israel and wandered in permanent exile (pp. 22; 253). Mr. Sand relies on numerous archaeological and literary findings to poke holes in the narrative of the Old Testament that serves as the repository of national memory (pp. 115-128; 255). In their mission to formulate a common origin for the Jewish people, Israeli historians adopted uncritically the old Christian idea of the Jew as the external exile. In doing it, these historians ignored the mass proselytization carried out by early Judaism (p. 255).

    What Mr. Sand found out about what he calls the "ancient, mythological, and religious past" of the Jewish people is not unique to the Jews or Israel (pp. 74; 255). In his recent book "Two Faiths, One Banner," Ian Almond notes that history is similar to driving a car in a thick fog without much visibility ahead or behind. Mr. Almond came to the realization that the writing of history was not like climbing a hill from which one could acquire an expanding view of an increasingly bigger area. Most people do not learn more and more about themselves. They modify their history continually (pp. 220-221).

    Many adults around the world come to the realization that what they learn in school is most often a selective reading of what really happened in the history of their native or adopted country. As a native of Belgium, I was never taught about the brutal colonization of Congo in Central Africa under the leadership of Leopold II, the second king of Belgium and his henchmen. I learned about this inconvenient truth when I stumbled on Adam Hochschild's "King Leopold's Ghost." Unsurprisingly, Mr. Sand quotes Benedict Anderson's "Imagined Communities" that "the nation . is an imagined political community (p. 35)."

    As a side note, either The History Channel or the National Geographic Society could realize a new documentary about the history of the Jewish people that takes into account what Mr. Sand covers in his controversial book.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 27, 2009

    Distorting History to Delegitimize Israel

    It is rare indeed when a person writes a book whose aim is to help in the destruction of the state he is living in. But this is Shlomo Sand's self- proclaimed aim. He has written this book in order to delegitimize Israel, the Jewish people's claim to a state of their own. There is presently a world-wide campaign to delegitimize Israel as prelude to destroying the Jewish state. Just as Yassir Arafat in rejecting peace with Israel in September 2000 claimed that the existence of two Jewish temples in Jerusalem was a 'myth' and that Jews in fact had no real history in Jerusalem, so Sand claims that the Jewish people itself is a 'myth'.
    In making this claims Israeli historian Israel Bartal claims that Sand uses misleading citations, shows disrepect for historical details and shows a 'slippery tendency to present extreme theories as though they reflect the scholarly consensus'. One of the most distinguished of historians of Jewish modernity Anita Shapira of Tel Aviv University "found something "warped and objectionable in the assumption that for Jews to integrate into the Middle East they, and they alone of all the peoples in the region, must shed their national identity and historical memories and reconstruct themselves in a way that may (perhaps) find favor with Israeli-Palestinians."
    Sand essentially joins the camp of those who would make the Jewish people the only people in the world who have no right whatsoever to their own national and communal identity. He not only in doing this sins against the truth of history but insults that great majority of Israelis who actually care for and believe in the value of their own people and state.
    Sand claims that his own parents Polish refugees from the Shoah came to Israel not because they wanted to , but because they had no choice. They could never really feel themselves a part of the Jewish people just as the parents of another Israel- basher Norman
    Finkelstein's parents could never really feel sympathy and any solidarity with their fellow survivors of the Shoah. Out of such self- hating and people- denying parents comes this work, one which will certainly join with the Koestler's work on the Khazars as documents which seek to make the Jews a people who do not know their own origins and ancestors.
    Intellectual treason may not be the greatest sin in the world, but when it contributes to a worldwide campaign aimed at destroying one's own nation and people it certainly makes one a candidate for one of the Underworlds's lower circles. Sand has already received much publicity and will receive a large royalty for his work. But my suspicion his ultimate reward will be that he will be wholly despised by the great share of Jews who know of his work.
    If there is a Circle lower than the Ninth he should be in it. Permalink | Why no voting buttons? We don't let customers vote on their own reviews, so the voting buttons appear only when you look at reviews submitted by others.

    6 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2010

    Keep an Open Mind...

    I have to commend this author for having the chutzpah to write this book. It isn't going to get him any popularity votes in the Jewish world, but he has thoroughly researched his material and one has got to keep his or her mind open and say, "Yeah...you've got a point here!"

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 1, 2009

    beautiful book, intellectually stimulating

    A must read book. Illuminating.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2011

    Excellent Book Exposing the Truth

    Israel has Distorting History in an attempt to legitimize its exhistance. This book does a fantastic job in pointing out what is the truth. Some people will only look at the book as an attack on the Jewish people but I say look at the facts and you be the judge,this book does a good job providing those facts.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2012

    Wow

    Just read it, YOU will be glad you did.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2013

    It shlomo its shlomo its shlomo oh.yeah.

    SHLOMO IS AWSOME IT MEANS PANTS BTW THIS IS FOR EVERYONE IN THE WORLD WHO DIDNT KNOW THAT ECCEPT FOR ME :P

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2010

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