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Shlomo the Sandlout

This is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman

On Monday night I went to hear Shlomo Sand who is doing three London meetings this week to promote the English translation of his book “The Invention of the Jewish People”. In the book Sand attempts to prove that the Jewish people never existed as a “nation-race” with a common origin. His thesis is that Jews are a rag-tag collection of flotsam and jetsam that at various stages of history just happened to adopt the same religion. He argues that for a number of Zionist ideologues, the mythical perception of the Jews as an ancient people led to racist thinking.

Tonight’s meeting was sponsored by the New Statesman magazine. Yes the same magazine of the ‘left’ that in February 2002 had to apologise for the antisemitic cartoon on its cover in an issue in January of the same year.

Tonight Sand was up against Denis MacShane MP who has written a book about antisemitism.

Sand had already given us a taste of his style (unbelievably he is a Professor of History at Tel Aviv University) on Start The Week on BBC Radio 4 on Monday morning.

I’m not a Zionist. I don’t define myself as an anti-Zionist …. but I’m not a Zionist …  I don’t put into question the existence of Israel. I compare when I am speaking before Arab students the birth of the Israeli state to an act of rape. But even the son that was born of the act of rape….. you have to recognise him … the existence of Israel I don’t put in question today, you understand me?

Andrew Marr and the other bien pensants on Start The Week (Hans Ulrich Obrist, Tony Marchant, Sue Brown) swallowed it all completely uncritically – fawningly even.

Unfortunately Denis MacShane was delayed by a vote in Parliament. Sand had ten minutes to present what Seth Frantzman called his “revisionist pseudo-history of the Jewish People” and then he was questioned – again uncritically – by Jonathan Derbyshire, the literary Editor of the New Statesman.

Eventually MacShane did arrive. He spoke about his visit to Israel as part of a trade union delegation and noted that the Sand event coincided with the anniversary of Kristallnacht. He did not feel qualified to get into the ‘Who Is a Jew?” debate but noted that the Hamas Charter was not particularly bothered about the precise definition. Disgracefully MacShane was interrupted by two people in the audience who felt he was not addressing the book.

Then to the Q+A. There have been plenty of critical reviews of the book. My favourite is Frantzman’s but there are also articles by HalkinGreenstein,Bartal and Shapira. And Skorecki has done DNA research which shows that the same array of chromosomal markers was found in 97 of 106 Cohens tested (a Cohen is a descendant of the Priests in the High Temple). Sand claims that many Jews are descended from Khazars but the genetic research finds no link.

I had a chance to see the book before the talk. The final chapter is full of lies, here is an example:

Page 281: “The most important mission to be undertaken by the new state [of Israel] was the renewal, as best it could, of those who definitely did not regard themselves as Jews.”

And then he slips into the overtly antisemitic:

Page 292: “Jewish and Democratic – An Oxymoron?”

Page 313: “To what extent is Jewish Israeli society willing to discard the deeply embedded image of the “chosen people”?”

I told him his book was antisemitic, citing the “chosen people” trope. I asked him how it was that the Khazars could “demographically probably” be the fathers of the 3 million Polish Jews who existed in the 20th century, when they had no Khazar names, spoke Yiddish and contained numerous Cohens and Levis who could not possibly be of Khazar ancestry (such status is obtained from the patrilineal line and cannot be obtained via conversion). (Frantzman makes this point). I also asked him why he wrote the book – was it for notoriety or was it for money?

He failed to answer. He also failed to answer Richard Millett who pointed out that Hamas was not prepared to give the Jews any land area (Sand had said that the Jews were allocated too much land by the UN in 1947). Richard was heckled – uproar broke out. The meeting ended and I heard Sand got even more loutish later. It is a toss up between Sand and Caryl Churchill (of Seven Jewish Children) as to who distorts Jewish history more.

As Seth Frantzman writes: “If the Jews never really existed then why did Islam and Christianity spend so much time suppressing them?”

Also see: Jew Flu