Tel Aviv University, which was recently ranked Israel’s best, also has the doubtful distinction of employing a professor of history who is regarded as a first-rate authority on Jews by lots of first-rate Jew-haters. Shlomo Sand earned the admiration of antisemites everywhere with his “Invention of the Jewish People,” a book that was hugely successful as it appealed to both old-fashioned Jew-haters and supposedly progressive “anti-Zionists”. In a comprehensive review that takes Sand’s ramblings perhaps too seriously, his truly accomplished Tel Aviv University colleague Anita Shapira has politely noted that Sand “bases his arguments on the most esoteric and controversial interpretations, while seeking to undermine the credibility of important scholars by dismissing their conclusions without bringing any evidence to bear.”
Needless to say, Sand enjoyed his new-found celebrity and eventually delighted his fans with yet another fanciful screed, this time on the “Invention of the Land of Israel.” Since he apparently promised to come up with a trilogy, he has now published another volume where he announces his resignation from being a – presumably invented – Jew. In response to this publication, my very erudite Facebook friend David Sigeti wrote a comment that echoes Shapira’s point quoted above and highlights the important question how Sand’s specious “scholarship” could be so shamelessly promoted by many academics and intellectuals:
“I think that the best short phrase to describe Sand is ‘serial crackpot’. [According to Sand] All the genetic evidence is fabricated and the Ashkenazim are really from Central Asia, Yiddish is a Slavic language in spite of being mutually comprehensible with various dialects of German, the ancient Romans were incapable of transporting large numbers of slaves across the Mediterranean in spite of having fed Italy from Egypt for centuries etc., etc., etc. He is almost certainly the only author in the modern, democratic world to write a book that relies on so many crackpot hypotheses in fields as diverse as genetics, linguistics, and history and to get it taken seriously by other academics and intellectuals.
That this nonsense gets taken seriously may be the most telling example of the confluence between ‘anti-Zionism’ and classical antisemitism. It is almost impossible to imagine anything like Sand’s ideas being taken seriously on any subject other than the Jews. The willingness of supposedly respectable academics and intellectuals to give Sand a respectful hearing is eerily reminiscent of the willingness of otherwise apparently rational academics and intellectuals to believe the most insane ideas about the Jews back before open, self-declared antisemitism became a social faux pas.”
Below just a small sample of screenshots illustrating the company Sand’s admirers in intellectual and academic circles keep: Sand’s work is of course quite popular on Stormfront (here e.g. https://www.stormfront.org/forum/t660227/ and https://www.stormfront.org/forum/t660836/ ); Amazon UK customers who buy David Duke’s insights on “Jewish Supremacism” also tend to buy Sand’s first book as well as Gilad Atzmon’s vile screed “The Wandering Who” (and apparently, the official website promoting Sand’s first book linked to an enthusiastic review by Atzmon); Iranian Press TV invited Sand to promote his book on the “Invention of the Land of Israel;” and Sand’s defense against criticism of his most recent book in Ha’aretz was reposted at the viciously antisemitic blog “The Ugly Truth”.
Needless to say, Sand’s book on “The Invention of the Jewish People” was also positively reviewed on websites dedicated to demonizing the world’s only Jewish state in the service of the “Palestinian cause,” such as The Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss. In its 2012 end-of-year fundraising campaign, Mondoweiss rewarded donors who gave $60 or more with a copy of Sand’s “Invention of the Land of Israel.”
When Sand was told about his admirers on sites like Stormfront after the publication of his first book and asked if he was worried that the book might “be exploited for pernicious ends,” he answered dismissively: “I don’t care if crazy anti-Semites in the United States use my book.” Reportedly, he did express concern about “how the forthcoming Arabic translation might be received in the Muslim world” – but it seems that ultimately, he was just “disappointed” that he wasn’t even invited when the Arabic-language edition of his book was published in Ramallah. However, Sand was hosted at Jerusalem’s Al-Quds University by Professor Sari Nusseibeh, who served as the university’s president at the time, and this was certainly an honor that would not have been bestowed on anyone who had written books on “The Invention of the Palestinian People” and “The Invention of the Land of Palestine.” Indeed, one shudders to think how an author promoting those titles would be received by Sand’s admirers.