Tag Archives: Shlomo Sand

Shlomo Sand resigns from being an invented Jew (or something like it)

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 blogThe Ugly Truth”.

Sand on Stormfront1

Sand on Stormfront2

Duke Atzmon & Sand

Sand on Iran Press TV

Sand on 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.

Mondoweiss on ‘Court Jew’ Elie Wiesel [updated]

For some people, the holiday tradition of charitable giving for good causes means donating to sites that work hard all year round to depict Israel as an abomination that should have no place in a civilized world. Unsurprisingly, people who like to donate for a daily dose of hate have some choice: one example I described last week is The Electronic Intifada (EI); another site with a similar agenda is Mondoweiss.

Compared to EI, Mondoweiss is rather modest – their fund-raising goal is just $40 000, and they even promise a gift for donations over $60: appropriately, it is the recent book of Shlomo Sand, author of the widely discredited “Invention of the Jewish People,” who seems resolved to serialize his flights of fancy and has come out with another installment on “The Invention of the Land of Israel.” Interestingly, none of the two books are mentioned on Sand’s page at Tel Aviv University, where he is a full professor at the Department of History.

But let’s stay with the professors at Mondoweiss, because the site doesn’t just offer Professor Sand’s book as reward for donations. There is also a “feature” written by Marc H. Ellis, whom Mondoweiss describes as “an author, liberation theologian, and Distinguished Visiting Professor, University for Peace, Costa Rica.”

Mondoweiss EWiesel

It’s arguably a company Professor Sand deserves: Ellis is a rather controversial figure, as is even reflected in a Mondoweiss post urging readers to support an apparently unsuccessful petition endorsed by a gallery of well-known “anti-Zionists” who spoke out when Ellis faced dismissal from Baylor University.

But to know who Ellis is and what he stands for, it is enough to read one of the recent installments for his pompously titled “Exile and the Prophetic”-series at Mondoweiss.

Ellis’s post on “Elie Wiesel and the history of the court Jew” is an almost unreadable concoction of incoherent ramblings that isn’t worth summarizing. Suffice it to say that Ellis takes Elie Wiesel’s contacts with influential people like the Clintons as a point of departure for some ruminations about the history of “Court Jews.” But according to Ellis, Wiesel is not just a “Court Jew,” because supposedly he “also symbolizes the crucified Jew, Jesus, since Jesus was persecuted through no fault of his own – as was Wiesel in the Holocaust – and Jesus was Jewish, like Wiesel.”

Based on this, Ellis concludes:

“Being a Court Jew and the Crucified Jew – the combination is Wiesel’s genius. His invitation to the dinner tables of the powerful is thus highly charged.

In America, Wiesel represents a politics infused with spirituality. He plays the part to the hilt but here’s the caveat. Wiesel is 84 years old. His Court Jew/Crucified Jew shelf-life is decreasing daily.”

Not quite satisfied with this effort at scraping the bottom of the barrel, Ellis throws in the suggestion that perhaps Netanyahu should be regarded “as Israel’s Court Jew” and that it would be worthwhile to ponder the question “Has Israel become the Court Jew par excellence?”

Suggestions for printable words to describe Ellis’s outpourings are most welcome.

Perhaps this is what the Mondoweiss call for donations really means when they boast that the site “push[es] the issues others shy away from.” With the support of readers, Mondoweiss hopes to “be even louder in 2013.” Astonishingly, the site seems to qualify for tax-deductible contributions and accepts donations through the “Network for Good.”

This sounds all the more Orwellian considering the fact that Mondoweiss has often been accused of antisemitism – including by people who have some qualifications to judge the matter. Under the apt title “Can we call Mondoweiss anti-Semitic yet?,” Liam Hoare has recently posted a lengthy review of some of the related controversies.  He ends his post by looking at Ellis’s ruminations on the soon-to-be-dead Court Jew Elie Wiesel in the context of some of the other views that Mondoweiss pushes so fearlessly:

“Ellis’ screed cannot help but say a little something about the publication it appears in. After all, if a media organisation believes that Israel is a failed state, that Israelis are racist, colonial settlers and occupiers, that Jews who celebrate Hanukkah exhibit bloodlust, that Jews organised into cabals wield a disproportionate amount of power over the media and the organs of government, that Jews covet power and control the direction of United States foreign policy, it follows that it is not out of character for it to play host to an article so uncultured, so unlettered, and so heinous that a drifter who stands out in the street, shouting and hollering with a cardboard sign and selling pencils from a cup would be embarrassed to have his name attributed to it.”

Indeed, this looks very much like yet another example of just how slippery the slope from anti-Zionism to antisemitism really is. And at the time of this writing, Mondoweiss readers have donated some $13 000 to get more of the same.

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

 

Update:

Just to illustrate the weird world of Mondoweiss with another current offering: a recently posted piece asks “Who’s afraid of the Qassams?” The argument – if that’s what it can be called – is that “stopping Palestinian rockets is not a plausible explanation for Israeli attacks [on Gaza].” The reason is supposedly that the rockets from Gaza threaten “mostly Mizrahi, usually lower-class, Jewish Israelis” and that somehow suits the Israeli government just fine, because “Israeli ‘security’ policies […are] simultaneously a ruling-class strategy of social control and a framework for capitalist accumulation.” And all this means that it was extremely clever of the Qassam Brigade to address the Israeli public during a press conference on 17 November, claiming: “It was your leadership …that dragged you into this and into the shelters to score cheap political points.” According to Mondoweiss wisdom, this was an “open anti-government appeal to the people of Israel” which “was well-placed.”

Well, the Qassam Brigade clearly knew what they were doing when they included Mondoweiss among the 11 Twitter accounts they follow…