2008-03-01

An Invention called “the Jewish People”

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by Neil Godfrey

My heading, “an invention called the Jewish people” is taken from an article recently published in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. It’s about a book by Professor Zand of the Tel Aviv University. The article concludes with:

His book, “When and How Was the Jewish People Invented?” (published by Resling in Hebrew), is intended to promote the idea that Israel should be a “state of all its citizens” – Jews, Arabs and others – in contrast to its declared identity as a “Jewish and democratic” state. Personal stories, a prolonged theoretical discussion and abundant sarcastic quips do not help the book, but its historical chapters are well-written and cite numerous facts and insights that many Israelis will be astonished to read for the first time.

Some of those facts:

  1. “There never was a Jewish people, only a Jewish religion”, and the exile of 70 c.e. also never happened. At the most, tens of thousands were exiled. Most were permitted, and most did, stay in the land. It follows, if exile is a myth, that the idea that Jews since the twentieth century are “returning” to “their land” is a myth.
  2. When the Arabs conquered the land, many of the Jews converted to Islam and were assimilated among the conquerors. It follows that many Palestinian Arabs today are descendants of the original Jews.

Tom Segev, author of this article, writes:

Zand did not invent this thesis; 30 years before the Declaration of Independence, it was espoused by David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi and others. . . . . Zand quotes from many existing studies, some of which were written in Israel but shunted out of the central discourse.

So how did the Jewish Diaspora originate?

From Tom Segev’s article on Prof. Zand’s book in the Haaretz:

  1. emigration of their own accord
  2. many Jews in Babylon had simply remained of their own will
  3. members of other faiths were forced to become Jews (c.f. the Book of Esther which says narrates just such an event — many converting because of fear of the Jews.)

Specific case-studies discussed by Zand:

  1. the Jewish kingdom of Himyar in the southern Arabian Peninsula
  2. the Jewish Berbers in North Africa
  3. the Jews in Spain — these originated from Arabs who became Jews and who arrived with the forces that captured Spain from the Christians; these mingled with European individuals who had become Jews.
  4. the first Jews of Ashkenaz (Germany) . . . became Jews in the Khazar Kingdom in the Caucasus.

Segev notes:

We find, then, that the members of a variety of peoples and races, blond and black, brown and yellow, became Jews in large numbers. According to Zand, the Zionist need to devise for them a shared ethnicity and historical continuity produced a long series of inventions and fictions, along with an invocation of racist theses. Some were concocted in the minds of those who conceived the Zionist movement, while others were offered as the findings of genetic studies conducted in Israel.

The original Haaretz article is worth the full read, not least for the same page’s other interesting news of the sort that does not normally see light of day in the English speaking Western media.

The story will not be news to those who already appreciate the fictional nature of the Bible’s Exodus and genocidal Conquest narratives. Nor to those familiar with some of the racist fictions that were concocted in the latter nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries. Focus on Nazi racist myths has obscured from much public memory the fact that such racist ideologies and cults of physical ideals inflicted many races, nations and peoples then, many Jews included.

One day the world will look back on the current myths underpinning Zionism as with no more factual foundation than their nineteenth century and early twentieth century counterparts — and that were likewise used to rationalize ethnic cleansing and expansion of “living space”.

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