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The Invention of the Jewish People Hardcover – 19 Oct 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; 1st edition edition (19 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844674223
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844674220
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 3.1 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 120,080 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Shlomo Sand has written a remarkable book. ..Anyone interested in understanding the contemporary Middle East should read this book." -- Tony Judt "..a formidable polemic against claims that Israel has a moral right to define itself as an explicitly and exclusively Jewish society, in which non-Jews, such as Palestino-Israelis, are culturally and politically marginalised." --Max Hastings, Sunday Times

"Shlomo Sand's The Invention of the Jewish People (Verso) is both a welcome and, in the case of Israel, much needed exercise in the dismantling of nationalist historical myth and a plea for an Israel that belongs equally to all its inhabitants. Perhaps books combining passion and erudition don t change political situations, but if they did, this one would count as a landmark." -- Eric Hobshawm, Observer, Books of the year "A string of firecrackers." --Stephen Howe, Independent, Book of the Week

"Sand takes on a formidable tradition in claiming that moral validity in the Middle East needs good history, and no discussion of the region any longer seems complete without acknowledgement of his book." -- Independent on Sunday, Best History Books of 2009 "An important book one that hammers another nail into Zionism's ideological coffin." -- Tony Greenstein, Weekly Worker "[Sand's] quiet earthquake of a book is shaking historical faith in the link between Judaism and Israel." --Rafael Behr, Observer

About the Author

SHLOMO SAND studied history at the University of Tel Aviv and at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, in Paris. He currently teaches contemporary history at the University of Tel Aviv. His other books include LIllusion du politique: Georges Sorel et le débat intellectuel 1900, Georges Sorel en son temps, Le XXe siècle à l'écran and Les Mots et la Terre: Les Intellectuels en Israël.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By DK on 21 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback
It was only by accident that I started reading this book but it immediately bought to mind, in its scope, ambition and erudition, the great work of Edward Said, `Orientalism'. Both works chart the creation of a grand `mythistory' - or in simpler terms, `fantasy' - which now grips the minds of millions and shapes political conflict in the Middle East. The strength of this work is the number of disciplines and lines of study that it brings together with a clear evaluation.

Of particular value is Sand's comprehensive survey of Zionist historiography and its evaluation of the biblical text. This is both illuminating - as in the account of Ben Gurion's biblical soirees - and very fair, according with my own reading. It is a supreme irony that the Zionist claim to the land has been most emphatically discredited by the land itself! After 1967 it was confidently expected that the archaeological excavations in the Occupied Territories would provide the final touches in providing evidence for the biblical account of history. It did just the opposite. The invasion of Canaan was seen never to have happened, the grand Solomaic temple with its cult of monotheism never existed, the famous Kingdom of David was seen to be a later retrojection of the Omride achievement, excoriated in the bible as apostates. In short the biblical narrative has been revealed to be entirely fabricated for polemical purposes.

So staggering is the scale of this deception that most Jews as well as Christians have largely chosen to remain in a state of denial. I am shocked as I look back over my own life and the credence I gave to many distinguished scholars who have now been proved to be utterly mistaken.
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299 of 319 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 7 Nov. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
About a fifth of this book shows how Biblical criticism and archaeological discoveries have undermined the reliability of the Hebrew Bible as history. Archaeology, among other things, has played havoc with the chronology of the Bible, especially in connection with the invasion of Canaan, nor has it found any evidence that would support the story of the Exodus or the splendour of Solomon's kingdom.

But the main subject of the book is the denial that there is such a thing as the Jewish People, descended from the inhabitants of Biblical Palestine from which they have been scattered, and that they are a nation which has now returned to the land of its ancestors. This undermines one of the principal arguments with which the State of Israel legitimizes itself. (There are, of course, other arguments which Sand does not discuss in any depth.)

He says that the Jews began to see themselves as an ethnic people, rather than as a religious community, in the 19th century. (In a 40 page long and massively theoretical opening chapter, Sand explains why for him the word `people' implies ethnicity - hence the provocative title of his book. Others might well say that what has for centuries kept the Jewish `people' together was not their ethnicity but their religion, and even secular Jews belong to that people because their ancestors were religious Jews.) He traces the claim of the Jews to be a nation from the 1880s - when scholars like Heinrich Graetz described the work of Julius Wellhausen, the father of modern Biblical Criticism, as anti-Jewish - to those who present the Biblical account as the foundation charter of the State of Israel, where it is the staple of the state educational system.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By richard the little. on 7 Aug. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Mr Sand delivers a body blow to all pre conceived myths and fairy tales about the Jew , their origins, and the state of Israel.. Brilliant ! Torpedoes the Christian Zionist ship right out of the water and paves a way for a new humane democratic understanding of the state of Israel founded on human rights and equality.Excellent section on the modern origin of the Jew. They are not descended from the Hebrew, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but are historically converts from Ashkenazi [Khazar] extraction in Russia. DNA technology proves this conclusively. So if one converts to Judaism they are one of the 'chosen people'? with real estate privileges to another nations country ? Debunks the myths of Zionism and Christian Zionism and leaves them without credibly argument; well except the old scare tactic that your self hating Jew or anti semite if you don't agree, and that is now wearing thin and being understood as a scare tactic to stifle debate. ! Mr Sands is a great historian and very brave to challenge the accepted myths of the modern state of Israel. Hopefully this will be another solid brick of truth to pave the road towards justice and human rights for all people in Israel and Palestine.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ray V on 30 Sept. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Until recently I naively assumed that if you were Jewish you were directly descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This book pointed out what I should have realised already, that in the ancient world Judaism was a missionary religion that was embraced by many people who were not ethnically Jewish. It also made me aware of a side of history I knew nothing about - the existence of Jewish kingdoms in the early Middle Ages. In particular, there was the quite powerful and long-lasting Khazar kingdom in the northern Caucasus and along the Volga River, which the author claims could account for the huge number of Jews with an Eastern European background.
This book deals not just with Jewish history but also in great detail with the way Jewish history has been written. The author claims that much of the history has been suppressed as it is inconvenient to the claim that all Jews have a right to live in Israel because it is their ancestral home. The book is also directly and controversially political, with observations about the present State of Israel.
It is very long, and I must confess I skipped many of the details, especially those about other historians. However, it is very informative and thought-provoking, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in history.
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