Friday, May 18, 2012

Sand (Shlomo) in Our Zionist Faces

I preliminarily treated Shlomo Sand's new book with its second-tier assault on Jewish nationalism here Elder of Ziyon also had a whack.  But to disprove the Sand thesis, or one of his theses, as highlighted over at +972, which is about a "fantasized homeland", supposedly, which is

the concept of a place which is under Jewish sovereignty, and yearning for such a place. “Eretz Israel” is, originally, a Talmudic concept – not a biblical one – which delineates it as a territory that imposes extra religious obligations on Jews living in it, which Jews living outside of it are unburdened of

The concept of a land, of borders, of tribal division are all in the Bible.  For example, read Yigal Levin's article or that of Amos Frisch to see how deeply embedded in the Jewish people's consciousness and nationalist ethos was the concept of a "land" besides the various multitude of mitzvot intricately connected with the "land" (see here; and here).

But I will not confront this issue but rather give you my reactions to a few matters I caught in the first few pages of his book to illustrate how problematic it is.

a.  the book is dedicated to the residents of Sheikh Munis who were "uprooted long ago from the place I now live and work".  The village is located where Tel Aviv Universty now is.  In other words, Sand polarizes the Land of Ishmael to the Land of Israel even before we get to page one.

b.  he trivalizes and mocks on p. 15 his ancestors who came to the Land of Israel, specifically his paternal great-grandfather who moved from Lodz.

c.  in a footnote on p. 13, he correctly describes the Kotel Maaravi (Western Wall) as not being a wall of the Temple but errs when he writes that is was an "urban wall".  The Kotel was inside Jerusalem, not it's exterior.  If anything, it was exteriro to the Temple.

d. on page 14, describing the classic photograph of the three paratroopers at the Kotel (Sand himself says he participated in the conquest of Jerusalem in 1967 (fighting at Radar Hill and doing guard duty at the former Intercontinental Hotel (now the Seven Arches, more on that below), he notes that the middle one, the "Ashkenazi", is helmetless, "just like he was in a church"(!).

e.  on the bottom of p. 14, he writes that the Intercontinental was constructed "next to the old Jewish cemetery" at the top of Mount of Olives.  Not even ancient.  But he doesn't inform us until 15 lines later that the location of the hotel was a bit more of a problem.  And what he wrote about this is: "there was a rumored bandied about the old gravestones being used for building the hotel or at least the stones leading up to it".

Talk about fantasizing.  He is simply protecting his love for Arab nationalism.  Even if in 1967 he thought it was a "rumour", he could have corrected our impressions.  Tens of thousands of graves were desecrated, stones did become paveways, latrine covers, etc.  He couldn't provide the facts?  Even now?

f.  on page 16 he informs us of how he witnessed the beating of an elderly Arab taken in for investigation in Jericho while he was based there later on.  According to him, the man died as a rsult of beating.  Sand's reaction?  He vomited and returned to his post.  Nothing more.  He was afraid and "completely lost his senses", is his excuse.  But he wonders of the body was tossed near where the Children of Israel crosed the Jordan.

In other words, even his own failings as a human being are some how dumped on Jewish history, as if nothing is his responsibility but he has his myth about the Jewish pople and their/our history to relieve him of any obligation, personal or community.

He goes further.  The murder of the Arab is due to too much power which then corrupts but more - it evolved from a feeling of overlordship, first over people and then over land.   And, of course, you have the subtext of the book: to have feelings of ownership, sovereignty over something which is not real - like land - , a myth, is evil.

Poor Pivate Shlomo Sand.  Because he couldn't prevent, it seems, a murder due to the base desire of his fellow soldiers to steal, for after all, the Arab was rich, we know must suffer two books, the first denying there is a Jewish People and the second, that there is a Land of Israel.

g.  on top of page 18, he corrupts Jewish history, or continues his crusade to pervert it, by describing pre-1948 Zionism as the situation whereby a man jumps from a burning building and lands on a pedestrain.  The damage was unavoidable but also unintended.  Jews returning over 1800 centuries is reduced to a ... myth.  A sand in your eyes myth.

further down the page, Israel's critical security situation between 1948-1967, the Arab fedayeen and then the PLO, is glossed over when he writes quite plainly:

"since 1948, there resided in the deep mental level of the Israeli consciousness a sort of discontent with its narrow waist and Israel's very small area".  That resentment broke out, Sand suggests, in 1956, as if all of a sudden, due to some psychological crippling - and not Arab terror and a desire for a "second round", i.e., Israel's eradication - of an Israeli self-fault.

Just six observations up to page 16 (and the book begins on page 10) and you can see where this is going.

Sand in our Zionist face.

Oh, and while someone may have thrown some white powder at Sand:

The history professor said it was possible that his new book, " The Invention of the Land of Israel: From Holy Land to Homeland," might have been what caused someone to send him the letter. "Four years ago, when I published my previous book, 'The Invention of the Jewish People,' there were fewer crazy people than there are today," Sand told Haaretz.

which I surely condemn (my suggestion: either don't buy the book or don't attend his courses or picket them or conduct a sit-in), that doesn't does excuse the 'poison powder' that Sand has been sending us, and assisting the Arab disinventivity assault.

UPDATE (k/t=SPlaut)

Shlomo Sand, the pseudo-historian Stalinist from Tel Aviv University, claims he witnessed murder of a Palestinian and did nothing about it. (see web page for full interview)


One night in September 1967 he witnessed soldiers abusing an elderly Palestinian man who had been arrested with a large amount of dollars in his possession...

You were armed - why didn't you intervene? You could have fired in the air, summoned help.

"I lost my senses completely. I was afraid to intervene. The fact that I did not try to do anything to stop them depressed me for years and resonates within me to this day. That is why I write about in the book, because I still have guilt feelings. I am ashamed that I did not do anything. When I got back from reserve duty in Jericho, I went to see MK Meir Wilner [head of the Israel Communist Party]* and told him about it...

Why are you invoking this now?

"Like everyone, I too am a bit of a war criminal. That is part of my life. Some time after that reserve service in Jericho I became a daily activist in  Matzpen (the Maoist organization - SP) and distributed leaflets and sprayed slogans on walls at night and got beaten up. I was a member of the political fringe. I am not a victim, but my psychological distress started then, at the age of 20. The years in Matzpen gave me a great deal, and the political activity was a type of healing. I later left the organization heartbroken, and in despair sank into drugs. My partner and my best friend got into heroin. Maybe because I am Polish I did not follow them, and instead of heroin I took matriculation exams and entered university. The best friend committed suicide. Others left the country."



The Invention of the Land of Israel: From Holy Land to Homeland
by Shlomo Sand
Translated by Geremy Forman

Hardback, 304 pages, November 2012, $29.95 / £16.99 / $31.50CAN

Groundbreaking new work...What is a homeland, and when does it become a national territory? Why have so many people been willing to die for them throughout the twentieth century? What is the essence of the Promised Land?

Following the acclaimed and controversial Invention of the Jewish People, Shlomo Sand examines the mysterious sacred land that has become the site of the longest running national struggle of the twentieth-century. The Invention of the Land of Israel deconstructs the age-old legends surrounding the Holy Land and the prejudices that continue to suffocate it.

Sand's account dissects the concept of 'historical right' and tracks the invention of the modern geopolitical concept of the 'Land of Israel' by nineteenth cntury Evangelical Protestants and Jewish Zionists. This invention, he argues, not only facilitated the colonization of the Middle East and the establishment of the State of Israel, it is also what is threatening Israel's existence today.

- - -


What is a homeland, and when does a homeland become a national territory? Have homelands always existed, or are they products of relatively recent historical developments? How are their borders determined, and why have so many peoples been historically unwilling to cede even one inch of them? And perhaps most importantly, why have so many people been willing to die for them throughout the twentieth century? Close to 200 homelands have come into existence around the globe over the past two centuries, and others are still bound to emerge. What does the future hold for these territories?

This line of thinking raises many questions about the homeland of the Jewish people. Did the Bible or the Talmud prescribe a concept of homeland that was consistent with the modern day usage of the term? What is the essence of the Promised Land? Is it a land that is sacred to the three Western monotheistic religions, or is it the land of origin of world Jewry? Did devout Jewish followers of the Talmud truly aspire to emigrate there over a period of 2,000 years, and, if so, why do they not wish to live there today? And what about the country’s indigenous population, whom the concept of the Jewish homeland has transformed into civic sub-tenants in their own country? Do they have a right to continue living there, or is their stay only temporary? What are their chances of achieving self-sovereignty in their own homeland?

After critically examining the myth of the eternal existence of the Jewish people, Shlomo Sand turns his attention to the mysterious sacred land that has emerged as the territorial bone of contention in the longest running national struggle of the twentieth century. His new book, The Invention of the Land of Israel, deconstructs the age-old legends surrounding the Holy Land and the prejudices that continue to suffocate it. Sand’s account examines the fundamental meaning of the concept of ‘historical right’ and traces the ‘invention’ of the modern geopolitical concept of the ‘Land of Israel’ by nineteenth century Evangelical Protestants and Jewish Zionists. This national invention is not only what facilitated the colonization of the Middle East and the establishment of the State of Israel; it is also what is threatening the existence of the Jewish state today.


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