[Marxism] Two Talks by Shlomo Sand in NYC

Sebastian Budgen sebastian at amadeobordiga.u-net.com
Wed Oct 14 14:01:25 MDT 2009


TALK  BY  PROFESSOR  SHLOMO  SAND,
DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY,  UNIVERSITY  OF  TEL  AVIV, ON  HIS  NEWLY   
TRANSLATED  BOOK, THE  INVENTION  OF  THE  JEWISH  PEOPLE

(This may be the most important and most surprising book on Zionism,  
Israel and Judaism written in the last fifty years. Nothing in the  
Middle East looks the same after reading it. To whet your desire to  
attend the talk, I’ve appended a brief sketch of some of the major  
themes in the book at the end of this announcement. I’ve also booked a  
large hall for Sand’s talk (SEE BELOW), so please pass this  
announcement on to friends, students and colleagues who are (or should  
be) interested in these subjects………  Bertell Ollman)



BRECHT FORUM –
451  WEST  STREET  (BETWEEN BANK  AND  BETHUNE  STREETS,  THAT IS  ON  
THE CORNER OF WHAT WOULD BE ABOUT 12TH STREET AND THE WEST SIDE HIGHWAY)

DATE /  TIME  - THURSDAY,  OCTOBER 15  -  7:30 – 10:00 PM
(In Discussion with Professor Joel Kovel, Bard College, author of  
OVERCOMING ZIONISM)

-

MARXIST THEORY COLLOQUIUM AT NYU

DATE / TIME - FRIDAY, OCTOBER  16   -   4:15 – 6:15 PM
(Please note new date and later starting time)
PLACE  - MEYER HALL,  N.Y.U., 4 WASHINGTON PLACE (between West 4th  
Street and Waverly Place, just west of Broadway), Room 121.
(Please note new place)

SPEAKER  - PROFESSOR SHLOMO SAND
Sand is a much published professor in the Dept. of History at Tel Aviv  
University specializing in the history of ideas. His most recent book  
is THE INVENTION OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE.  It is an extremely scholarly,  
very original, and often shocking work – the title is meant literally  
– with profound implications for Zionism and the ongoing conflict  
between Israel and its neighbors. I can’t recall when last I – Bertell  
– learned so much about both nationalism and Zionism from any book. It  
was a best seller and caused a huge scandal when it appeared a couple  
of years ago in Israel and another scandal  when the French edition  
appeared last year. Sand will be in the U.S. for a week promoting the  
English edition of the book. For more, see reviews and interviews in  
English at <http//inventionofthejewishpeople.com/>.

TOPIC – “THE INVENTION OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE”


DON’T MISS THIS ONE!

*********MEDIA - Professor Sand has a few time slots available for  
interviews with the media  during his stay in New York (Oct. 15 – 18).  
Those of you in the media (or who have contacts in the media) who are  
interested in interviewing him, should write to Julie McCarroll, his  
editor at Verso Books at juliem at versobooks.com.

*******************  NYU  REQUIRES  A PHOTO  I.D.  TO GET INTO  ALL OF  
ITS BUILDINGS

BRIEF SKETCH OF SAND’S BOOK

THE INVENTION OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE  is divided into two parts. The  
first is a long section on the theory of nationalism, whose main  
characteristic, according to Sand, is the tendency to invent a past  
that suits the current needs and goals of the people in question. This  
is not a new idea (Benedict Anderson and Ernest Gellner have presented  
versions of it), but this is the best account of it that I have read.  
Second, there follows a much longer section on Zionism, Judaism and  
Israel in light of the earlier discussion of nationalism. Most of this  
long book is devoted to showing with a great deal of evidence and  
arguments from several different disciplines that most of Jewish  
history has been invented.

     The turning point is the supposed expulsion of the Jews from  
Palestine by the Romans after the destruction of the Second Temple in  
70 A.D. (apparently, there is no evidence for this; the Roman's never  
engaged in such mass expulsions; and most of the Jews in Palestine at  
the time were peasants living in the countryside, who would not be  
directly affected by the destruction of Jerusalem).

     This raises two key questions: 1) Where did the large Jewish  
populations that turn up later throughout the rest of the Middle East  
and Europe come from, if they were not descended from people who were  
expelled from Palestine by the Romans? Sand's answer is that most of  
them came from mass conversions of peoples to Judaism that occurred in  
at least three different places and times between the destruction of  
the Second Temple and the early modern period. (He also shows that  
some mass conversions of people to Judaism took place in Palestine  
even before the destruction of the Second Temple. So the practice of  
converting people, even large groups of people, to Judaism is not as  
unknown to the history of Judaism as is commonly believed.)

      Probably the biggest mass conversion took place in Khazaria, a  
Turkamen empire between the Caspian and the Black Sea between the 8th  
and 11th century A.D., which was destroyed in the 11th century by  
attacks from Russians, with most of its Jewish population migrating  
west into eastern Europe. Together with a somewhat later, smaller,  
more prosperous and more cultured Jewish migration from Western Europe  
through Germany, they became the future Jews of Poland, Russia,  
Hungary, etc.

       A second mass conversion in the period after the destruction of  
the Second Temple took place among several Berber tribes in North  
Africa in the 6th century A.D., though many conversions to Judaism  
occurred in and around what had been Carthage and other coastal towns  
in North Africa before that. When the Arabs brought Islam to these  
lands a century later, they showed their typical respect for the  
“people of the book” by not forcing them to adopt their religion.  
Then, when North African Muslims (not Arabs from Arabia) invaded Spain  
in 711 A.D., Jewish Berbers made up a good part of their army, and  
included at least one general. Many of them settled in Spain, and  
became the core of what we call the Spanish Jews. The third big  
conversion(s) occurred in Yemen, on the southern tip of the Arabian  
peninsula, which had a large number of Jews from very early on,  
including at least one Jewish king in the 6th century A.D., who tried  
to convert  his subjects to Judaism.

     Granted that some Jews already lived throughout the Middle East  
and Southern Europe before the destruction of the Second Temple - but  
if we add up all the mass conversions to Judaism that occurred after  
this event, it appears that the bulk of world Jewry from the early  
middle ages on were descended from people who never set foot in  
Palestine. Which raises, of course, the next key question - what  
happened to the Jews who were still in Palestine after the destruction  
of the Second Temple? Where did they go? Sand's answer is that they  
didn't go anywhere. They are today's Palestinians, most of whom  
converted to Islam in the early years of Islam's expansion into the  
rest of the Middle-East. These are not unsupported conjectures, for  
the great strength of Sand's book lies in the enormous wealth of  
evidence and careful, scholarly argumentation he offers for each of  
his claims.

      Where does all this leave the central idea that underlies the  
whole Zionist project - that Jews everywhere have not only a duty but  
a right to return to "their original homeland", Palestine? I can't  
think of a more fundamental  critique of Zionism and therefore of  
Israel too than the one found in Sand's book. No serious reader who is  
interested in Zionism or Israel – whatever their personal views  – can  
avoid being shaken up “big-time” by Sand’s impressive redrawing of the  
major religious and “racial” boundaries that are usually taken for  
granted in most discussion of these subjects.















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