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In 1939 World War 2 began and the German Nazi government could more openly carry out activities designed to kill off Jews and Judaism. In the same year, Sigmund Freud saw fit to publish his Moses and Monotheism, which proclaimed that far from the Jews being the People chosen of the one True God, Jewish monotheism was a knockoff of Egyptian monotheism and Moses was an Egyptian noble, not a Jew at all.

Think about it. The Jews were under siege and Freud figuratively was kicking out one of their major psychological supports: their pride in the fact that the Jews had been chosen to exemplify a way of living that balanced individual freedom and community cohesion, as a means to serve a Just and Loving God. For the non-religious cultural Jew, and for the non-practising Jew, the religious elements might be underplayed but there was pride that Jews over time had evolved a strong moral foundation for a life that encouraged harmony and gave people a sense of purpose in their lives. Either way, this belief instilled a sense of quiet pride in belonging to the Jewish people.

For someone who teased out subtle differences between apparently similar symptoms, it is curious that Dr. Freud ignored the rather large difference in concept between the Jew's two-way relationship between man and God and the Egyptian Akhenaten's insistence that He, Akhenaten, was God, the only God that the Egyptians should worship. Freud wrote that Moses wasn't just brought up Egyptian; he was Egyptian. An argument he adduced for this is that Moses -- actually Moth -- was the part of Egyptian names meaning child in the sense -- to use a Western analogy -- the family name Davidson is derived from son of David. This comes from the mouth of a Jew named Sigmund. Sigmund is a German name meaning victory or protection. To use Freud's reasoning, someone named Sigmund could not possibly be Jewish.

Jump almost a hundred years and we have a double improbability: first, the Jews have survived the German onslaught and many of them are living in the Jewish state; and, second, a History Professor at an Israeli university is so awed by this improbability that he doesn't just deny the Jews are the Chosen People, he denies they are a people at all. A very odd expression of gratitude that Judaism has survived and Israel -- now that it is moving past its Socialist beginnings -- has begun an extraordinary period of creative development in medicine, science and technology!

Freud wove together mythology and philosophy and spoke of the acting out of unconscious drives, not stuff that can be easily rebutted by mere facts. In his new book The Invention of the Jewish People, Shlomo Sand writes about some recent and not so recent historic events to bolster his claim that modern-day Jews are of recent origin and are not rooted in Biblical Israel. Various reviewers have pointed out that much of his "startling" arguments aren't new at all. Or, to put it another way, these arguments have been proven wrong many times in the past.

According to Sand, the myth about the existence of a Jewish people was necessary to justify 19th century Zionist ideology. Actually, Zionism is now what it has been the last several thousands of years: Jewish nationalism. But, given Sand's rejection of a Jewish state, it is perhaps necessary that he reject a Jewish Peoplehood. How can Jews talk about the Jewish love of Zion over the centuries and the sacrifices Jews have made to maintain contact with their homeland, if they never were a Jewish nation?

Sand's allegiance to his Communist upbringing shows up in his use of an analogy currently fashionable among the Pro-Palestinian troops: German is to Jew as Jew is to Palestinian Arab. In a recent interview in the BBC's 'Start the Week' program, he talked with contempt about Zionist historians, stressing -- unnecessarily -- that he is not one.

His politics seem often to override historical fact. Sand says the Palestinian Arabs are the true descendents of the Hebrews of the Bible, not the Jews; hence the Land of the ancient Israelities is theirs. It is surprising that a historian would ignore what is generally recognized, i.e., most of the the present-day "Palestinians" came to Western Palestine from Egypt and Syria and North Africa, etc., after 1900 to what was then southern Syria and part of the Ottoman Empire. They were attracted by the Zionist success in developing industry and agriculture there, and perhaps also by the Jewish installation of medical facilities and sanitation. By the 1930s the British reneged on their obligation to encourage Jewish immigration according to the League of Nation Mandate for Palestine. On the other hand, they did encourage unhindered Arab entry to Mandated Palestine. The fact that many of the "Palestinians" are newcomers is also demonstrated by the unique status of refugees accorded only to the "Palestinians. To be a Palestinian refugee it was enough "to live in Palestine two years before 1948."

The European Union and the American State Department would happily destroy Jewish Israel to ensure a viable Palestinian State, even if the Palestinian Arabs are not a venerable people. Sand apparently respects ancient rights. He writes as if showing that the history of the Jewish state is not longer than that of many recently created states makes it OK to transfer control of the Jewish state to the Palestinian Arabs.

At the BBC, he annnounced that the events described in the Bible are not facts but mythological events, mobilized by the Zionists to justify Zionism. And that is why he was forced from the age of seven to study the bible in Israeli schools. (Now that is child abuse. It's a shame he wasn't living in Ramallah or Gaza City, where he could have fun timing himself against his classmates in who could strap on the explosion belt the fastest.) In point of fact, it is remarkable to what extent modern archaeology provides context for many of the biblical events: the fit of architecture and housing sites; the confirmation of how people lived and dressed and ate and prayed; and the correlation of tel evidence to periods in which these sites were inhabitated or not. Has he never asked himself why Arabs behave as convinced believers that the Jews own Israel? Why else do they work so hard to destroy the historical and archaeological evidence at the Temple Mount, at the Tomb of Joseph and at Eliezar's Tomb? By these destructive acts, they affirm Jewish history in the Land of Israel. True, he is a fellow traveler in this denial of Jewish history. But it is more likely his isn't imitating their convoluted inverse denial. More likely his is a simple affirmation of the Communist line.

THE MAIN THESIS IS THAT THERE WAS NO EXILE OF JEWS BY ROME 2000 YEARS AGO. In one sense, he is quite right, because some Jews stayed through thin and downright awful through the centuries. But of course, that isn't what he means. In fact, since he dismissed the whole bible as a historical document, it means that Babylonian Jews and other communities of Jews in the Middle East (say in Yemen or Iraq) were as much descendents of converts as were other Jews all over the world. So one wonders: if Jews were never exiled, how did they succeed in converting so many groups of people all over the globe? Through the internet? or perhaps through the telephone? Did such high tech devices exist during the Babylonian and Roman exiles? Did traveler Jews have a magic power of persuasion? Was there a Jewish conspiracy to convert the world? How did this wide spread conversion of gentiles to Jews get started in the first place in the absence of exiled Jews?

Admittedly, we can't help expressing some of the contempt we feel for grandiose statements in which implementation procedures are not spelled out. Details are important especially when Sand is postulating that Judaism developed in multiple sites almost de novo. Procedures need to be spelled out. Given his thesis, did Judaism spring up miraculously in various spots without assistance or is it that self-taught proselytes were, in a short time, capable of carrying out a fairly complex style of living. The mother of one of us (Bernice) used to say that anyone who wants to know how Jews exercised their minds and increased their brainpower should watch a group of women trying to clean up after the Sabbath meal where there were lots of guests and the women forgot to precut wrappers and don't have enough food containers.

According to Sand all those groups known the world over by the name "Jew" are all -- or almost all -- just converts (e.g., the Kuzars in the Crimea, the Berbers in North Africa), which would argue for a high degree of active proselytizing. It would be more convincing were he to have some estimates of how many supervisory and middle management Rabbis it would take to convert the natives in so very many separated isolated pockets of the globe. And how many Yeshivot would it take to train proselytizers sufficiently knowledgeable to handle the diverse and perhaps unusual questions a potential convert might ask? And how many trainers would it take so that one would have more than a skeleton staff to train a constant stream of pupils both in Torah and in the physical demands it would take to carry the love of Judaism to all these potential converts. After all, Judaism has the disadvantage that it takes actual knowledge and a major change of life style to become a Jew. Unlike Islam, it is insufficient to mumble you want to be a Jew a couple of times.

Speaking of the Kuzari (Khazars), this group is often accused of being the progenitors of the Jews of Eastern Europe, England and America. Arthur Koestler popularized it in a book called The Thirteenth Tribe. There is no argument that many of the Kuzari, especially the upper classes, did convert to Judaism. The issue is how much of a change did it make in the gene pool that became the Jews of Europe. The notion that these Jews descend from the Khazarim and not from Middle East ancestors has since been discredited by DNA evidence -- although, admittedly, the news seems not to have gotten to the Jewish and Islamic equivalents of those that comment in the Stormfront website forums. Different DNA studies indicate Jews everywhere in the Diaspora share an "israelite" gene. A study of Cohanim -- Jews whose family name is a variant of Cohan indicates that over the generations, Cohanim fathers have passed a specific DNA pattern on to their sons. Some 50% of Cohanim, Sephardic and Ashkenazic, have a particular set of genetic markers on their Y chromosome. By tracking small mutations that occur in the DNA, we can track back in time to the common ancestor. It is estimated that was some 3000 years ago -- about the time the Aaron was anointed high priest by Moses. We are not saying that the pattern isn't occasionally found in other groups, for the usual reasons of rape, adultery, conversion and intermarriage. It's the statistical preponderance that is of interest.

We can approach this from another direction. Currently, we are finding secret Jews in unexpected quarters -- in India, in China, in South America, in Africa. They show evidence of having sustained large portions of a Jewish way of life that has regulations about specific behavior patterns in a variety of different situations. In addition, there is need for literacy, not a feature of every society, even today. These are not things that can be taught and restructured in a couple of days. Yet, if they were proselytes, they must have had rigorous training because they maintained both ritual procedure and psychological-attitudinal respect for the mores and morals that keep communities Jewish over hundreds of years. As further evidence, consider that when Marranos, say, were forced to adopt a Catholic lifestyle, the proper way to behave was so ingrained that in some cases they maintained rituals over hundreds of years even when they no longer understood their meaning -- on Friday night, turning the statue of the Virgin Mary to the wall, lighting candles on what should have been a workday, not calling the priest when a relative was dead until the family had said its own prayers, having special bread on certain days and no bread around Easter time.

Interesting, the more we think about it, the harder it gets to see how some unguided or minimally-guided gentiles created a Jewish community. There are many Jews all over the globe with the name of Levi (or names derived from Levi such as Levine, Levitt, Levinsky, Lewie), and the name Cohen and its variants may not be as common as Smith and Green, but it's right up there in numbers. Were it not for the DNA evidence, it would be in the realm of possibility that however they learned of the destroyed Temple in Jerusalem, they appreciated the importance of the services rendered by the Levi'im and the Cohanim and in their ignorance saw no problem in taking these names for themselves. In a world where the Arabs say that there was no Jewish temple in Jerusalem, despite the mass of archaeological evidence, maybe we've become numb to every absurd claim. But we rather think such arrogance is not associated with religious newbies.

Sand contends that there is no blood and racial relation between the various groups of people who are called Jews. For practical purposes, this means that it is not enough to teach proselytes the Judaic way of life. It means the proselytizers need more than knowledge of Judaism. The particulars of the separate cultures also have to be considered. The various quirks and cultural idioms and what constitutes proper and improper behavior have also to be understood. How and where was this done? It sounds like a very big operation. How is it that we have no information on it? We don't even have evidence that we have no evidence.

There is another problem to do-it-yourself Judaism. In most places, Christian and Muslim, it behoove the Jew to keep a low profile, which of course led to accusations that Jews kept themselves apart -- Am Levada Yishkon -- but, on the other hand, it spared them the sometimes violent reactions to their keeping a high profile. But it cuts down on mobility, which is essential if you're going to get around to talking to potential converts.

Jews excluded themselves and they were obliged to exclude themselves by the surrounding gentiles. In fact they were not always, or even often, the instigators of their separateness. The yellow badge was not invented by the Nazis but was used for centuries in Arab countries to label the Jews as second class beings. It was intended as an easily recognizable icon, in case some slow-witted Muslim didn't recognize the Jew was a Jew, and the Muslim did, after all, have an obligation to show Jews what a pity it was they didn't become Muslims. The Jews in the diaspora constituted secluded cohesive groups and rarely married outside their community. This may have been because they learned by bitter experience that otherwise dull and illiterate gentiles became positively creative when it came to inventing interesting details for new blood libels. It may have been because the Jew who had rejected the community of Israel was the first to malign his old community. It may have been because the Catholic Church, once it became powerful in Rome, essentially told the Rabbis that if they attempted to convert the gentile, the Church would destroy Judaism.

Admittedly, Jews had in ancient times been strong proselytizers, starting in biblical times. And the Word shall go out of Jerusalem, we still sing. A prominent example was the strong and ancient Jewish community in Rome in the Second Temple period. Their family life and decent behavior attracted Romans disgusted by the decay of Roman morals. No one threatened to destroy the community if it invited gentiles to join their community. It is said that Jews, including proselytes, made up 10% or more of the Roman empire. But, actually, that isn't a fact that is useful to Sand, is it? According to Sand, there was a disconnect between the Jews of the Roman Empire and their adherents and later-day Jews.

After the breakup of the Roman Empire, and after proselytizing by Jews was harshly restricted by the Christian Church and later by Islam, the rabbis appear to have internalized the ban on proselytizing. They began making it difficult for non-Jews to become Jews by conversion. Only more recently with the advent of the 'reform' streams of Judaism, this reluctance to accept non-Jews into the Jewish community has been relaxed, but to a minor extent. So in view of this reluctance, either inbred or learned, it is hard to imagine that Jews in the diaspora are the result of conversion of gentiles, as the learned professor claims.

Here's another question. If the Jews in the disapora did not originate in the Land of Israel, what became of the Jews that were not slaughtered or died of starvation after the Roman distruction of their country? Prof. Sand's answer is that the "Palestinians" of today are largely Jews who converted to Judaism and then, when Islam conquered the region, to Islam. But this does not make sense on two grounds.

Firstly, Jews were known to be very stubborn in their tenacity to hold to Judaism. Remember the story about Rabbi Akiva who was tortured with 40 Iron combs for refusing to renounce Judaism. So mass conversion to Islam by Jews after the Muslim conquest is not a certainty. Does Sand know the proportion of those who converted, those who settled for dhimmi hood to keep their own values, those who left for other Muslim countries or to Europe, those who were slaughtered? Handwaving the details, even if the pro-Palestinian media echoes your assertions, isn't history. If they left, why didn't other convert pools spring up? If they stayed, why don't we have records as we do for many if not most of the Jewish groups that lived in Jerusalem and Hebron and Safad and in the ordinary towns?

Secondly, all travelers to what the Romans called Palestina, especially in the 16th to 19th centuries, reported that the country was very poor, unproductive, unsanitary and sparsely populated. Over the centuries, the area had fallen on hard times. There were few people in the whole of what was called Mandated Palestine after World War 1, whether Jew, Circassian, Bedouin, Fellahin, Egyptian, etc. So, did these Islamic Jews of Palestine leave? Disappear? And if they left, was it necessary for them to retain their allegiance to Islam for safety sake? Why didn't they pop up elsewhere? For a historian, Sand seems peculiarly adverse to providing cogent details.

CONSIDERING THE PROBLEMS OF ACCOUNTING FOR WHY SPONTANEOUS OUTBREAKS OF JUDAISM IN DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE GLOBE are all more or less recognizably Jewish, it seems almost petty to bring up collateral problems for Sand's thesis. The Land of Israel and the Diaspora abound in historical relics demonstrating the continuity of real historical ethnic Jews. The artifacts are always physically and psychologically connected with the Jewish homeland. They feel right. They don't make us feel pity for the wannebee or feel embarrased for the tried-hard-but-didn't-have-a-clue to how to be Jewish. Consider for example the Geniza documents from Cairo which are now in the collection of Cambridge University. They go back a thousand years and suggest that Jewish communities spread all over the Mediterranean basin. The Geniza papers didn't just deal with state matters. There are letters from ordinary men away from home on business maintaining contact with family back home -- as example, the letter from a Jew on business in Alexandria writes his wife back home in Samaria with advise on how to deal with a family matter. The Geniza material gives a sense of a cohesive authentic Jewish community spread over these countries including what was and is again Israel, Would Sand say these documents refer to people who wove Judaism in with their previous customs, rather like the Catholic natives of Africa?

The evidence from the Geniza is not the only thing Sand chooses to ignore. The Jews were driven out of from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492. Were they all converts? Consider the Titus Arch in Rome. It is an historical relic 2000 years old. It has engraved on it a procession of Jews carrying the Menora from the Temple. If Jews were not driven from Jerusalem, exiled by Rome in this period, how came this Titus Arch to be there? The engraved picture is a victory parade in Rome with the humiliated Jews being paraded. Such a triumphal arch in Rome had to signify a major event in the Roman empire. The various Roman coins from the period have a humiliated captive Jew engraved on them (bat Zion hashevuya). Were Titus Arch and the various coins planted by the sinister Zionist Jews in the 19th century? Will these religious Jews stop at nothing?

Despite all these obvious problems with his point of view, Sand is quite explicit about the lack of justification for the existence of Israel as a Jewish state: there is no ethnic Jewish people. Period. End of argument. For him, it is a absolutely correct conclusion that the "Jews" do not originate in ancient Judea and Samaria. Somehow the Torah magically appeared and multiple copies of it look like the Torah written in ancient times. By Jove, perhaps we finally have evidence of time travel and don't know it.

Even Hitler wanted to kill all Jews on the basis of their common ethnicity -- it didn't occur to him to erase Judaism because it didn't come from Adam and Eve. If Sand is right, if the "Jews" the world over are not an ethnic nation that originated in Israel with holy cities in Jerusalem, Hebron and Safad and TIberius, with a common history of 4500 years, a history which includes the Roman exile and other experiences recorded in the documents of a number of (hostile) nations, it would mean that modern Zionism and Aliya (immigrating to Israel) is not a homecoming. Sand would have it that a lack of historic connection would deprive Israel of its rationale as a Jewish state, even though it would still be a state of Jews. It would reinforce the main Arab argument that the Jews are just a religion but not an ethnic nation with a long history. But this is a contrary-to-fact condition. Jews are a family-community-people, with a religion based on its contract to celebrate the knowledge that there is but one God. Judaism is unique in that it is both a religion and a nation based in the Land of Israel and stretching over many other lands for thousands of years. No other group of people has such a long national, cultural, religious and cohesive history.

To think of Jews as a set of independent cohorts, loosely connected by time travelers and/or occasional visits by converts constituting other Jewish groups is rather like the biological idea that life sprung up with its commonalities simultaneously and independently in various places, with no common guidance from some strong anchoring cause or situation. From this perspective, denial of the Jewish ethnicity and nationhood rooted in the Jewish homeland is in the same category as Holocaust denial. We would treat it with the same contempt we'd give Holocaust denial if it weren't so absurd.

Consider the archeological and written evidence over centuries. Contemplate the Jewish graveyards around the world. Think about music that has stayed the same for uncounted years and psalms that maintain their integrity though they are reset to the music of particular regions and distributed widely as Jews visit other communities. Think about the generations it takes to produce the authentic Jewish patina, that sense of family that lets you recognize a landsman in the oddly dressed Eastern European or in the Brit in full regalia. One of us (Yoram) recalls his mother saying that she could recognize the Falasha -- Ethiopian Jews -- as Jewish, and distinct from the other black Ethiopians, just by the look in their eyes. In fact this sense of family -- that mix of connection, recurrent physical features, common attitudes, common history, and a similar emphasis on what qualities of the person are to be valued -- is such a strong feature of Judaism that we can only laugh at the absurdity of T.V. dramas where Nazis after the War hide out in observent Jewish communities and pretend to be very religious Jews. Of course, gentiles convert. And of course, very many of them become deeply and authentically religious, Jews to be emulated. But it takes time. And models to observe. And people to talk to to iron out seeming inconsistencies and confusing details and sequences and methods and criteria. When there's a large Jewish community, converts can absorb by doing and being. But you don't go from kindergarden to graduate school overnight. It takes time. And effort.

Ask yourself what a horrendous -- and pointless -- job it would be to fake the enormous multiplicity of details we have available that demonstrate the presence of a Jewish people that lost its homeland, wandered around the world for two thousand years and then was miraculously given the opportunity to redeem its land. Perhaps Sand would be better-advised to step through the numerous details and procedures it takes a working man to get a single job done properly -- admittedly a hard thing for a hand-waving academic to do. From that, extrapolate the sorts of mechanisms it would take to to create a multi-sited Jewish community from an alien group, even with a small number of actual Jews trying hard to take the place of authentic authorities and Torah scholars.

On the BBC, Sand said when he lectures to Arab audiences he describes the creation of Israel as a rape! Clearly, he really believes his own version of the Protocols of the Converted Elders of Zion. Still and all, if he also imagines himself a historian and not just a propagandist, we suggest Sand go on a quest for real evidence, rather than speaking authoritatively from the bottom of his Communist soul, a rather poor source for discovering truth.

Yoram Shifftan has published many articles on Israeli hasbara, in publications such as Ha'aretz, Ma'ariv, Hatzofeh, Hamodia and Ha'Uma. He has also presented a special series about hasbara on Arutz-7 radio. His articles in Think-Israel have been on hasbara and the legal basis of Israel ownership of Biblical Israel. Bernice Lipkin is editor of Think-Israel.


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