If the Jewish people are an invention, maybe the holocaust is an invention, too
Shlomo Sand clearly intended his book as an explosive device, a big bang demolishing the myths of Jewishness on which both communal identity and Israeli state policies rest.
His hostile critics react as if it were a deadly bomb, a kind of literary-political terrorist attack . . . . .
. . . . . Almost none of those assailants, naturally, has any discernible expertise in any of the fields Sand touches on. Barely less depressing is the extent to which responses are so utterly predictable according to the critic's political views, so evidently fixed in advance and unaltered by any actual reading.
Conventional ideas about Jewishness hold that Jews are a single ethnic group (or nationality) with substantial shared biological ancestry going back to the biblical kingdom of Judea, from which they were exiled in waves to scatter widely across the Mediterranean world, then far beyond. The core of Sand's historical case is that the whole story is a myth: a very elaborate fiction, supported by hordes of eminent scholars, which became foundational and essential for the state of Israel, but mostly a very recent fabrication without much evidence. Ironically, the idea of the Jews as quintessential people of exile and dispersal was in origin a specifically Christian and even anti-Semitic story: displacement as a punishment for denying Jesus. Yet it was enthusiastically adopted by pioneer 19th-century Jewish historians, partly under the influence of Germanic nationalism, and then by the founders of Zionism.
Sand's counter-story is that very few of those now calling themselves Jews have any connection other than the religious to ancient Levantine Jewish kingdoms. The latter, if they existed at all, were anyway small, disunited and unimportant: the biblical story of a mighty kingdom of David is another groundless myth composed long after the event. Sand argues that the rapid growth of Jewish communities in the Roman Mediterranean world, and later in North Africa, Arabia and south-central Asia, came from mass conversion, not dispersal out of Palestine. Probably the most important wave of conversion was among the Khazars of Russia's Volga-Don steppe. European or Ashkenazi Jews – later the main basis both for America's or Britain's Jewish populations and for Israel's foundation – are mainly descended from them.
No doubt that phony jerk Abe Foxman of the ADL is among the book's biggest critics.
If the Jewish people are an invention, maybe the Jewish holocaust -- or, at least, a "systematic" Jewish holocaust -- is an invention, too. I have long contended that a "systematic" Jewish holocaust was impossible because the Nazis had no objective and reliable ways of identifying Jews and non-Jews. Ashkenazi Jews have been found to have some genetic similarities, and the Tay-Sachs disease, for example, is a genetic disease that is more prevalent among Ashkenazi Jews (as well as French Canadians). But genetic testing was not available to the Nazis.