Thursday, January 29, 2009
Invention of 'the Jewish people'
Controversial Bestseller Shakes
Foundation of Israeli State
What if the entire tale of the Jewish Diaspora is historically wrong?
What if the Palestinian Arabs who have lived for decades under the heel of the modern Israeli state are in fact descended from the very same 'children of Israel' described in the Old Testament? And what if most modern Israelis aren't descended from the ancient Israelites at all, but are actually a mix of Europeans, North Africans and others who didn't 'return' to the scrap of land we now call Israel and establish a new state following the attempt to exterminate them during World War II, but came in and forcefully displaced people whose ancestors had lived there for millennia?
What if the entire tale of the Jewish Diaspora -- the story recounted at Passover tables by Jews around the world every year detailing the ancient Jews' exile from Judea, the years spent wandering through the desert, their escape from the Pharaoh's clutches -- is all wrong?
That's the explosive thesis of When and How Was the Jewish People Invented?, a book by Tel Aviv University scholar Shlomo Zand (or Sand) that sent shockwaves across Israeli society when it was published last year. After 19 weeks on the Israeli best-seller list, the book is being translated into a dozen languages...
Zand's central argument is that the Romans didn't expel whole nations from their territories. Zand estimates that perhaps 10,000 ancient Judeans were vanquished during the Roman wars, and the remaining inhabitants of ancient Judea remained, converting to Islam and assimilating with their conquerors when Arabs subjugated the area. They became the progenitors of today's Palestinian Arabs, many of whom now live as refugees who were exiled from their homeland during the 20th century...
And if both groups in fact share common biblical ties, then it begs the question of why the entirety of what was Palestine under the British mandate should remain a refuge for people of one religion instead of being a country in which Jews and Arabs are guaranteed equal protection -- equal protection under the laws of a state whose legitimacy would never again be open to question.
Image source here.