Monday, September 08, 2008

A few of months ago there was a small kerfuffle when an absurd book, written by an Israeli professor of cinema and French history named Shlomo Zand, postulated that there is no Jewish people and no Jewish nation. No one took it the least bit seriously except for, unsurprisingly, Ha'aretz, which published a number of articles about it. The author has no expertise as an historian and the ideas in the book have been well-debunked elsewhere.

It was only a matter of time before the anti-Israel crowd would seize on this shoddy piece of pseudo-scholarship and use it to show the complete illegitimacy of Judaism, Zionism, Jewish history and any non-Arab in the Middle East.

For example, Gilad Atzmon just wrote a worshipful article about this book, and added his own layers of stupidity on top.

He quotes Zand in Ha'aretz and adds his own "proof":
In case you follow Zand’s line of thinking and happen to ask yourself, “when was the Jewish people invented?” Zand’s answer is rather simple. “At a certain stage in the 19th century, intellectuals of Jewish origin in Germany, influenced by the folk character of German nationalism, took upon themselves the task of inventing a people ‘retrospectively,’ out of a thirst to create a modern Jewish people.”

...It is an established fact that not a single Jewish history text had been written between the 1st century and early 19th century.
That last sentence seemed a bit too declarative to me, so I just looked a bit at Google Books for histories of Jews that predate the 19th century. A single counterexample should be enough to prove that the entire thesis is ridiculous, and, sure enough, I found it:

The History of the Jews: From Jesus Christ to the Present Time: Containing Their Antiquities, Their Religion, Their Rites, the Dispersion of the Ten Tribes in the East and the Persecutions this Nation Has Suffer'd in the West. Being a Supplement and Continuation of the History of Josephus
By Jacques Basnage, sieur de Beauval Jacques Basnage, Thomas Taylor, Pre-1801 Imprint Collection (Library of Congress)
Translated by Thomas Taylor, of Magdalen College Oxford Thomas Taylor
Published by Printed by T. Bever and B. Lintot [etc.], 1708
759 pages
Plus, a well-known and disputed work that still serves as a counter-example:

The Wonderful, and Most Deplorable History of the Later Times of the Jews: With the Destruction of the City of Jerusalem, which History Begins where the Holy Scriptures Do End
By ha-Levi Abraham ben David, Abraham ben David, Sebastian Münster, Peter Morwen, James Howell, J. S.
Published by Printed for W. Thackeray, and are to be sold by James Gilbertson at the Sun and Bible on London-Bridge, 1689
340 pages
This last example seems to be at least a partial translation of a book written in the tenth century.

And, finally:

The History of the Present Jews Throughout the World: Being an Ample Tho Succinct Account of Their Customs, Ceremonies, and Manner of Living, ... Translated from the Italian, Written by Leo Modena, ... To which are Subjoin'd Two Supplements, One Concerning the Samaritans, the Other of the Sect ...
By Leone Modena
Published by printed and sold by Edm. Powell, 1707
286 pages
Atzmon isn't the only anti-semite to seize on Zand as the latest savior of racist philosophy., for example, wasted no time quoting Tom Segev's review in Ha'aretz.

Of course, there are a myriad of other reasons to prove that both Zand and Atzmon have no idea what they are talking about, but this one just struck my fancy.


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