CounterPunch February 4, 2010
by Harry Clark
The fundamental myth of Zionism is the return of the Jewish people to its land. The sovereign people was conquered, and exiled far and wide, but remained aloof and united, inspired by the memory of its ancient sovereignty. In the late 19th century the people began its return, which culminated in the dramatic establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, fulfilling two millennia of longing. Tel Aviv University historian Shlomo Sand, in his remarkable book The Invention of the Jewish People, marshals past and present academic work to refute the Zionist historiography underlying this myth, and tells instead a story of a religious minority and its creed, waxing and waning through proselytizing and conversion, subject to the same social forces as any other religious minority.
Inspired by Zionist myth, Israeli Jews
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“know for a certainty that a Jewish nation has been in existence since Moses received the tablets of the law on Mount Sinai, and that they are its direct and exclusive descendants (except for the ten tribes, which are yet to be located). They are convinced that this nation “came out” of Egypt; conquered and settled the “Land of Israel”…They are also convinced that this nation was exiled, not once but twice, after its period of glory—after the fall of the First Temple in the sixth century BCE, and again after the fall of the Second Temple, in 70 CE…
“They believe that these people—their “nation,” which must be the most ancient—wandered in exile for nearly two thousand years and yet, despite this prolonged stay among the gentiles, managed to avoid integration with, or assimilation into, them…
“Then, at the end of the nineteenth century, they contend, rare circumstances combined to wake the ancient people from its long slumber and to prepare it for rejuvenation and return to its ancient homeland. And so the nation began to return, joyfully …
“…Some uninvited guests had, it is true, settled in this homeland, but since “the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion” for two millenia, the land belonged only to that people, and not to that handful without history who had merely stumbled upon it. Therefore the wars waged by the wandering nation in its conquest of the country were justified; the violent resistance of the local population was criminal; and it was only the (highly unbiblical) charity of the Jews that permitted these strangers to remain and dwell among and beside the nation, which had returned to its biblical language and wondrous land.”
HARRY CLARK can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A PDF of this article with notes is at http://sites.google.com/site/alandalusdoc/palestine/sand.pdf