Mental disorders of the academic Left

Prof. Shlomo ZandOne of the favorite themes of Neo-Nazis is that today’s Ashkenazi Jews aren’t Jews, that is, descendants of the inhabitants of ancient Judea, but rather descended from the Khazars, Caucasian nomads that converted to Judaism around the 7th century (some of them converted to Christianity and Islam too, but never mind).

Now an Israeli scholar, Shlomo Zand (or Sand) claims that Sephardic Jews aren’t Jews either, but descended from various North African tribes.

Zand is not a neo-Nazi, and he even admits that his ‘findings’ don’t reflect on the legitimacy of the State of Israel. However, since he believes that “the character of the State of Israel undermines it in a much more serious way”, and also that “the chances that the Palestinians are descendants of the ancient Judaic people are much greater than the chances that you or I are its descendants”, one can see that he is happy to provide ammunition to those who want an ideological foundation for their hoped-for destruction of Israel.

Zand, a historian who has heretofore written about 20th-century France, based his work on modern “studies that present unorthodox views of the origins of the Jews” (I can imagine). For a taste of the absurdity of his argument, here’s how the Jewish People was ‘invented’:

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. From historian Heinrich Graetz on, Jewish historians began to draw the history of Judaism as the history of a nation that had been a kingdom, became a wandering people and ultimately turned around and went back to its birthplace.

Of course the literature of the Jewish People goes back to long before this period. So Zand is apparently saying that at some point an influx of foreign DNA made the Jewish People not the the Jewish People, and therefore — knowing that they had been adulterated and therefore lost their birthright — they conspired to pretend that they were.

Even if we grant his genealogical point (which I don’t), certainly the ‘peoplehood’ of the Jews rests in culture and spirit and not physical DNA!

It’s argued that there is genetic evidence that links both Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews to the Middle East. I’m not qualified to evaluate it, of course, but most importantly, even if many Jews were descended from converts, who cares?

I could similarly argue that many Palestinian Arabs are descended from Egyptians that came with Muhammad Ali in the early part of the 19th Century, or Syrians who migrated to Palestine when the end of Ottoman rule and Jewish development improved the regional economy. I could talk about how nobody ever heard of the ‘Palestinian people’ until 1967. But this, too, would be irrelevant.

What is relevant is that the legitimacy of the Jewish state of Israel is not dependent on the presence of converts in the genealogy of the Jews. It is not dependent on Jewish provenance in biblical times, just as it is not justified by the Holocaust.

The Early Zionists purchased land legally, often paying exorbitant prices for poor land which they then improved by draining swamps and so forth. The yishuv (pre-state Jewish settlement) built all the institutions that would become the state.

The Jewish state received international sanction in 1947 and was kept through a series of defensive wars, which in fact are still ongoing. Israel is no less ‘legitimate’ than Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia which were created at about the same time — and possibly more so, due to the UN Partition Resolution, and the fact that Israel is a democracy.

Although religious Jews (and many Christians) believe that the Jews were given the Land as described in the Torah, there is a solid secular foundation for the state as well.

Zand’s work appears to be another manifestation of mental disorder in the extreme academic Left in Israel, similar to the completely insane thesis that the IDF’s failure to rape Arab women is a racist phenomenon.

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3 Responses to “Mental disorders of the academic Left”

  1. Chaya says:

    I have to disagree. It isn’t enough that we bought land. For 2,000 years Jews have prayed for the restoration of Eretz Yisrael and towards Jerusalem. Without this, we had no right to the Land. All this stuff about Khazars and what this so-called historian, Zand, wrote doesn’t interest me. At least when they say that Ashkenaz Jews aren’t descended from those who came from Judea, they acknowledge that the Jews came from Judea!! And so what if today’s Sephardi/Mizrachi Jews came from locals? Didn’t Ruth join herself with our people?

  2. Vic Rosenthal says:

    I did not intend to suggest that the motivation of religious Jews isn’t a powerful argument, for religious Jews and some Christians. But it doesn’t cut any ice with the secular and Muslim world.

    My point was that there is also a good secular argument for Israel’s legitimacy — that we didn’t steal the land, that we rebuilt it, and that there is international sanction for the state. Everyone in the world, regardless of what they think about Jews or Judaism, regardless even of what they think about the history of the Jews — and I think Zand is simply crazy from a historical point of view — has to accept that.

    For a more complete refutation of Zand’s thesis, see Ami Isseroff’s article here.

  3. Vic Rosenthal says:

    The following comment is by Kevin Brook:

    It is a shame that Shlomo Zand’s book is getting all this media and blog attention. His ideas are nothing new, but copied from Paul Wexler and Arthur Koestler. I just read that Zand’s work will be published in French and Arabic. So his distortions will get an even greater audience.

    But there is something else people can read:

    In the Second Edition of my book “The Jews of Khazaria” (2006) I have a large chapter (10) on the early history of Ashkenazic Jews, proving that the Slavs and Khazars are not the primary ancestral element. I discussed all the genetic evidence which suggests that between 60 and 80 percent of Ashkenazic ancestry comes from Israelites. I also have an appendix discussing the other examples Zand mentioned, like converts among the Berbers and Yemenites, and the evidence I gathered there doesn’t prove that the Sephardic Jews are mostly converts either.

    It is startling to hear that Zand’s book does not address genetic evidence
    at all. The first edition of my book was written in 1998, before most of the genetic studies were released, but the second edition discusses the studies published up to the start of 2006 including the ones connecting Jews with Samaritans, and Jews with Kurds, and Jews with Palestinians and Lebanese.

    Zand does not have the intellectual honesty that I do if he wants to deny that the genetic studies are valid in interviews, when he has no idea what he is talking about, and when his biases blind him. Has he even read the genetic studies? As historians, we have to evaluate all new evidence that comes in.

    Zand and Wexler prove that having a professorship and a Ph.D. is no guarantee of the ability to do correct and objective historical research.

    Kevin Brook