Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cook discovers Sand

Jonathan Cook, writing for an Abu Dhabi news site, discovers crackpot Shlomo Sand, who argues that modern Jews have no connection to ancient Israel largely based on an expanded version of the long-discredited (but much beloved by anti-Semites) Khazar theory of the origins of Ashkenazi Jews:
Jews travelled to other regions seeking converts, particularly in Yemen and among the Berber tribes of North Africa. Centuries later, the people of the Khazar kingdom in what is today south Russia, would convert en masse to Judaism, becoming the genesis of the Ashkenazi Jews of central and eastern Europe.

Dr Sand pointed to the strange state of denial in which most Israelis live, noting that papers offered extensive coverage recently to the discovery of the capital of the Khazar kingdom next to the Caspian Sea. Ynet, the website of Israel’s most popular newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, headlined the story: "Russian archaeologists find long-lost Jewish capital." And yet none of the papers, he added, had considered the significance of this find to standard accounts of Jewish history.
And what is that significance exactly? Nobody doubts the Khazars existed, but the notion that their existence accounts for the existence of Ashkenazi Jews doesn't seem to rest on any of that evidence thingy. Here is Cook approvingly quoting Sand on the subject of Zionism and Jerusalem:
"Zionism changed the idea of Jerusalem. Before, the holy places were seen as places to long for, not to be lived in. For 2,000 years Jews stayed away from Jerusalem not because they could not return but because their religion forbade them from returning until the messiah came."
Actually, Jews became the majority population in Jerusalem once more around 1840, some 40 years before the first Zionist arrivals. Not even the Neturei Karta, proponents of a take on Judaism and the Holy Land which is being mangled here, have ever argued that Jews are supposed to "stay away" from Jerusalem. Cook, the sort of Journalist who writes anti-Israel articles for the Guardian, reports that Tom Segev finds Sand's book to be "fascinating and challenging." That's enough to make Cook start swallowing warmed-over Arthur Koestler, who is probably a much more entertaining writer than Sand will end up being when the inevitable English translation comes. I know about Cook's article because it was picked up by Electronic Intifada and then MPAC-UK. Need I say more?

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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