the invention of the jewish people

December 25, 2009 § Leave a comment

thinking about the bombing of gaza by israel last year.

excerpted from colorlines

It may come as a surprise to find out that there were no histories of the Jews as a people written from the time of Josephus to the 19th century. Sand explains that’s because there is no Jewish people. It’s not a race, it’s a religion, one that has been adopted by various peoples throughout the Old World and just as often abandoned. Whatever the story, Sand makes a very strong case against the neo-biblical story of the Jews that has been used by both Christians and modern Jews, and forms the religious underpinning of Zionism. His telling of history can be summed up briefly:

• The Jews were not driven from Judea. The Romans executed exiled leaders of the revolts, but they didn’t deport populations – there or anywhere. Jews remained in the Near East and most eventually became either Christians or, after the eighth century, Muslims.

• The appearance of Jews throughout Europe since Roman times has not been the story of a single people driven to wander from place to place.

• The Jews, like the later Christians and Muslims, were a proselytizing religion, and large numbers of eastern Mediterraneans, North Africans and Europeans became Jews.

• Today’s Jews are an admixture of many peoples who chose to remain Jews. They are not direct descendants of Judeans or Israelites, and some of us may have no Middle Eastern blood at all.

Or, as Sand says, the harder we study the history, “the more we discover that there never was a secular ethnographic common denominator between Jewish believers in Asia, Africa and Europe. World Jewry had always been a major religious culture. Though consisting of various elements, it was not a strange, wandering nation.” That myth, as well as the Jews’ collective punishment for the crucifixion, was created in Medieval Europe.

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