The Jewish Daily Forward discusses Sand’s book and genetic research

by admin on August 12, 2010

Deborah Nussbaum Cohen reviews Sand’s book for the Jewish Daily Forward in an article entitled “The Ties That Bind: As Scientists Explore the Genetic Links Between Jewish Populations, Rabbis and Thinkers Wrestle With the Question of What This Means for Jewish Identity.”

Reporting on the two recent Jewish population genetics studies, New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade went so far as to argue that their findings “refute the suggestion made last year by the historian Shlomo Sand in his book ‘The Invention of the Jewish People’ that Jews have no common origin but are a miscellany of people in Europe and Central Asia who converted to Judaism at various times.”

Sand, however, was dismissive of the significance of the new genetic research. “It is a pity and sad that a people have to prove that it is a people by genetics and not by a secular culture,” Sand wrote in an e-mail to the Forward. “The new ‘discoveries’ are not different from the old ones.”

While Sand, who is known for his far-left views, occupies the political margins, many more mainstream figures also believe that genetics should have no bearing on Jewish peoplehood. “It can point to some interesting data about Jewish marriage patterns and perhaps tell us something about historical patterns of Jewish settlement, but it doesn’t tell us anything about Jewish peoplehood,” said Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz, president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

The full article is available here

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard September 26, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Sand is fountain of vile Orwellian doublespeak. One of the central premises of his book is that Jews aren’t a people because, allegedly, they have no common genetic origin. Now he ridicules people who care about genetic origins of nations? How dumb does he think we are?

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Behruz November 19, 2010 at 9:49 am

Dear Professor Sand,

I have tried to edit Wikipedia page about you and your book, but my edits always get cleaned. I am not good at wiki, so decided to write to you.

There is a genetic research that concludes that Jewish people have more in common with the Turks, Armenians, Kurds, etc than with Arab Palestinians. Thus, concluding that most modern Jews are descendants of the Khazar people of the Turkic origin.

The research has been deleted for The Jerusalem Post, but I have a copy and can e-mail you if you write to my account.

It can still be viewed in Google’s cache.

Genetics and the Jewish identity
Feb. 11, 2008

Ariel Barrera-Haddad January 7, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Dear Sir

I´m from Cartagena Colombia, I belong for the Colombian-Arab Association, your book is a masterpiece, you have got I search all the time about this myte called Jewish or Hebrew people, but I say to the Zionist don´t worry be happy, anyway Askhenazi or Yiddish are a people, but they have to start to resign to power in palestine.

Felix Vainglory February 12, 2011 at 5:49 pm

@Richard: The only thing “Orwellian” here is your abysmal reading comprehension.

The premise of the book is that world Jewry does not constitute a “people” in the way the Zionist deceivers claim. Namely, that “Jews” are a genetically identifiable group beyond some alleles shared by Jews descended in part from the Khazari Turkic tribes.

He “ridicules” people who care about genetic origins of “nations” (especially the Zionist effort to prove such a thing with world Jewry) because the whole business is patently ridiculous considering the miscegenation and past proselytizing that has occurred in the history of the Jewish religious tradition.

And no one except blatant racists and fools would try to establish the “peoplehood” of a “nation” on such a metric.

I guess you learned nothing from Hitler and the debunked Nazi imbecilities with scientific “Aryanism”.

Same old nonsense, different stage. “blood and soil”.

Stupid business, this.

A. Assayag March 12, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Dear Felix Vainglory,
Sand wrote a book in which he said that the Jews are not a people because they share no common origins (in spite of the fact that genetic research prove the opposite).
Now, let’s be clear.
No one says that what makes people Jewish is their biological origins. Sand doesn’t is lying when he says that zionists believe that what is at the core of the Jewish identity is a so-called biological connection. Even if those tests had proven that modern Jews share no common origins, it would not change anything to the fact that they are a people.
Nonetheless, it is impossible to undermine the results of serious biological research.
Unlike what Shlomo Sand says, these tests do not say that Jews are a separate biological group.
This is another distortion.
These research simply say that it is possible to prove that modern Jews share PARTLY (NOT EXCLUSIVELY) common ancestors. However, these tests also prove that Jews are not a race. They actually reaveal that there has been a lot of population admixtures among the ancestors of modern Jews, (which proves that Jews are not a race).
These tests also prove that ALL the human beings are mixed and that we all share at different levels common origins.
I really don’t see why it would be racist to try to figure out if modern Jews share common origins.
Similar tests were carried out among African-Americans who wanted to know from what parts of Africa their ancestors came from.
Those tests have also proven that blue-eyed people share a common ancestor that lived around 10,000 years ago (which proves that all human being are mixed, since blue-eyed people live all over the world).
Since DNA can tell you from what part of the world your ancestors came from, it is natural that people use this tool to figure that out.
These tests just reveal at what extent people share common ancestors (if it’s their grandparents, their great- grand parents, great-great grandparents, 10 generations before and so on).
I know it recalls eugenism but is has nothing to do with that since those tests actually prove that there is no population that is biologically homogeneous. It has nothing to do with the racist and tendencious tests of the 19th century that wanted to prove the superiority of the ”white race”.
According to Sand himself, what makes a people is not their genes, but a common ”secular culture”.
Well, this is exactly what the Jewish people shares, a common culture.
Now, according to Sand, religion and culture are not similar things.
Therefore, according to Shlomo Sand, there is (or used to be) a Yiddish people (because they share a common culture), but saying that Moroccan, Russian and Ethiopian Jews are part of the same people makes no sens.
There is one thing however that Sand forgets to take into account.
A common memory is part of what can be called ”common secular culture”.
Thus, Judaism is different from other religions.
Judaism contains a national dimension. There is a common memory (the idea that we descend from the Jews who lived in Palestine in the Antiquity) and a connection to a territory (the land of Israel). The idea that exile will end when the Jews will go back home is also very important in the culture. This is why the first zionists who were atheists decided not to wait the Messiah anymore and to put an end to their exile by establishing a state of their own in the land of Israel.
Whether it’s true or not, is not relevant.
Otherwise, you base the existence of a people a genetic connection which according to Sand himself is racist.
There is a real contradiction in Shlomo Sand’s thesis.
He believes that Jews are not a people since they share no common biological origins (which is not true) but at the same time, he believes that looking for the biological origins of a people is racist.
Thus, according to him, it is okay to look for the origins of the Jews only if it’s to prove that they do not share common origins, but doing the opposite is racist.
Very odd, buy not surprising when you are accustomed to antizionist militants.
They despise Israel so much that everything is good for them to deligitimize this country.
This pro-Palestinian extreme-left reminds me of the Israeli society in the 1970′s which denied the existence of the Palestinian people.
By the way, Shlomo Sand believes that a Jewish state is by definition racist, although this does not make of Israel an abnormal state since there are only very few countries in the world where church and state are completely separate
According to Sand’s logic, Italy, the UK, Canada, Japan, Morocco etc, are all racist countries (but of course, for people like him, the only country which doesn’t have the right to have a religious identity is Israel).
According to him, the perfect example of this ”Israeli racism” is the fact that it is impossible for Jews to marry non-Jews in Israel (like in South Africa where blacks and whites could not intermarry).
Once again, this is another distortion.
First of all there in no country in the Middle East where Jews and Muslims can intermmary because like in Israel, marriages in the Middle East are celebrated exclusively by religious institutions.
Thus, if a Jew wants to marry a Muslim, one of the two couple members will have to change his religion.
Nonetheless, 75% of Israelis support the recognition of civil marriage.
All the major Israeli political parties (including extreme-right parties) have enshrined in their programs the recognition of civil marriage.
The problem comes from religious parties which have the balance of power and who constantly prevent the recognition of civil marriage.
However, for a professional distortionist like Shlomo Sand, everything is good to attack and deligitimize Israel.
I don’t believe a word of what he says.
He’s a deceitful ideologue.
Fortunately, Shlomo Sand has no influence on Israel or on the Jewish people.

Joshua Pollock December 11, 2011 at 9:35 pm

If you all actually read his book you all would not sound so lame.

Watcher465 December 18, 2011 at 7:53 am

A. Assayag writes; “Now let’s be clear” then follows up with the greatest pile of gibberish I have ever had the misfortune of attempting to read. I can tell which side you are ultimately on but how you got there remains a mystery. Please learn some English before you embarrass yourself again.

A. Assayag January 19, 2012 at 10:37 am

To Watcher 465
Ad Hominen attacks are cheap and your comment doesn’t make any contribution to this debate.
But you are right, the previous comment is very complicated ,even for me.
I have tried to go into details as much as possible to make sure that there is no misunderstanding, (especially when it comes to genetic tests) and to refute in a few sentences everything Shlomo Sand said.
It seems to be a failure (even though you tell me that you understood what I was trying to say).
I should have listened to my English teachers who told me that in English you always have to be concise.
Nonetheless, since you seem to worry about people who embarrass themselves with their poor English, why don’t you give me some lessons?!

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