At NYU, devilish Shlomo Sand predicts the Jewish past and pastes the Zionists

By PHILIP WEISS, FROM MONDOWEISS

Of all the events I’ve covered surrounding Jewish identity and Israel in the last year, none has given me so much pleasure as the lecture last night by Shlomo Sand at NYU on the Invention of the Jewish People. Most events I go to are grinding, awful, heartrending, often with lamentations and pictures of mutilated children. This one was pure intellectual deviltry of the highest order by a Pavarotti of the lecture hall. And while it was fiercely anti-Zionist and included references to the mutilated children, it left me in just an incredibly elated mood. For I saw real light at the end of the tunnel, and not the horrifying dimness that surrounds almost all other events that deal with Israel politics here– for instance with the neoconservative Weekly Standard’s disgusting pursuit of J Street.

This pleasure was entirely Shlomo Sand’s achievement. He walked by me going down to the lectern and I noticed his physical vanity at once. He had expensive shoes on, designer jeans or cords, a zipup black jacket and a black shirt under that unbuttoned to the sternum. He is lean and mid-60sish, and behaves like a player. His beard is cut in an interesting manner, he wears designer glasses. I wondered if he dyed his hair. All glorious devil.

Sand has an excitable, self-referential style, and he began the lecture by breaking his guitar. “Jewish history is not my field.” No, but once he had discovered that the story of the connection of the Jewish people to the Holy Land was a myth, he decided that he would secretly explore the history but not publish until he got tenure for doing other work. Because if he published this first, “there would not be any chance of being a full professor. Not only in Tel Aviv. But at NYU too.”

Everyone laughed, but Sand said, “That is not a joke. I must write the book after I see that no one could touch me really.” More devil. Though Sand is right. This is no joke.

BBC says Shlomo Sand’s The Invention of the Jewish People is “an international news story”

Shlomo Sand, author of The Invention of the Jewish People, was interviewed on the BBC World Service’s News Hour last night. In an e-mail exchange between Sand’s UK publicist and the producer of last night’s programme, it was emphasised that the BBC were “interviewing Mr Sand on the basis that the controversy over his book is an international news story.”

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‘The Invention of the Jewish People’ has now been translated into more languages than any other Israeli history book. Currently the book is available in 3 languages (Hebrew, French, and published just this week, English), and in 2 months time the book will be translated into Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, German, Italian, Arabic, Turkish and Indonesian. In Indonesia, the biggest Muslim country in the world, the translator has just finished translating The Bible, and is now starting work on The Invention of the Jewish People.

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Professor Sand will be speaking at SOAS in London  tonight at 6.30. Lecture details here (http://inventionofthejewishpeople.com/events/)

Listen to Shlomo Sand on BBC World Service News Hour here (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p004v8lm)

Watch Kirsty Lang interview Shlomo Sand on BBC World News Today here (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00ntrjz/World_News_Today_10_11_2009/)