Dr. Shlomo argues that the idea of a Jewish nation is a myth invented little more than a century ago. TEL AVIV -- No one is more surprised than Shlomo Sand that his latest academic work has spent 19 weeks on Israel's bestseller list and that success has come to the history professor despite his book challenging Israel's biggest taboo. Dr Shlomo Sand argues that the idea of a Jewish nation, whose need for a safe haven was originally used to justify the founding of the state of Israel, is a myth invented little more than a century ago. An expert on European history at Tel Aviv University, Dr. Sand drew on extensive historical and archaeological research to support not only this claim but several more, all equally controversial. In addition, he argues that the Jews were never exiled from the Holy Land, that most of today's Jews have no historical connection to the land called Israel and that the only political solution to the country's conflict with the Palestinians is to abolish the Jewish state. The success of "When and How Was the Jewish People Invented?" looks likely to be repeated around the world. A French edition, launched last month, is selling so fast that it has already had three print runs. Translations are under way into a dozen languages, including Arabic and English. But he predicted a rough ride from the pro-Israel lobby when the book is launched by his English publisher, Verso, in the United States next year.
Dr. Sand's main argument is that until little more than a century ago, Jews thought of themselves as Jews only because they shared a common religion. At the turn of the 20th century, he said, Zionist Jews challenged this idea and started creating a national history by inventing the idea that Jews existed as a people separate from their religion. Equally, the modern Zionist idea of Jews being obligated to return from exile to the Promised Land was entirely alien to Judaism, he added. 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
The Exile Hoax
The biggest surprise during his research came when he started looking at the archaeological evidence from the biblical era. "I was not raised as a Zionist, but like all other Israelis I took it for granted that the Jews were a people living in Judea and that they were exiled by the Romans in 70AD. But once I started looking at the evidence, I discovered that the kingdoms of David and Solomon were legends. Similarly with the exile. In fact, you can't explain Jewishness without exile. But when I started to look for history books describing the events of this exile, I couldn't find any. Not one. That was because the Romans did not exile people. In fact, Jews in Palestine were overwhelming peasants and all the evidence suggests they stayed on their lands". Instead, he believes an alternative theory is more plausible: the exile was a myth promoted by early Christians to recruit Jews to the new faith. Christians wanted later generations of Jews to believe that their ancestors had been exiled as a punishment from God. So if there was no exile, how is it that so many Jews ended up scattered around the globe before the modern state of Israel began encouraging them to "return"?