PQC: ‘A nation … is a group of persons united by a common error about their ancestry and a common dislike of their neighbours. Karl Deutsch put it very simply but very accurately. The nationalist psychopathic cancer is not unique to the Jews, but to all of human kind since the creation of the concept of nation. This has gotten worse and worse with the “invention” of nation-state. The Jewish nationalism is unique only because it is the worst mix of racism, religious belief, and political ideology!
Historicity & Factuality vs. Fantasy & Phantasm
A few years back, an American Jewish feminist academic sent me a request for an interview. I love interviews – they save me from having to go to shrinks. The professor presented herself as a ‘gender scholar’, another postmodernist discipline that fails to inspire my intellect. However, I was curious to see what a person who happens to be academically qualified in being a woman might come up with.
A few days later, a questionnaire appeared in my email inbox. The professor had loaded me with queries regarding my military experience and my ‘post-traumatic’ state. Evidently she was convinced that I was a case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Post-TSD). I admit this took me by surprise – I have never spoken to anyone about my ‘post-traumatic’ symptoms – for the very good reason that, until that point in time, I had never been aware of myself as suffering any traumatic disorders whatsoever.
I was intrigued by her approach. Apparently she was comparing military veterans’ Post-TSD cases with traumatised female rape victims. At the same time, I wondered how she had managed to identify me as a suitable candidate for her research. I then realised that her perception of me as traumatised was probably the outcome of her encounter with my first novel, A Guide to the Perplexed .
In that book, I describe the protagonist Günter Wunker’s wartime experience. In the midst of battle, Günter is shattered by fear, and finds a shelter behind a rock. Eventually he shoots his own leg in a chaotic attack. I remember being thrilled when writing those lines – it all sounded close to home. Throughout my life I have watched many war films and read many war books. I had been close enough to a battlefield myself, and had thirstily interviewed many soldiers, but I have never been in battle. When my time came to serve my country and offer my life on the Jewish altar, I caved in; I became more and more attached to my different organs, especially to the ones that stick out.
Obviously, then, Günter’s battlefield experience was fictional . It had nothing to do with my own personal experience of the military. I invented it all. This is what fiction writers do. Yet that one specific scene must have seemed authentic to this American professor. She seemed to believe that Günter was a literary vehicle for my own story.
In confronting the question of my supposed military-induced trauma, it became clear to me that a ‘trauma’ and a traumatic biographic event are two distinct categories that are not necessarily associated. I found myself recollecting my army experience, along with the years that followed it, and found that there was one fright, which had taken me ages to overcome.
Until my early thirties, bombs would occasionally fall overhead in my dreams. While asleep I would run for my life across an endless, open field. I could clearly envisage Syrian Mig fighter jets, sometimes flying so low that the pilots’ faces were visible. The bombs were dropped in vast quantities. In my dreams I zigzagged on the ground, craning my head upward to watch for deadly iron. I would sprint, fall down, crawl, stand up, run, drop down, fall and run again. My nights saw me speeding through burning fields dodging shrapnel until, eventually, one of the bombs would plunge onto my head, and I would awaken from the blaze in one piece though covered in cold sweat. The nightmares faded soon after I left Israel; I didn’t experience another one for a very long time.
However, it is important to note that, as far as my biography is concerned, I have never been subject to an air raid. Not one single enemy plane has ever chased me or bombarded me. My bomb dreams were not a reaction to any real, objective event, quite the opposite, in fact: they were probably a reaction to a non-event .
Unless these dreams can be interpreted as resulting from fear of impotence or some other anxiety over libidinal regression, I can guess where and how their seeds were planted. Once, during the 1982 war in Lebanon, as part of a convoy to the Chouf Mountains, we were ordered to jump out of the safari trucks in what was assumed to be an air raid alert. As a bunch of clueless soldiers, we knew very little about air raids; we copied the combatants around us and dug ourselves into an open field, looking for shelter and praying to God. The Syrian planes never made it to our convoy, in the end, but the unresolved terror stayed in my mind for a long time. It formulated into an imaginary discourse saturated with symbolism, traumatic implications and a sweaty outcome.
This fright perhaps found its way into my fiction. When conveying Günter’s horror I relived this fear that was self-constructed, a product of my own psyche. I merely amplified the scene.
The American scholar who mistakenly interpreted Günter’s horror as an expression of a biographical, personal trauma opened my eyes to the nature of trauma itself. I became somehow suspicious of so-called ‘traumatised people’, and even more suspicious of ‘traumatised nations’. I realised that being in a state of a trauma doesn’t necessarily imply a ‘real’ catalyst of objective biographical experience. Biography is a form of imposition, the projection of a post-dated set of ideas, feeling and thoughts. It conveys the past we want to posses rather than the past we lived through. (My second novel, My One and Only Love , was, in fact, an attempted critique of the notion of personal biography and personal narrative. The plot is structured according to three parallel narratives, all referring to the same historical events but conveying completely different biographical accounts.)
Unlike many Post-TSD experts, I tend to dismiss the magical bond between trauma and biography. Trauma doesn’t necessarily imply a verifiable traumatic event. The fact that a few scholars base their analysis of Israeli identity on some sort of collective Jewish trauma doesn’t mean that Jews are indeed traumatised by their past. It is far more likely that they are traumatised by their imaginary future.
Pre-Traumatic Gas Syndrome
One of the most terrifying moments in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List is, doubtless, the gas chamber sequence. Earlier in the film, rumours had been circulating to the effect that Jews are being gassed to death. Now, anxious women are sent naked to the showers in Auschwitz. We follow their death march; we are familiar with the Holocaust’s symbolic order, we all know what ‘showers’ stand for. We anticipate a homicidal Nazi crime. A moment later we are relieved, as they are, when instead of Zyklon B, water pours down onto their heads. The strength of the cinematic moment is down to the gulf between the pre-traumatic imaginary narrative and the reality onscreen. In other words, the trauma predates the traumatic event; the trauma itself shapes the reality.
I was raised amongst people my age who insisted upon being traumatised: the ‘third generation’ they call themselves. People like myself, who were born in the 1960s or later, way after the liberation of Auschwitz. People who claim to have been afflicted by events that neither they nor their parents had experienced. Isn’t that strange? As I revealed here, I myself was tormented by an air raid that never occurred. The difference is that I stopped short of blaming the Syrian air force for planting these air raid images in my dreams.
Pre-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (Pre-TSS) is a fundamental tenet of Jewish and Israeli culture. Young Israelis are transported to Auschwitz by different Zionist organisations for the purpose of maturing into traumatised Jewish adults. Those who maintain these ‘educational’ trips know that trauma is a powerful fuel with which to maintain the Zionist narrative. Unfortunately, the Israeli youngsters implement the wrong lesson once they return and join the IDF. Rather than developing some empathetic feelings towards victims of oppression, i.e. the Palestinians, the tormented Isreali youth actually seem to mimic SS brutality. ‘Never Again’ they say, and then spread misery around them.
Back in 2006 Israeli Journalist Yair Sheleg managed to sketch an exemplary case of Pre-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
‘It is hard to believe, but only 60 years after the Holocaust the Jewish people are once again in danger of being destroyed – at least in their own state, where 40 percent of the world’s Jews are concentrated. Evidence of the severity of the danger can be found not only in the explicit threats by Iran’s president, which are backed up by an arms program that would provide the means to carry them out. It can also be found in recent articles in the European press that discuss the possibility of Israel’s ‘disappearance’ as a reasonable ‘working assumption.’ Additional evidence regarding the threat level exists in the fact that not only is Israel the only country in the world that is threatened with destruction, it is also the only state whose right to exist is the focus of international polls, with many respondents answering negatively. That is an honour that not even Iran, North Korea and apartheid-era South Africa were ever granted.’73
Though it may be that a growing number of people want to see an end to Israel, no one in political or media circles is calling for the destruction of the Jews or the Israeli people. The well-established Judeo-centric tendency to interpret almost any political and ideological criticism as a declaration of impending Judeocide is a severe form of collective Pre-TSS.
Is Pre-TSS just another name for paranoia? I would argue no. People suffering from paranoia inspire our sympathy or pity. Paranoiacs are victims of their own symptoms. Sufferers of Pre-TSS, on the other hand, actually celebrate their symptoms at others’ expense. With paranoia we can determine clearly that the sufferer is trapped in a delusional world. However, those with Pre-TSS are supposedly healthy, they are on constant alert and seem to be very focused. Often we end up believing the Pre-TSS sufferer’s claims of being victimised by an imagined future crime, thus participating in someone else’s fantasy of destruction. In the case of Pre-TSS, we are the addressees as long as we remain silent. Once we raise our voices to point out that the imaginary future crime is yet to happen and actually may never happen, we immediately become part of the crime ourselves.
The general mood in Israel is expressed eloquently by the likes of Sheleg, and reflected in the catastrophic scenarios put forward by such parties as the American Jewish Committee, about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Israel and its lobbies have been publicly fixated on the nuclear Shoah to come. This pathological obsession is strange considering the fact that Hezbollah managed to defeat the mighty IDF in Lebanon (2006) with only light weaponry and smart tactics. It also managed to panic Israeli society with nothing more than short-range Katyusha rockets. In fact, Israel’s enemies do not need to nuke the country – all they need do is send a message to the Jews of the world that Israel is anything but a shelter. In fact, this is what Arab and Islamic resistance is all about: a metaphysical message rather than a call for a Judeocide.
Interestingly enough, the fear of destruction set by the condition of the Pre-TSS is just another escape route from reality. Rather than facing any imminent danger posed by Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic resistance, Israel prefers to amplify a phantasmic trauma. The Israelis have failed to read the writing on the wall. Rather than looking in the mirror and spotting their faults (which have matured into moral bankruptcy), they prefer to submit to the fantasy of nuclear Judeocide. Rather than thinking in ethical terms, they surrender to the shallowest materialist discourse solely centred on an illusionary theme, namely, the ‘destruction of the I’.
Projection and Pre-TSS
Following the 2 nd Lebanon war, a commander of an IDF rocket unit in Lebanon told Ha’aretz newspaper, ‘What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs … the IDF fired around 1,800 cluster bombs, containing over 1.2 million cluster bomblets.’74
As no-one is actually voicing a call to throw the Israelis into the sea or to nuke them, Israel’s inclination to blame Muslims and Arabs for holding such murderous tendencies themselves must then be understood in terms of projection . The people who rained Lebanon in 2006 with more than a million cluster bombs and showered Gaza with white phosphorus (2008-9) are projecting their homicidal zeal onto their victims, and even onto their future victims. This dynamic can be easily explained. The more pain we inflict on others the more we become familiar with evil, aggression and brutality. The more cruel we are towards others, the more horrified we are by the possibility that the subjects of our brutality may also be as nasty as we are. Freud calls it projection. Otto Weininger refined it, ‘we hate in others, that which we don’t like in ourselves’. The dynamic of projection is amplified once the subject of our terror is hopeless and defenceless.
Israeli treatment of the Palestinians is a devastating example of the above. The more hopeless and defenseless the Palestinians are, the more vicious the Israeli becomes. And yet, the more vicious the Israeli is, the more he or she is horrified by ‘terror’. In reality, the Israelis are actually horrified by their own cruelty. It is the terror within that horrifies the most. The recent cold-blooded murder of nine peace activists, on the high seas, by Israeli Navy Seal commandos75 was a shocking exposure of that lethal dynamic. This astonishing attack was fuelled by an imaginary terror threat (pre-TSS). The viciousness of the Israeli commando was amplified by the innocent transparency of the Gaza fleet.
One may wonder whether there is an escape route out of this vicious circle? Is there any means to dismantle the phantasmic fear of the other being as brutal as I happen to be? I guess that ‘turn the other cheek’ is a valid way to defy the Old Testament’s ‘eye for an eye’. Turning the other cheek is commonly realised as a means to counter an aggressor. However, it maybe the only possible measure to dismantle the ‘terror within’, that aggression that brews inside us as we become vindictive. It can also be very effective in defusing our anger at an imaginary threat. We replace it with acceptance, we disarm ourselves. We give peace a chance.
Jewish Telegram: ‘Begin Worrying, Details to Follow.’ – Old Joke
The joke above – older than Israel, and probably as old as the telegraph itself – refers to the dialectic of fear that dominates the Jewish political and ideological mindset. Fear has been exploited politically by Jewish leaders since the early days of emancipation. However, it is possible that during the process of Jewish secular-isation and emancipation initiated by the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, fear of imaginary doom replaced the fear of Almighty God, the God of Sodom and Gomorrah who kills without mercy. If this is indeed the case, ‘fear’ might be recognised as one of the many modern Jewish Gods, and Pre-TSS as modern Jewish practice.
Chapter 17 The Wandering Who?
Tel Aviv University historian Professor Shlomo Sand opens his remarkable study of Jewish nationalism, The Invention of the Jewish People , by quoting Karl Deutsch:
‘A nation … is a group of persons united by a common error about their ancestry and a common dislike of their neighbours.’76
As simple or even as simplistic as it may seem, this quote eloquently summarises modern Jewish nationalism and especially the concept of Jewish identity. It points the finger at the collective mistake Jews tend to make whenever referring to their illusory ‘collective past’ or ‘collective origin’.
In his book, Sand posits a serious doubt that the Jewish people ever existed as a nation or race, ever shared a common origin. Instead, they are a colourful mix of groups that, at various stages throughout history, adopted the Jewish religion. So when were the Jewish people ‘invented’? Sand’s answer: ‘At a certain stage in the 19th century, intellectuals of Jewish origin in Germany, influenced by the folk character of German nationalism, took upon themselves the task of inventing a people ‘retrospectively,’ out of a thirst to create a modern Jewish people.’77
Accordingly, the ‘Jewish people’ is a made-up notion, consisting of an imaginary past with very little to back it up forensically, historically or textually. Furthermore, Sand, who elaborated on early sources from antiquity, comes to the conclusion that Jewish exile is also a myth, and that the present-day Palestinians are far more likely to be the descendants of the ancient Semitic people in Judea/Canaan than the current, predominantly Khazarian-origin, Ashkenazi crowd, which he admits he belongs to himself.
Hitler Won After All
Supposedly secular, cosmopolitan Jews often retort, when asked what it is that makes them Jewish, that ‘Hitler made me a Jew.’ Though ‘cosmopolitans’ tend to dismiss other people’s national inclinations, Jewish cosmopolitans, for some reason, insist on maintaining their own right to ‘self-determination’. It is not really they themselves who stand at the core of this unique demand for national orientation, but the Devil, the master-monster anti-Semite, Adolf Hitler. Apparently, cosmopolitan Jews can celebrate their nationalist entitlement as long as Hitler is there to be blamed. Hitler won, then, after all.
Shlomo Sand illuminates this paradox. Insightfully, he suggests that ‘there were times in Europe when anyone who argued that all Jews belong to a nation of alien origin would have been classified at once as an anti-Semite. Nowadays, anyone who dares to suggest that the people known in the world as Jews (as distinct from today’s Israelis) have never been, and are still not, a people or a nation is immediately denounced as a Jew hater.’78 In Israel, Jews celebrate their unique differentiation from other peoples. In fact, even the Jewish anti-Zionists enhance their distinct characteristics in comparison to other peace activists.
Nationalism and Jewish Nationalism
Louis-Ferdinand Céline wrote that during the Middle Ages, between the major wars, knights would charge a very high price for their readiness to die in the name of their kingdoms; in the twentieth century, however, youngsters rushed to die en masse without demanding a thing in return. Understanding this shift in mass consciousness requires an eloquent, methodical model that allows us to understand what nationalism is .
Like Karl Deutsch, Sand regards nationality as a phantasmal narrative. Anthropological and historical studies of the origins of different so-called ‘peoples’ and ‘nations’ lead, embarrassingly, to the crumbling of every ethnicity and ethnic identity. It is therefore rather interesting to discover that many Jews tend to take their own ethnic myth very seriously. I can think of two possible explanations for this insistence. One was offered by Israeli academic Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi years ago. Zionism, he said, was there to transform the Bible from a spiritual text into a ‘land registry’. The second explanation is psychoanalytical: it is actually the lack of factuality or coherent historical narrative that leads to the emergence of such a phantasmic tale, strong will and a pragmatic agenda to follow.
The lack of ethnic origin doesn’t stop people from feeling ethnic or national belonging. The fact that Jews are far from being what one can label a ‘people’, and that the Bible has very little historical truth in it, doesn’t really stop generations of Israelis and/or Jews from identifying themselves as the sons and daughters of King David or Samson.
In the 1970s, Shlomo Artzi, then a young Israeli singer destined to become Israel’s all-time greatest rock star, released ‘Pitom Kam Adam’ (‘Suddenly a Man Wakes Up’), a song that became a smash hit in a matter of hours. Here is a translation of the first few lines:
Suddenly a man wakes up in the morning/
He feels he is a nation, and begins to walk/
And to everyone he meets along the way/
He calls out, ‘Shalom.’
To a certain extent, in his lyrics, Artzi innocently expresses the suddenness of the transformation of the Jews into ‘a people’. However, at the same time, Artzi contributes to the illusory national myth of the peace-seeking nation. The Israeli singer should have known by then that Jewish nationalism was a violent, expansionist act at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian people. It didn’t really say shalom to anyone except superpowers.
There Is No Jewish History
It is an established fact that virtually no Jewish history texts were written between the first and early-nineteenth centuries. That Judaism is based on a religious historical myth may have something to do with this. An adequate scrutiny of the Jewish past was never a primary concern in the rabbinical tradition – the absence of any need for such a methodical effort probably accounts for this. For Jews during ancient times and the Middle Ages, there was enough in the Bible to answer most relevant questions having to do with day-to-day life, Jewish meaning and fate. As Sand puts it: ‘A chronological sequence of events was alien to the (Jewish) exilic time – a condition of constant alertness, attuned to the longed-for moment when the Messiah would appear.’79 This apparent lack of Jewish interest in history, historicity and chronology is crucial for the understanding of Jewish political identity.
In light of German secularisation, urbanisation and emancipation, and given the decreasing authority of rabbinical leaders, the need for an alternative cause emerged amongst awakening Jewish intellectuals: emancipated Jews wondered who they were and where they came from. They also began to speculate on the role of Jews within the rapidly-opening European society.
In 1820, the German Jewish historian Isaak Markus Jost (1793–1860) published the first serious historical work on Jews for almost two millennia, namely The History of the Israelites . Jost avoided the Biblical era, preferring to begin his journey with the Kingdom of Judea, and also compiled a historical narrative of different Jewish communities around the world. He realised that the Jews of his time did not form an ethnic continuum, and grasped that Israelites from place to place were rather different. Hence, he believed, there was nothing to stop Jews from total assimilation, and that in the spirit of the Enlightenment both the Germans and the Jews would turn their backs on oppressive religious institutions and form a healthy nation, based on a growing, geographically-orientated sense of belonging.
Though Jost was aware of the evolution of European nationalism, his Jewish contemporaries were rather unhappy with his liberal, optimistic reading of the Jewish future. ‘From historian Heinrich Graetz on, Jewish historians began to draw the history of Judaism as the history of a nation that had been a “kingdom”, expelled into “exile”, became a wandering people and ultimately turned around and went back to its birthplace.’80
For the German Jewish socialist philosopher Moses Hess, it was a racial struggle rather than a class struggle that would define the shape of Europe. Accordingly, he suggested, Jews should reflect on their cultural heritage and ethnic origin. For Hess, the conflict between Jews and Gentiles was the product of racial differentiation, and was thus unavoidable.
The ideological path from Hess’s pseudo-scientific racist orientation to Zionist historicism is clear. If Jews are indeed an alien racial entity (as Hess, Jabotinsky and others believed), they had better seek to return to their natural homeland – Eretz Yitzrael . But Hess’s assumed racial continuum wasn’t scientifically endorsed. In order to maintain the emerging fictional narrative, a mechanism for orchestrated denial had to be devised to prevent certain embarrassing facts from interfering.
The New Israelite, the Bible and Archaeology
In Palestine, the new Jews and later the Israelis were determined to recruit the Old Testament and transform it into the unifying code of the future Jewish people. The ‘nationalisation’ of the Bible would plant in the minds of young Jews the idea that they were the direct descendants of their great, ancient ancestors. Bearing in mind the fact that nationalisation was largely a secular movement, the Bible was stripped of its spiritual and religious meaning. Instead, it was viewed as a historical text describing a ‘real’ chain of events in the past.
Through their heroic ancestors, the new nationalist Jews learned to love themselves and hate others, except this time they would possess the military might to inflict real pain on their neighbours. More worrying was the fact that instead of a supernatural entity (namely, God) to command them to invade and commit genocide against the ‘Promised Land’s’ indigenous inhabitants, in the Jewish national revival project it was they themselves – Herzl, Jabotinsky, Weizmann, Ben-Gurion, Sharon, Peres, Barak, Netanyahu, Liebermann, etc – who would decide to expel and kill. God no longer killed in the name of the Jewish people, the Jews did. They did it with Jewish symbols decorating their planes and tanks, and followed commands issued in Hebrew, the newly restored language of their ancestors.
The Zionist hijacking of the Bible was in fact a desperate Jewish answer to German Early Romanticism. However, as much as 19 th century German philosophers, poets, architects and artists were ideologically and aesthetically excited about pre-Socratic Greece, they knew very well that they were not Hellenism’s (biological) sons and daughters. The Jewish nationalists took their project one step further, binding themselves into a blood chain with their mythical forefathers; Hebrew, formerly a sacred tongue, became an everyday spoken language. German Early Romantics never went that far.
German intellectuals during the nineteenth century were also fully aware of the distinction between Athens and Jerusalem. For them, Athens stood for the universal, an epic chapter of humanity and humanism. Jerusalem, on the contrary, was a grand chapter of tribal barbarism, a representation of the banal, non-universal, monotheistic, merciless God, the killer of elder and infant alike. The German Early Romantic era left us with Hegel, Nietzsche, Fichte, Heidegger and just a few Jewish self-haters, chief amongst them Weininger. No master ideological thinkers were to be found amongst the Jerusalemites. Some second-rate German Jewish scholars tried to preach Jerusalem in the Germanic exedra, amongst them Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig and Ernst Bloch, but they apparently failed to notice that their efforts bore the traces of Jerusalem in Christianity, which German Early Romantics despised.
In their effort to resurrect ‘Jerusalem’, archaeology was recruited to provide the Zionist epic with its necessary ‘scientific’ grounding, to unify the Biblical age with the moment of revival. Arguably the most astonishing moment of this bizarre trend occurred in 1982, with the ‘military burial ceremony’ of the bones of Shimon Bar Kochba, a Jewish rebel who had died 2,000 years earlier. Overseen by the chief military rabbi, a televised military burial was given to a sporadic assortment of bones found in a cave near the Dead Sea. In effect, the suspected remains of a first-century figure were treated as an IDF casualty – archaeology’s national role cemented the past and present, while leaving the Galut out.
It didn’t take long before things turned the other way around. As archaeological research became more and more independent of Zionist dogma, inconvenient truths trickled out. It became impossible to ground the authenticity of Biblical tales in forensic facts. If anything, archaeology refutes the historicity of the Bible: the Book, according to non-Jewish scholars such as Thomas Thompson, is a ‘late collection of innovative literature written by a gifted theologian’.
As Sand points out, early Biblical narrative is soaked in Philistines, Aramaic and camels. As far as excavations can enlighten us, Philistines didn’t appear in the region before the twelfth century BC , Aramaic appears a century later and camels didn’t show their cheerful faces before the eighth century BC. Nor has much been found in the Sinai Desert to prove the story of the legendary Egyptian exodus – apparently 3 million Hebrew men, women and children marched there for forty years without leaving a single Mazza Ball behind. The Biblical story of the Hebrews’ resettlement in Canaan, moreover, and the genocide of the goyim inhabiting the Promised Land (which contemporary Israelites imitate to such success) looks like yet another myth: Jericho, the guarded city flattened by the sound of Hebrew horns and almighty supernatural intervention, was just a tiny village during the thirteenth century BC .
Above all, Israel regards itself as the resurrection of the monumental Kingdom of David and Solomon. Yet excavation in the Old City of Jerusalem in the 1970s revealed that David’s kingdom was no more than a tiny enclave. Evidence that, according to the archaeologist (and second IDF Chief of Staff) Yigal Yadin, could be traced back to King Solomon, was later refuted by forensic tests made using Carbon-14 dating.
Such scientifically verifiable facts throw Zionist researchers into confusion. The Bible is fiction, and not much in it can substantiate the glorification of the Jewish people in Palestine at any stage. It would appear, rather, to be an ideological text that is being made to serve social and political ends.
Who Invented the Jews?
Who are the Jews? Where did they come from? How is it that in different historical periods they appear in so many different and remote places?
Though most contemporary Jews are utterly convinced that their ancestors are the Biblical Israelites who were brutally exiled by the Romans, the truth is that contemporary Jews have nothing to do with these ancient Israelites, who were never even sent into exile, the Roman exile is just another Jewish myth.
Says Shlomo Sand: ‘I started looking for research studies about the exile from the land, but to my astonishment I discovered that it has no literature. The reason is that no-one exiled the people of the country. The Romans did not exile peoples and they could not have done so even if they had wanted to. They did not have trains and trucks to deport entire populations. Those kind of logistics did not exist until the 20 century. From this, in effect, the whole book was born: in the realisation that Judaic society was not dispersed and was not exiled.’81
The thought of the Roman Imperial Navy working 24/7 to schlep Moishe’le and Yanke’le to Córdoba and Toledo may help Jews to feel important as well as schleppable , but common sense suggests the Roman armada had far more important things to do. Far more interesting is the logical conclusion: if the people of Israel were not expelled, then the real descendants of the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judea must be the Palestinians. Sand again: ‘No population remains pure over a period of thousands of years, but the chances that the Palestinians are descendants of the ancient Judaic people is much greater than the chances that you or I are its descendants. The first Zionists, up until the Arab Revolt [1936–39], knew that there had been no exiling, and that the Palestinians were descended from the inhabitants of the land. They knew that farmers don’t leave until they are expelled. Even Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the second president of the State of Israel, wrote in 1929 that, “the vast majority of the peasant farmers do not have their origins in the Arab conquerors, but rather before then, in the Jewish farmers who were numerous and a majority in the building of the land.”’82
In his book, Sand takes this idea further, suggesting that, until the Arab Revolt, the so-called leftist Zionist leaders tended to believe that the Palestinian peasants (actually likely to be Jews by origin) would assimilate into the emerging Hebrew culture, and would eventually join the Zionist movement. Ber Borochov believed that ‘a fellah [Palestinian peasant] dresses as a Jew, and behaves as a working-class Jew, and won’t be at all different from the Jew.’83 This notion reappeared in Ben-Gurion’s and Ben-Zvi’s writings. Both Zionist leaders realised that Palestinian culture was steeped in Biblical traces, linguistically as well as geographically (e.g. in the names of villages, towns, rivers and mountains). At least at that early stage, both regarded the indigenous Palestinians as ethnic relatives and potential brothers. They also regarded Islam as a friendly ‘democratic religion’. After 1936, both Ben Gurion and Ben-Zvi toned down their ‘multicultural’ enthusiasm. As far as Ben-Gurion was concerned, ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians seemed to be far more appealing.
If the Palestinians are the ‘real Jews’, then, who are those people who call themselves Jews? Sand’s answer is simple and sensible: ‘The people did not spread, but the Jewish religion spread. Judaism was a converting religion. Contrary to popular opinion, in early Judaism there was a great thirst to convert others.’84 Monotheistic religions, being less tolerant than polytheistic ones, have an impetus to expand. Jewish expansionism in its early days was not just similar to Christian proselytising, but it was actually Jewish expansionism that planted the zeal for conversion in early Christian thought and practice.
The Jews of Spain, widely believed to be blood relatives of the ancient Israelites, appear to be converted Berbers85. Sand says: ‘I asked myself how such large Jewish communities appeared in Spain. And then I saw that Tariq ibn Ziyad, the supreme commander of the Muslims who conquered Spain, was a Berber, and most of his soldiers were Berbers. Dahia al-Kahina’s Jewish Berber Kingdom had been defeated only 15 years earlier. And the truth is there are a number of Christian sources that say many of the conquerors of Spain were Jewish converts. The deep-rooted source of the large Jewish community in Spain was those Berber soldiers who converted to Judaism.’86
As one would expect, Sand approves of the largely accepted assumption that the Judaicised Khazars constitute the main origins of Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, which he calls the ‘Yiddish Nation’. When asked why these Jews happen to speak Yiddish – largely regarded as a German medieval dialect – he answers: ‘The Jews were a class of people dependent on the German bourgeoisie in the east, and thus they adopted German words.’87
Sand leaves us with the inevitable conclusion that contemporary Jews do not have a common origin, that their Semitic origins are a myth. Jews have no origin in Palestine whatsoever, and therefore their act of so-called ‘return’ must be realised as pretext for a tribal expansionist invasion.
Although Jewish-ness does not constitute any racial continuum, the Jewish identity is racially-orientated. Many Jews, even secular ones, continue to regard mixed marriage as the ultimate threat. Furthermore, in spite of modernisation and secularisation, the vast majority of secular Jews continue to enact the blood ritual of circumcision.
Unlike other ‘new historians’ who have tried to undermine the assumptions of Zionist historiography, ‘Sand does not content himself with going back to 1948 or to the beginnings of Zionism, but rather goes back thousands of years.’88 Unlike the ‘new historians’ who ‘unveil’ a truth known to every Palestinian toddler, i.e. the truth of being ethnically cleansed, Sand’s body of work and thought may open the door to further research into the meaning of Jewish nationalism, Jewish identity and Jewish politics. Sand’s critical reading of Jewish history sets the framework for further discussion of the Jewish notion of historicity and temporality. Understanding these two crucial notions will provide the intellectual key to dismantling Jewish political power and may even help Jews to redeem themselves of their very dangerous political discourse.
If Sand is correct, then the Jews, rather than being a race, comprise a collective of many people who have been hijacked by a national movement based on myths. If Jews are not a race and have nothing to do with Semitism, then ‘anti-Semitism’ is, categorically, an empty signifier. In other words, criticism of Jewish nationalism, Jewish lobbying and Jewish power can only be realised as a legitimate critique of ideology, politics and practice.
The ideological enemies of Israel are engaged in a bitter conflict with the state and it’s supporters. Yet the issue is not just Israel, its army or its leadership. It is actually a war against an exclusive ideology, a phantasm that has co-opted the West and, at least momentarily, diverted it from its humanist inclinations and Athenian aspirations. To fight a spirit is far more difficult than fighting people, if only because one may first have to fight its traces within oneself. If we want to fight Jerusalem, we may have to confront the Jerusalem within.