Newt Gingrich, the Guardian, and the invention of a moral outrage.


The row over Newt Gingrich’s comments about Palestinian identity being “invented” has already generated three Guardian stories on the former Congressman’s “illiberal” views in the span of 24 hours, and has included quotes from outraged Palestinians that Gingrich’s arguemnt is a form of “incitement“.

However, a look into the coverage of an attack on the identity of another minority group is instructive in contextualizing the Guardian’s reports about Gingrich’s comments.

Shlomo Sand – a communist and post-Zionist, opposed to the existence of a Jewish state within any borders – wrote a book (published in 2009) called The Invention of the Jewish People‘.

Briefly, Sand’s book argues that Jewish nationalism is not justified as there is no such thing as a Jewish people; today’s Jews are descended from disparate groups of people who converted to Judaism and had no ties to the land of Israel; And, conversely, there was no exile of Jews from the land of Israel and that most Jews remained in the land, converted to Islam and were the progenitors of present-day Palestinians.

The wretched scholarship of Sand’s post-Zionist inspired agitprop was condemned by historians and literary critics.  

Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic, characterized it as “intellectually worthless”.

Hillel Halkin called assertions made in the book “the exact opposite of the truth”.

Yaacov Lozowick’s review deconstructed Sand’s “astonishingly unconvincing scholarship”.

Jeffrey Goldberg argued that “Sand… is dropping manufactured facts into a world that in many cases is ready, willing, and happy to believe the absolute worst conspiracy theories about Jews and to use those conspiracy theories to justify physically hurting Jews.”

In a commentary published in Ha’aretz, Israel Bartal, dean of the humanities faculty of the Hebrew University, wrote that Sand’s claims about Zionist and contemporary Israeli historiography are baseless, calling the work “bizarre and incoherent,” and that Sand’s “…treatment of Jewish sources is embarrassing and humiliating.”

A review by CAMERA noted that “When it comes to undermining the legitimacy of the Jewish state, there is no thesis too absurd to be published, regardless of how preposterous the underlying thesis…Such is the case with The Invention of the Jewish People, a book by Shlomo Sand.”

Of course, Sand’s book did receive critical acclaim by anti-Zionists ideologically predisposed to such a deconstruction of Jewish identity, and therefore Jewish nationalism. 

George Galloway’s interview of Sand on Iranian PressTV allowed the prolific defender of Islamism an opportunity to use Sand’s thesis to argue that since – as Sand argues – Jews were never exiled from the land of Israel there should be no right to return for Jews and no “Zionist right to scatter the Palestinians all over the world.” 

Sand agreed with Galloway’s statement but went one step further stating: “even if it was a people, even if it was an exile…why is it giving rights after two thousand years”. Sand categorically asserted that there was no justification for the “colonial” Zionist project.

Laudatory reviews can also be found at sites dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state, such as Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss, CounterPunch, the blog of Gilad Atzmon, Al Arabiya, and the site of at least one neo-Nazi group.

In addition to the praise Sand’s work received by such fringe sites, there was at least one widely read “liberal” broadsheet similarly praising the book’s thesis.

The Guardian Group’s praise included Rafael Behr’s Observer review in January 2010, an Observer ‘Book of the Year mention by Eric Hobsbawm, and Ian Pindar’s review of the paperback edition for the Guardian in June 2010.

Behr:

“[Sand demonstrates that] the disappearance of converts from Israeli history books coincides with increased occupation of Arab land. This is not a conspiracy theory. Zionism was a typical modern nation-building exercise. It followed the pattern by which most European national identities were forged in the 19th and 20th centuries. Intellectual elites propagated myths that met “the deep ideological needs of their culture and their society”. In Israel’s case that was the myth of ethnic origins in a biblical kingdom based around Jerusalem.”

“Israel’s best hope is to acknowledge that its nationhood is invented, and modernise even more.” [emphasis mine]

Pindar:

“Sand wants [Israel] to abandon ethnic nationalism and to modernise and democratise, and as this controversial book was a bestseller in Israel, perhaps there is hope that some Israelis want this too.” [emphasis mine]

Hobsbawm:

“Shlomo Sand’s The Invention of the Jewish People (Verso) is both a welcome and, in the case of Israel, much-needed exercise in the dismantling of nationalist historical myth and a plea for an Israel that belongs equally to all its inhabitants. Perhaps books combining passion and erudition don’t change political situations, but if they did, this one would count as a landmark.”

Sand’s “incitement’ against the Jewish people is conveniently available in three separate editions at the Guardian’s Online Bookstore.

22 comments on “Newt Gingrich, the Guardian, and the invention of a moral outrage.

  1. Many extreme delusional people, left and right, will put down on paper anything for a few moments of fame.

    Such is Shlomo Sands. A person who, otherwise, nobody would have heard of.

  2. The Palestinians have been trying to delegitimize the Jewish state for decades.

    I think it’s great that Newt Gingrich has turned the tables on them. The cries of shock and outrage indicate that his comments struck a raw nerve.

    Perhaps the Palestinians will be a little less eager to deny Israel’s legitimacy, knowing that we are now free to question their own status as an invented people.

  3. Interesting to see Dominic Waghorn on Skynews dismiss Gingerich’s concerns as playing to a powerful Jewish lobby.

    Skynews is in lockstep with the Guardian and the BBC when it comes to misreporting events in the Middle East.

  4. Since the great John Bolton (former US ambassador to the UN, sacked by George W Bush for being too prescient about the threats facing the West) seems to have disappeared from view and unlikely to come forward as a Republican candidate, I am just hoping against hope that Newt Gingrich becomes the next president of the USA and de facto leader of the Western free world.

    It’s been high time that someone called the Palestinian’s bluff and turned the tables on them. Newt also has no illusions about Iran and what to do about it. Andy Gill (above commenter) is quite right: told that they are seeking to destroy Israel the Palestinians will now have to think twice before threatening to make the Jewish state disappear (at least as long as Newt is in the running).

    I love it when the Guardian meets its match. It claims the Palestinians made their appearence in 1834: so that’s all right then….

  5. I was in Waterstone’s the other day, It was a small branch in a small town. The Religion section had about 3 books on Judaism; A Brief Introduction to Judaism, another book, and Sand’s The Invention fo the Jewish People. That p*ssed me off, so I took Sand’s book off the shelf and shoved it behind a shelf. Sorry, Waterstones.

  6. Newt Gingrich’s comments about Palestinian identity being “invented” has already generated three Guardian stories on the former Congressman’s “illiberal” views in the span of 24 hours

    Why the quotes around “illiberal”? He has called Palestinians in general “terrorists”! The man is a disgrace.

    From the one Gaurdian piece:
    “[Gingrich] is welcome to come to Palestine so he can stop speaking from talking points and speak about reality. If he can produce a Palestinian textbook that proves his point, then he should do it. But they don’t exist in our schools – he’s quoting propaganda.”

    Well? Has Gingrich since produced said alleged textbook?

    • please stow your faux outrage

      he is right…every pali to man woman and child is terrorist

      for their so called nationalism has nothing to do with nation building, but everything to do with destroying israel and wiping out her people

      they are now claiming to be direct descendents of the jebusites…and i support them in this assertion

      for hashem commanded the hebrew people…TO WIPE OUT EVERY FILTHY JEBUSITE FROM THE LAND

      as you support the jebusites, you must be a filthy idolator….i cast you out too…you heathen

      • “please stow your faux outrage”

        Impossible. This is his raison d´être. It´s called “the petit-inner-commissar syndrome”, which is his case manifests itself through the
        “church-lady” demeanor. After certain age it´s considered incurable.

        • You have no idea who I am but throw ridiculous terms like “petit-inner-commissar syndrome” and “church-lady” at me. And the fact that you dig the barbaric comments of walt kovacs speaks volumes.

      • Wow, this religious extremist actually has supporters here.
        Shouldn’t be a surprise, though – given that their recent call to “nuke the Arabs” got the big thumbs up from CiFW posters.

    • pretzels opined:

      “He has called Palestinians in general “terrorists”! The man is a disgrace.”

      Since when is telling the truth is a disgrace?

      - assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy
      - plane hijacking
      - murder of American servicemen
      - 1972 Olympics hijacking and murder of athletes
      - racist indoctrination of children
      - homicide bombing
      - kidnapping of journalists and soldiers
      - throwing opponents off the roof from buildings
      - siding with genocidal war criminals like saddam hussein

      Are the above acts of terrorism or of miltants?

  7. i hate newt….he is an opportunist and his contract on america was the starting point for the downfall of this great nation

    however, should he win the nom, i will vote for him…for he is good at pissing off jew haters an the jebusites

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