The tortuous un-logic of Will Self, a Jewish un-Jew

Cross posted from the blog Simply Jews

Reading an excellent article in Contentions, What Has the Guardian Got Against Jews?, I couldn’t help myself but click on a linked article by Will Self How I Stopped Being a Jew by Shlomo Sand and Unchosen: The Memoirs of a Philo-Semite by Julie Burchill – review.


Guardian contributor Will Self

What can I say? The article starts, as is proper for an article written by a writer – a member of the most narcissistic guild (save, probably, that of the Hollywood celebs) – with a highly personal statement:

In 2006, as the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) were undertaking their second major incursion into Lebanon, I resigned as a Jew.

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Guardian publishes two anti-Jewish screeds by ‘ex-Jews’, but censors ‘ex-Muslims’

Over the last month, the Guardian has published two articles by self-professed “ex-Jews” – that is, Jews whose hatred of Israel – and the putative sins of Jews and Judaism – caused them to renounce their Jewish identity.  

As Richard Millett noted on these pages, the latest work by discredited historian Shlomo Sand was featured in the print and online editions of the Guardian in October – a lengthy book excerpt which vilified Israel, and suggested that Judaism itself was compromised by immutable – theologically based – racism. 

Here are a few passages from Sand’s article in the Guardian.

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The chosen blog? Guardian gives a shout out to “pressure group” called CiF Watch

Though the Guardian has implicitly alluded to our presence on one or two occasions, they seem to have an unwritten policy of never explicitly referring to us by name. Indeed, even the most benign references to ‘CiF Watch’ in the comment section of ‘Comment is Free’ (‘CiF’) are still routinely deleted by their moderators, and, in 2012, this writer had his commenting privileges below the line at ‘CiF’ permanently suspended for some still unknown violation of their ‘community standards’. 

So, we were a bit surprised – to put it mildly – when a column written by the Guardian’s readers’ editor Chris Elliott, in the print and online editions of the paper (The many pitfalls when covering Israel/Palestine issues, Oct. 27th) devoted some space to addressing one of our recent complaints concerning a truly reprehensible column in the Guardian by discredited anti-Zionist historian Shlomo Sand titled ‘I wish to resign from being a Jew.

Specifically, we objected to Sand’s use of the term ‘chosen people’ to suggest that Jews treat Palestinians poorly due to a belief in their own racial superiority, and noted that Elliott himself had previously acknowledged (in upholding a CiF Watch complaint in 2011 against an article by Deborah Orr) that such pejorative references to the “chosen people” – widely understood as a Jewish requirement to uphold high standards of moral behavior – are typically used by antisemites as code for ‘Jewish supremacism‘.

Here’s the passage from Sand:

By my everyday life and my basic culture I am an Israeli. I am not especially proud of this, just as I have no reason to take pride in being a man with brown eyes and of average height. I am often even ashamed of Israel, particularly when I witness evidence of its cruel military colonisation, with its weak and defenceless victims who are not part of the “chosen people”.

Elliott’s reply can be found in the highlighted section of his article below (Click Image to Enlarge):

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Shlomo Sand’s sickening Guardian article slams both Israel and Judaism.


By Richard Millett.

There are times when something is so obviously wrong that it shouldn’t even need pointing out. That the Guardian thinks there is no problem promoting someone who wants to “resign” from Judaism shows how little respect its editors have for Judaism.

Last Saturday the Guardian allowed Shlomo Sand, a Tel Aviv university professor, to write a lengthy piece in its pages about how he has had enough of being Jewish (see above).

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Shlomo Sand at SOAS: Israel is “a shitty nation” and “the most racist society in the world”

Cross posted by London based blogger, Richard Millett

Shlomo Sand in full flow at SOAS last night.

Shlomo Sand in full flow at SOAS last night.

Last night Tel Aviv University history professor Shlomo Sand referred to Israel as a “shitty nation” (clip 1).

He called Israel “the most racist society in the world” and said that he has been fighting “Jewish racism all my life” (both clip 2).

And he declared that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist in the western world today (clip 3).

He was speaking in London at the SOAS launch of his new book The Invention of The Land of Israel.

The much discredited thesis of his previous book The Invention of The Jewish People is that there was no expulsion of the Jews from the Holy Land; diaspora Jews, therefore, must have all descended from converts and so have no right to return to Israel.

The already much discredited thesis of The Invention of The Land of Israel is, simply, that the land of Israel holds no religious significance for Jews either.

First, he claimed, there is no mention of “Israel” in the bible; it is only mentioned in the Talmud. This is not true (see note 1). Second, he claimed that political Zionism grew out of Christianity, not Judaism, and he solely credits Lord Shaftesbury and the evangelical Christian movement in London for the idea that Jews should return to the Holy Land.

But Sand, conveniently, regards great religious figures like Rabbi Alkalia and Rabbi Kalischer, who in the early nineteenth century wrote voraciously about the pressing need for Jews to return to Zion, as only minority influences.

Sand claimed that the Balfour Declaration came about due to three main reasons:

1. The ideological background of many leaders who wanted Redemption via a Jewish return to the Holy Land.
2. The colonialist interests of Britain in the Middle East.
3. Anti-Semitism – Balfour didn’t want suffering Jews from the East coming to Britain.

Sand said Jews preferred to move to America but after 1924, when America stopped eastern European immigration altogether, no country would accept Jews who then had no choice but to go to the Holy Land against their will.

Sand, again, conveniently ignores the examples of the Jewish pioneers in the Hibbat Zion and BILU movements who volunteered to move to the harsh conditions of the Holy Land during the 1880s to try to make a life there.

Sand views Israelis as a nation even if a “shitty one”. But, for Sand, they aren’t a Jewish nation because he doesn’t recognise such a concept exists. Sand views being Jewish as a purely religious concept and said that Hamas in Gaza are much more likely to be descended from the ancient people who once inhabited the Holy Land than he is.

Sand says he desires a two-state solution with equal rights for Arabs living in Israel and for Jews living in a future Palestine. Presumably, it would be an Israel where diaspora Jews would have limited, if any, rights to move to.

And on anti-Semitism Sand said:

“The century of anti-Semitism between 1850 and 1950 is finished. Pro-Zionists don’t understand history. I don’t think that political public anti-Semitism exists today in the western world. You cannot find members of Parliament in Britain or the United States who are openly anti-Semitic. You cannot find journalists who are anti-Semitic. You cannot find films that are anti-Semitic.”

This is what many in the audience wanted to hear. It was their official certificate that they are not Jew haters even though they focus solely on opposing the Jewish state while ignoring atrocities by both sides in Syria, by Hamas in Gaza and by the Saudi Arabian monarchy and the Iranian government which both brutally oppress their own people. To name but a few.

Once again, Sand conveniently ignores or is unaware of the example of Liberal Democrat David Ward who recently accused “the Jews” of inflicting something akin to a Holocaust on the Palestinians.

Sand is the master of cherry-picking anything that backs up his argument while ignoring anything inconvenient that might detract from it.

His recent books are not based on proper fact, record or history. They are simply driven by a hatred for the Jewish state.


1. For a superb taking down of Sand’s new book see here via Elder of Ziyon.

2. For  a superb analysis of Sand speaking at The Frontline Club the previous night see here via Jonathan Hoffman.

Clips from last night (not good sound quality):

Clip 1 – Sand declares Israel a “shitty nation”:

Clip 2 – Sand declares Israel “the most racist society in the world” and says he has been fighting “Jewish racism all my life”:

Clip 3 – Sand claims there is no anti-Semitism in the west today:


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.


“[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]


“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]


“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.

+972 and a revealing Twitter exchange between CiF Watch and a radical left Israeli Jew

Yossi Gurvitz is a 40-year old journalist, blogger and photographer who writes for several Israeli publications, including the financial daily Calcalist and the Nana portal, and +972.

Notes Gurvitz on his bio at +972:

 “I was raised as an Orthodox Jew, graduated from a Yeshiva (Nehalim), but saw the light and turned atheist at about the age of 17.”

Gurvitz also believes that Israel is one of the main causes international anti-Semitism.

In an essay he published at +972 in September 2010, The Jewish Problem”, he suggests that anti-Semitism in Europe is an understandable reaction by non-Jews to Israeli policy, and that the reactionary anti-Semitic canard that Jews outside of Israel are more loyal to Israel than their own country is the fault, not of those who hold such views, but of modern Zionism.

Says Gurvitz:

“We now see that the creation of Israel  did not solve any problem. Rather, Israel is itself becoming the problem of the Jews.” 

“[Israel] almost singularly, [is] responsible for creation of a new anti-Semitic [canards].”

Recently, CiF Watch engaged in a Twitter exchange with Gurvitz, which elicited some revealing comments.

The conversation arose as the result of a disagreement that Gurvitz was having with two writers who oppose the existence of a Jewish state within any borders – Ben White (@benabyad) (author of Israel Apartheid for Beginners) and Ali Abunimah (@avinunu) (author of One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse). 

(Note: Gurvitz has an NIF horn in his twitter image, though he claims not to be connected to NIF). 

CiF Watch:


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The Guardian, Ariel, Academic Boycotts … and Arab Students

A guest post by AKUS

About six weeks ago, on Sunday 29 August 2010, the ever-active Harriet Sherwood, always busy gleaning negative news from the West Bank and Gaza, wrote up the Guardian’s version of some Israeli actors’ decision to not to perform in the town of Ariel: Israeli actors to boycott new West Bank theatre.

“More than 60 have joined the protest over plans by Israel‘s national theatre, the Habima, and other leading companies to stage performances in Ariel, a settlement 12 miles inside the West Bank”.

This widely reported affair seemed to peter out when some of the eager signatories were reminded that their salaries came from the Israeli taxpayer, and as Sherwood herself repeated (she borrows liberally – so to speak – from other sources):

“The Habima, Cameri, Beit Lessin and Be’er Shiva (sic) theatre companies issued a joint defence of their plans, saying they “will perform in any place where there are theatre-loving Israelis, including the new cultural centre in Ariel. We respect the political views of our actors, but we’ll make sure that the best of Israeli theatre will get to Ariel”.

Of course, she could not resist just a little hyperbole regarding how “deep” Ariel is in the West Bank (12 miles, as she said). My 15 minute drive to work each morning is about the same distance. If anything, it shows what small amounts of territory are at the heart of this endless struggle:

“Ariel, home to almost 20,000 people, was founded in 1978 deep in the West Bank. Israel wants it to remain on its side of any border resulting from peace negotiations with the Palestinians. All settlements on occupied territory are illegal under international law.”

Sherwood now seems to spend most of her time gallivanting round the West Bank and Gaza, from whence she reports back whatever loksh the local Arabs feed her as an alternative to painstakingly copying out other peoples’ news about Israel to regurgitate at the Guardian. While writing about Ariel, she overlooked an article about the city from 2005 by none other than arch Israel-demonizer Chris McGreal: West Bank college benefits from backlash against British boycott of Israeli academia.

I suppose it will come as no surprise if I point out the attempted boycott was led by a “Finkler” ASHamed Jew, Israeli-British Professor Haim Bereshit . (He seems to prefer the spelling: Bresheeth for a rather obvious reason) as reported on January 22nd, 2010 by YNet :

“We in the British professors’ organization (you have to love the way he has appropriated his British credentials while ditching his Israeli past – except when it comes to condemning Israel – pure Finklerism) have not waited and have worked even before this happened to include the Ariel College in the ‘gray list’, which does not allow academic institutions to have any ties with this institution. This is in fact a boycott process, although it is not defined as such due to the complexity of this matter.”

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Shlomo Sand’s Lies Don’t Go Away

This is a cross post from Emet m’Tsiyon

Shlomo Sand has become the Great White Hope of the anti-Zionists. Sand, a Communist, claims that the Jews of today are not descended from ancient Jews but from just about anybody but the ancient Jews. He needs this to sustain the anti-Zionist effort to delegitimize Zionism, which Communists, like himself, have opposed since the days of Lenin and Stalin. After all, Zionism is a liberation movement of the Jewish people. If there was no Jewish people, then what was the reason for Zionism? Well, the Jewish religion has always viewed the Jews, often called Israel or People of Israel in the ancient writings, as an ethnic or national group as well as a religion. The Biblical books are in part a history of the people of Israel. Later, after the deportation by the Assyrians of most of the population of the Ten northern Tribes, the history of the remainder of the people, the Jews, originally the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah, later called Iudaei by the Romans. The Jewish prayers too consider the Jews –also called Israel– as a people or nation. Hence, the belief in the existence of the Jewish people has existed for three thousand years at least, wherever the traditional prayers were recited and the Bible and other ancient Jewish literature was studied.

But anti-Zionists, who pretend to believe in national self-determination in principle, need the denial of a Jewish people, at least in modern times. At the same time, Sand, as a Communist or Communazi, needed to prove that there is no Jewish people today in order to justify not only his anti-Zionism but in order to vindicate Stalin. One of the scientific obstacles to arguing against the continuity of the ancient Jews with modern Jews is a series of some dozen to two dozen genetic studies that indicate such a continuity. Of course, no genetic scientist argues that the Jews are a pure race or that Arabs are a pure race and the like. What they can do is show the similarities in modal DNA for Jews from different geographic regions ranging from Morocco to Minsk, from Berlin to Baghdad, etc. Scientific genetic studies have shown this as well as Jewish DNA resemblances to Syrian and Lebanese Arabs, even to Palestinian Arabs, to Armenians, and –to a lesser extent– to Kurds, Greeks, Italians and Turks [the modern Turks of Turkey are actually mainly descended from peoples living in Anatolia before the Turkish conquest, including Greeks, Armenians, Kurds, Jews, etc., as well as from Arab and Turkish nomad invaders]. So Sand and his cohorts have to get over the obstacle of scientific genetic research.

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Pondlife Buried in the Sand

This is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman

Yesterday night Shlomo Sand spoke at SOAS. It was again chaired by Jonathan Derbyshire, the literary Editor of the New Statesman.

Unbelievably there were as many as 300 there, only one of whom (me) made a critical comment. He must have sold over 50 books afterwards.

I challenged him on his ‘rape’ comment on BBC R4 ‘Start The Week’ on Monday:

I’m not a Zionist. I don’t define myself as an anti-Zionist …. but I’m not a Zionist …  I don’t put into question the existence of Israel. I compare when I am speaking before Arab students the birth of the Israeli state to an act of rape. But even the son that was born of the act of rape….. you have to recognise him … the existence of Israel I don’t put in question today, you understand me?

After the meeting I hung around to talk. A British white guy – well dressed, plummy accent – asked me if I was British. I said I was. “Well you can’t be, if you are Jewish” he said – several times, before I told him he was a Nazi. That’s the kind of pondlife these events attract, like fleas to a dog.


Here is a new post on my earlier thread about Sand which just goes to prove my point:

Shlomo Sand’s agent

George Galloway, Birmingham University:

To those who believed that the Israeli state was the natural and just creation for a Jewish people exiled from their homeland in biblical times and wandering rootless ever since, Galloway said this was a fable, and a ridiculous one at that. Highlighting a new book by the leading Israeli historian Sholomo Sand, ‘The Invention of the Jewish People’, he said Jewish claims to a 2,000 year old lineage that justified theft of Palestinian land had about the same credabilty as the ‘descendents of the Romans, Normans, and Vikings’ laying claim on Britain today.

Oslo had been a disaster for the Palestinians and Zionist aggression has killed the possibility of a two-state solution. The only solution was now a single state, called either ‘Israel/Palestine or Palestine/Israel and running from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean Sea’ in which all people are entitled to live as equal citizens under the law.

Addendum #2

How telling that Sand’s research has never – and will never – be discussed at an academic conference. See Kevin Brook here.

Shlomo the Sandlout

The antisemitic lies of Shlomo Sand are a regular feature of “Comment is Free” in its I/P threads. Shlomo Sand is currently on tour promoting his book “The Invention of the Jewish People”. Below is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman sharing with us his experiences at one such event organized by the New Statesman.

On Monday night I went to hear Shlomo Sand who is doing three London meetings this week to promote the English translation of his book “The Invention of the Jewish People”. In the book Sand attempts to prove that the Jewish people never existed as a “nation-race” with a common origin. His thesis is that Jews are a rag-tag collection of flotsam and jetsam that at various stages of history just happened to adopt the same religion. He argues that for a number of Zionist ideologues, the mythical perception of the Jews as an ancient people led to racist thinking.

Tonight’s meeting was sponsored by the New Statesman magazine. Yes the same magazine of the ‘left’ that in February 2002 had to apologise for the antisemitic cartoon on its cover in an issue in January of the same year.

Tonight Sand was up against Denis MacShane MP who has written a book about antisemitism.

Sand had already given us a taste of his style (unbelievably he is a Professor of History at Tel Aviv University) on Start The Week on BBC Radio 4 on Monday morning.

I’m not a Zionist. I don’t define myself as an anti-Zionist …. but I’m not a Zionist …  I don’t put into question the existence of Israel. I compare when I am speaking before Arab students the birth of the Israeli state to an act of rape. But even the son that was born of the act of rape….. you have to recognise him … the existence of Israel I don’t put in question today, you understand me?

Andrew Marr and the other bien pensants on Start The Week (Hans Ulrich Obrist, Tony Marchant, Sue Brown) swallowed it all completely uncritically – fawningly even.

Unfortunately Denis MacShane was delayed by a vote in Parliament. Sand had ten minutes to present what Seth Frantzman called his “revisionist pseudo-history of the Jewish People” and then he was questioned – again uncritically – by Jonathan Derbyshire, the literary Editor of the New Statesman.

Eventually MacShane did arrive. He spoke about his visit to Israel as part of a trade union delegation and noted that the Sand event coincided with the anniversary of Kristallnacht. He did not feel qualified to get into the ‘Who Is a Jew?” debate but noted that the Hamas Charter was not particularly bothered about the precise definition. Disgracefully MacShane was interrupted by two people in the audience who felt he was not addressing the book.

Then to the Q+A. There have been plenty of critical reviews of the book. My favourite is Frantzman’s but there are also articles by Halkin, Greenstein, Bartal and Shapira. And Skorecki has done DNA research which shows that the same array of chromosomal markers was found in 97 of 106 Cohens tested (a Cohen is a descendant of the Priests in the High Temple). Sand claims that many Jews are descended from Khazars but the genetic research finds no link.

I had a chance to see the book before the talk. The final chapter is full of lies, here is an example:

Page 281: “The most important mission to be undertaken by the new state [of Israel] was the renewal, as best it could, of those who definitely did not regard themselves as Jews.”

And then he slips into the overtly antisemitic:

Page 292: “Jewish and Democratic – An Oxymoron?”

Page 313: “To what extent is Jewish Israeli society willing to discard the deeply embedded image of the “chosen people”?”

I told him his book was antisemitic, citing the “chosen people” trope. I asked him how it was that the Khazars could “demographically probably” be the fathers of the 3 million Polish Jews who existed in the 20th century, when they had no Khazar names, spoke Yiddish and contained numerous Cohens and Levis who could not possibly be of Khazar ancestry (such status is obtained from the patrilineal line and cannot be obtained via conversion). (Frantzman makes this point). I also asked him why he wrote the book – was it for notoriety or was it for money?

He failed to answer. He also failed to answer Richard Millett who pointed out that Hamas was not prepared to give the Jews any land area (Sand had said that the Jews were allocated too much land by the UN in 1947). Richard was heckled – uproar broke out. The meeting ended and I heard Sand got even more loutish later. It is a toss up between Sand and Caryl Churchill (of Seven Jewish Children) as to who distorts Jewish history more.

As Seth Frantzman writes: “If the Jews never really existed then why did Islam and Christianity spend so much time suppressing them?”