Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Review of The Invention of the Land of Israel: From Holy Land to Homeland by Shlomo Sand

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (03/16/2024)
Intriguing Connections = 1) Get To Know The Peoples Of The World (Israel), 

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“Such a view could be maintained only by providing the masses with a mythological image of the exile of a people that ostensibly took place in the first century BCE, despite the fact that the scholarly elite was well aware that such an exile never really occurred during the entire period in question.  For this reason, not even one research-based book has thus been written on the forced uprooting of the “Jewish people.”” – Shlomo Sand, Chapter, Page 12

“The original Christian Zionist idea of settling Jews in Palestine presented itself as a means of bypassing this obstacle to the establishment of an imperial foothold in the Middle East.  After all, the Jews were a natural ally of Britain, which was known to be the least anti-Semitic country in Europe and a long-standing admirer of the ancient Hebrews.” – Shlomo Sand, Chapter Three: Toward a Christian Zionism: And Balfour Promised the Land, Page 154

“As a result of the increasing pressure on the Jews of Europe, and the absence of countries willing to grant them entry and refuge, more and more Jews and non-Jews alike came to be convinced of the importance of this new consciousness of right, transforming it into an indisputable “natural right.”  The fact that for thirteen hundred years the inhabitants of the region had been overwhelmingly Muslim was countered by maintaining that this local population did not possess the unique attributes of a nation and had never claimed self-determination.  By contrast, according to Zionist discourse, the Jewish nation had always existed and, in every generation, had aspired to return to its country and realize its right, although to its great misfortune it had always been prevented from doing so by political circumstance.” – Shlomo Sand, Chapter Four: Zionism versus Judaism: The Conquest of “Ethnic” Space, Page 205


Is This An Overview?

Jews were settling in the Middle East since the 19th century, but Israel was made possible by early 20th mass immigration due to persecution, consequences of war, and anti-immigration policies of other states.  Ideas of settling Palestine were a 19th century Christian Zionist invention.  Supported by the British as a way to overcome colonialization limitations in the area, which would have given the British access to the area along with allies. 

To take territory that would become Israel, a historic claim was made on the land.  That the people owned the land who did not live on it for over two millennia, while denying the right to the land to those who lived on the land continuously for centuries.  That the local people did not claim self-determination. 

Sovereign ownership of the land was justified by a myth, that the land was the ancestral land in possession of the Jewish people.  An exile was part of the myth, an exile that never happened.  A myth of a people having a desire to return to the ancestral land, but when Jewish groups were expelled from other regions due to religious persecution, they did not historically want to seek refuge in the sacred land.  Jews relocated to other locations.


What Myths Justified Israel?

Myths were created by disregarding history.  To avoid the history of Judaism as a dynamic and proselytizing religion.  To pretend that history does not contain various Judaized kingdoms that flourished.  To forget the converted Jews by the Judaized kingdoms.  Myths meant to disregard the territory’s local peasants.

There was no exile, nor was there yearning to return.  Faithful Jews spread across the world.  Jews were not limited to a small territory, but where to be found everywhere.  Believers not through punishment.   

The myth was developed to get Western sympathy, particularly Protestant Christian community who preceded Zionists ideas.


How Was The Concept Of Israel Formed?

The term Land of Israel came after the destruction of the Temple.  With the area being defined as Palestina by the Roman Empire.  It was during the 20th century that the Land of Israel became a theological concept due to the Protestants.  It was the Puritans which interested the Bible as historical text before the Jewish Zionists.  That was when the geonational concept was refined.  Israel as a homeland came after nationalism, making sacrificing for the sake of homeland a much later interpretation and myth.


How Does Power Transforms A People?

Founded on fluid borders, which had the option of expanding.  And did expand.  Founded on ideas that Jews were persecuted who had nowhere else to go, but the territorial expansion and military victory that were not related to Jewish suffering.


Jews had been powerless and persecuted, but had become powerful and abused their power.  The persecuted had become the persecutors.

They portrayed themselves as saviors rather than conquerors of foreign lands.  There is debate whether Palestinians left willingly or because of the bombings.  Many have justified Zionist colonization by the ancestral lands claim.  Israel controls a large Palestinian population who have no sovereignty.



The focus is on how the concept of Israel came to be.  The myths involved in making Israel, and breaking the myths.  The practical reason for how Israel came to be.  This is not a detailed political or social history of Israel.

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What Jewish myths were created?
•What were the myths used for?
•Why migrate to the Middle East?
•Where did the historical concept of the land of Israel come from?
•What justified taking the land of Israel?
•Did the local people have sovereignty?
•Do the Jews have an ancestral land?
•Were Jews exiled from the Middle East in the 1st century B.C.E.?
•Did Jews want to return to the Middle East?
•Were there Judaic kingdoms?
•Did Judaism proselytize? 
•How were Israels borders defined?
•Have Jews changed after being in Israel? 
•What is the Temple?
•Are humans biologically territorial?  
•How do homelands develop?  
•How did marriage customs change?
•How does Israel maintain its political and military power? 

Book Details
Translator:              Geremy Forman
Original Language: Hebrew
Translated Into:       English
Publisher:               Verso [New Left Books]
Edition ISBN:         9781844679461
Pages to read:          281
Publication:             2012
1st Edition:              2012
Format:                    Hardcover 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    3
Content          5
Overall          4