Shlomo Sand

Shlomo Sand studied history at the University of Tel Aviv and at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, in Paris. He currently teaches contemporary history at the University of Tel Aviv. His books include The Invention of the Jewish People, On the Nation and the Jewish People, L’Illusion du politique: Georges Sorel et le débat intellectuel 1900, Georges Sorel en son temps, Le XXe siècle à l'écran and Les Mots et la terre: les intellectuels en Israël.


  • Explaining the Israel-Palestine Conflict

    Key facets of the Israel-Palestine conflict have been thrust back into a wider public limelight, due to the news that actress Scarlett Johansson has left her role as an Oxfam ambassador. The split comes after criticism over her decision to promote Sodastream, the drinks company which operates out of a factory in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Oxfam opposes all trade with groups based in Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories, creating a confict which has caused a serious rift between the humanitarian group and its celebrity supporter.

    "Scarlett Johansson has respectfully decided to end her ambassador role with Oxfam after eight years," said a statement this week. "She and Oxfam have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. She is very proud of her accomplishments and fundraising efforts during her tenure with Oxfam."

    Vijay Prashad
    has written in the Guardian that Johansson's involvement with Sodastream brings much-needed scrutiny to illegal settlement activity and wider Western support for Israel. Once again we see that his is an issue that is not going to go away any time soon.

    These are Verso's key books on the Israel-Palestine conflict, from explanations to considered outcomes – what others should we include?

    Continue Reading

  • New scientific study rekindles the debate about Jewish genetic history and nationalist imaginations

    In 2006, Shlomo Sand's The Invention of the Jewish People stirred up controversy over its claim that most modern day Jews do not share an "unbroken genealogy," and are the descendants of Khazar converts to Judaism who originated from the north Caucasus region.  

    But a recent study published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature challenges the Khazar hypothesis put forward by Sand and other historians. The study claims that approximately 40 percent of Ashkenazi Jewish maternal ancestry can be traced to Europe, rather than the Middle East or the Caucasus. 

    Continue Reading

  • Debunking a Nationalist Myth: Donald Sassoon on Shlomo Sand's The Invention of the Land of Israel

    Donald Sassoon, in his recent review of Shlomo Sand's latest book, The Invention of the Land of Israel, presents us with the book's main argument, namely, that the entire notion of 'the land of Israel' is an invention. That is to say, most nations' location and borders are the result of endless shifts, changes and movements throughout history, many of them contingent and unwarranted. Israel, on the other hand, claims for itself a specific place on the map based on a transcendental prescription, also known as a divine promise.

    First off, this promise, if it was indeed made (by God no less), it does not in fact include Jerusalem, Hebron, or Bethehem. And even less does it follow from this, that peoples should be displaced, wars should be waged and lands should be colonized to fulfill a promise made over 2000 years ago. Indeed, Sassoon reminds us that "in traditional Judaism there is no injunction to "return" to the "land of Israel"", which only serves to make things for the campaigners of such yearnings even harder.

    But all this matters very little in the end: nations have always created myths to justify their existence, fabricated enemies to solidify national identities and reserved a special place for themselves in order to warrant domination over others. In the case of Israel, the facts Sand presents are known (at least to specialists), as Donald Sassoon confirms. What matters, and what this book's "painful truth-telling" delivers, is that they become more widely so. In Sassoon's own words:

    "[Shlomo Sand's] achievement consists in debunking a nationalist mythology."

    Something which, on all accounts, is no small feat.

    Visit the Guardian to read the review in full.