The Invention of the Jewish People

Bestselling new analysis of Jewish history by a leading Israeli historian.

A historical tour de force, The Invention of the Jewish People offers a groundbreaking account of Jewish and Israeli history. Exploding the myth that there was a forced Jewish exile in the first century at the hands of the Romans, Israeli historian Shlomo Sand argues that most modern Jews descend from converts, whose native lands were scattered across the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

In this iconoclastic work, which spent nineteen weeks on the Israeli bestseller list and won the coveted Aujourd'hui Award in France, Sand provides the intellectual foundations for a new vision of Israel’s future.


  • “Sand's questions about how Israel's democracy can be liberalized and stabilized are thought-provoking and deserve serious discussion.”
  • “Perhaps books combining passion and erudition don't change political situations, but if they did, this one would count as a landmark.”
  • “[Sand's] quiet earthquake of a book is shaking historical faith in the link between Judaism and Israel.”
  • “Anyone interested in understanding the contemporary Middle East should read this book.”
  • “Extravagantly denounced and praised.”
  • “No discussion of the region any longer seems complete without acknowledgement of this book.”
  • “A radical dismantling of a national myth.”
  • “Almost too baseless to debunk.”


  • 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?

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  • Review of Reflections on Anti-Semitism by review31

    Eugene Brennan wrote a review of Alain Badiou, Eric Hazan and Ivan Segré's Reflections on Anti-Semitism in review31. In their work, the three authors highlight a current custom of French political discourse, which silences any criticism of France's racist and Islamophobic policies by branding it as anti-semitic. Similarly criticism of Israel becomes dangerously but conveniently equated to anti-semitism, a practice upholded by France's most prominent Zionist pundit philosophers, Alain Finkielkraut and Bernard Henri-Lévy. These attacks predominantly affect France's Arab population by justifying discriminatory measures against them, in addition to their demonization by many feminist and gay liberation groups. Brennan writes:

    While these complex variants of anti-Semitism persist in fragmented forms, the authors denounce the prevalent thesis which claims that there has been a ‘surge of anti-semitism’ since the early years of the War on Terror. This is not a description of an actual situation but an ideological smokescreen for stigmatising one portion of the population, conveniently one of the most disadvantaged: black and Arab youth. 

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  • 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. 

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Other books by Shlomo Sand Translated by Yael Lotan