Blog post

Shlomo Sand: "I wish to resign and cease considering myself a Jew"

John Merrick13 October 2014

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Shlomo Sand's new book, How I Stopped Being a Jew, charts the author's journey as a secular Israeli to his break with what he calls "tribal Judeocentrism." From the historical tragedies of the twentieth century to the current state of Israel, Sand's book offers a personal reflection on the changing meaning and status of Jewish identity.

In an exclusive extract in the Guardian, Sand writes that, although he cannot officially his change nationality from "Jew" to "Israeli," he wishes to renounce the legal privileges that come with his status as a Jew in Israel.

"Now, having painfully become aware that I have undergone an adherence to Israel, been assimilated by law into a fictitious ethnos of persecutors and their supporters, and have appeared in the world as one of the exclusive club of the elect and their acolytes, I wish to resign and cease considering myself a Jew."

This privilege stems from the fact that being Jewish in Israel means to not be Arab, and despite formal democracy being granted to non-Jews, Israel is, and remains, a racist society.

"I am aware of living in one of the most racist societies in the western world. Racism is present to some degree everywhere, but in Israel it exists deep within the spirit of the laws. It is taught in schools and colleges, spread in the media, and above all and most dreadful, in Israel the racists do not know what they are doing and, because of this, feel in no way obliged to apologise. This absence of a need for self-justification has made Israel a particularly prized reference point for many movements of the far right throughout the world, movements whose past history of antisemitism is only too well known."

Against the identity politics of Israel, Sand ultimately calls for an open and inclusive universalism that won't define legal status based upon religion or ethnicity.
"By my refusal to be a Jew, I represent a species in the course of disappearing. I know that by insisting that only my historical past was Jewish, while my everyday present (for better or worse) is Israeli, and finally that my future and that of my children (at least the future I wish for) must be guided by universal, open and generous principles, I run counter to the dominant fashion, which is oriented towards ethnocentrism."
To read the extract in full visit the Guardian website.

How I Stopped Being a Jew is available to purchase from the Verso website with a 30% discount and a free bundled ebook.

Filed under: gaza, israel-palestine