In a recent interview for Tablet, Noam Chomsky discusses the idea of Jewish identity, describing the methods that Ahad Ha'am and Shlomo Sand (author of The Invention of the Jewish People and the new On the Nation and the Jewish People) have used to confront national mythmaking:
I remember reading together with my father an essay that Ahad Ha'am wrote about Moses. The basic idea was there are two Moseses-the first is the historical Moses, if there was such a person, and the other is the image of Moses that was constructed and came down through the ages and occupies an important place in the national mythology.
Ahad Ha'am was an early advocate of the idea that later became famous with [the Marxist political scientist] Ben Anderson, when he wrote his books about how nations are imagined communities. He said there's an imagined-I don't think he used the term-but there's an imagined Jewish community, in which Moses plays a central role, and it really doesn't matter if there was a historical Moses or not. That's part of the national myth, which is a sophisticated version of what [author] Shlomo Sand was trying to get at. Sand debunks the historical Moses, but from Ha'am's point of view, it makes no difference.
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