An Israeli history professor questions the notion of a Jewish identity and the Israeli stance toward their Palestinian neighbors.
In this attempt to “reveal some components of the chain of personal identities I have acquired in the course of my life,” Sand (Modern History/Tel Aviv Univ.; The Invention of the Land of Israel, 2012, etc.) continues his critique of accepted notions of Jewish identity, land and history. While this work is more reflective than previous books, a large portion of this short volume is a reassessment on how we think about Jewish identity. Sand works from the premise that we are living in a time in which political anti-Semitism is no longer a reality. As such, the collective identity as “victim”—a term that the author feels was monopolized in post–World War II popular culture by the Jews—no longer offers merit for the Jewish community. Sand believes that the greater Jewish community is undergoing an identity crisis by way of the concept of “Secular Judaism”; without a religious tradition and law to tie people together, the means through which Jews are part of a shared identity remains ambiguous. From this perspective, a void in Jewish identity is filled with a shared anti-Arab sentiment, and the consequence of this false notion of Jewish identity is the dire treatment of Israel’s Palestinian neighbors. Sand brings up a number of interesting questions (none of which are uniquely his), but he never addresses the ways in which his position as a university professor in Israel colors his view. His insulated experiences of living in Israel and his regular travels through the cosmopolitan sections of Paris, London and New York may not provide insight into the ways in which Jewish individuals and communities outside of his purview continue to demarcate a sense of self in the face of political and societal anti-Semitism.
A very brief book that is sure to raise questions and incite strong reactions.