Tag Archives | Shlomo Sand

Prof. Howe Responds

Last week, I criticized a review by Prof. Stephen Howe of Shlomo Sand’s book, The Invention of the Jewish People.  Given the somewhat personal nature of the criticism, I invited Prof. Howe to respond, which he does below:

Thanks for your courtesy in letting me know about your posting on Volokh, which I read with great interest (as I also did the ensuing comments from others).

Surely it’s clear that my remark about people with no discernible expertise refers to those who have launched wild and abusive attacks on Sand, not to every blogger who has commented on the book. The latter would indeed have been a wild, absurdly over-general charge – and in any case I have of course not read more than a fraction of the truly remarkable outpouring of commentary, in several languages, which continues to appear. I do not find abuse of that kind in your own criticism, so naturally did not have you among my implied targets.  However, where you say you ‘haven’t seen anyone call Sand anti-Semitic’, I’m afraid I have come across many such instances. Just try Googling the relevant words!

As to my own knowledge or lack thereof, a more careful glance through my past publication list would reveal that I have written a fair bit over the years on Israeli history and politics, in both journalistic and more academic veins. I have been working for some while on a book on Israel’s ‘history wars’, and from both that and a more longstanding ‘layperson’s interest in Jewish history’ am I think fairly well acquainted with most of the very disparate controversies into which Sand ventures. Insofar as, in my view, the real point and purpose of Sand’s polemic is not about ancient history but present-day Israeli politics, I have followed these [...]

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Unintentionally Ironic Book Review of the Week

Professor Stephen Howe of Bristol University reviewed Shlomo Sand’s The Invention of the Jewish People in the Independent.  The review itself says nothing of particular interest, and any discussion of the origins of the demographic origins of modern Jews people that doesn’t reference the genetic evidence is doomed to be worthless.

But here’s the unintentionally ironic part:

The blogosphere has been buzzing with wild charges and vulgar abuse against Sand’s book – most repeatedly, predictably and depressingly, calling it anti-Semitic. Almost none of those assailants, naturally, has any discernible expertise in any of the fields Sand touches on.

In fact, much of the criticism I’ve seen (plus my own), is either by people who do have some demonstrated expertise in the area, or who link to/cite those who do.  (For that matter, I haven’t seen anyone call Sand anti-Semitic, but many have correctly pointed out that his theory that most Ashkenazic Jews descended from Khazars finds virtually no support among geneticists or linguists, but is quite popular with anti-Semites around the world, who have been basically the only ones keeping the “controversy” alive.)

But what of Prof. Howe?  From his website:

My main focus has been on British imperial history, including the role of imperial questions in domestic British politics; but my writing also involves a strong comparative element, which embraces a growing interest in ideas about American ’empire’ today. Much of my recent and current work engages with the very concept of colonialism and associated terms, including reflection on and probing of the limits, the uses and indeed the abuses of the concept itself. Much, too, addresses broad theoretical and comparative questions about anti- and post-colonialism. I’m currently completing three interrelated books: on the intellectual consequences of decolonisation, on anticolonial intellectuals, and on representations and legacies of late-colonial

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