A controversial Israeli historian has declared his wish to cease considering himself a Jew, expressing disgust at the “ethnocentricity” which he feels is the prevailing worldview among many Israelis
In an opinion piece published in the Guardian on Friday – which is an extract from his new book, “How I Stopped Being a Jew” — Prof. Shlomo Sand of Tel Aviv University says he has been “assimilated by law into a fictitious ethnos of persecutors and their supporters.”
“I wish to resign and cease considering myself a Jew,” he writes.
Sand asserts that Israel is “one of the most racist societies in the western world” due to its strict characterization as a Jewish state. “Racism is present to some degree everywhere, but in Israel it exists deep within the spirit of the laws,” he says.
He expresses his disillusionment with Israel due to its continued occupation of the Palestinian territories, which he says “is leading us on the road to hell.”
Despite his scathing critique of Israel, Sand acknowledges that he is also deeply tied to the nation. “The language in which I speak, write and dream is overwhelmingly Hebrew,” he says. “When I am far from Israel, I see my street corner in Tel Aviv and look forward to the moment I can return to it… when I visit the teeming Paris bookstores, what comes to my mind is the Hebrew book week organized each year in Israel.”
Sand states his belief that the ethnic differences which have divided the world for millennia will become insignificant as the world moves more and more toward globalization. “The cultural distance between my great grandson and me will be as great or greater than that separating me from my own great grandfather,” he hypothesizes.
The Tel Aviv lecturer has long been the subject of controversy. His 2008 book “The Invention of the Jewish People” claimed that the Jews were not a nation expelled from its homeland but a religion of converts spread throughout the world. The Jewish people as an ethnic group, he asserted, was a myth created by Jewish intellectuals in the 19th century. In a 2009 sequel, “The Invention of the Land of Israel,” Sand similarly deconstructs the Jews’ historical right to that land.