In his book "How the Jewish people was invented" Shlomo Sand claims that there is no Jewish people, just a Jewish religion. He rejects most of the stories of national-identity formation in the Bible, including the exodus from Egypt. He thinks it's all fiction and myth that served as an excuse for the establishment of the State of Israel. According to Sand, the Zionist need to devise for them a shared ethnicity and historical continuity produced a long series of inventions and fictions. Some were concocted in the minds of those who conceived the Zionist movement, while others were offered as the findings of genetic studies conducted in Israel. In his opinion present-day Jews are not descendants of the Jews who lived in Judea 1900 years ago, but descended form later-day converts to Judaism. As such they are just a group with the same religion and had no legitimate right to establish their nation-state in Mandatory Palestine.
But Sand ignores the genetic research which clearly shows that, even though there is no "Jewish DNA," there is definite biological-genetic evidence that the Jews are one people. Most of those studies were done abroad, in very reputable academic laboratories and published in prestigious peer review journals.
The researchers found that despite their long-term residence in different countries and isolation from one another, most Jewish populations were not significantly different from one another at the genetic level. The researchers studied seven Jewish populations: Yemenite, Ashkenazic, Near Eastern, North African, Asia Minor and the Balkans and Ethiopian. The first six showed a strong affinity, with the Ashkenazic and Yemenite populations coming out the closest. Palestinian, Syrian and other non-Jewish Middle Eastern populations were also very close to the Jewish populations.
Other research shows that the Jews in different countries are much closer to Jews in other countries than to their non-Jewish neighbors.
If modern-day Jews are descendants of converts, as Sand claims, then there would have been no similarity between the different Jewish communities. And the Jewish populations would have been similar to their non-Jewish neighbors. In fact, the Ethiopian Jewish community is different from the other Jewish communities because it originated from descendants of local converts.
The Ashkenazi Jews were not found to be similar to present-day Turkish speakers. This opposes the suggestion that Ashkenazi Jews descended from the Khazars, a Turkish-Asian empire that converted to Judaism in or about the 8th century CE. Dr. Neil Risch, a researcher at the Department of Genetics at Stanford University, said:
"If you made a [genetic] map of Europe and the Middle East and you put Ashkenazi Jews on it, they would not end up in Turkey or in the middle of Europe, but in the Mediterranean."
The results of the research support the notion that modern Jews descended from a common Middle Eastern ancestral population..Contrary to Sand's assertion, both history and science support the existence of the Jewish people.
It is important to note that Judaism was not a prolethising religion, like Christianity and Islam.. The Rambam said that “converts are to Israel as difficult as leprosy.” Which means that Judaism did not encourage conversion. It is of interest that Sand, who writes that the Bible stories are myths and fiction, accepts as credible the Book of Esther because it supports his idea of mass conversion to Judaism.
Contrary to Sand's assertion the term "Jewish" denotes BOTH religion and peoplehood. There is no "Catholic' or "Protestant" people but there is Jewish people, just like there is Bulgarian or French people.
It is immaterial if there was an exodus or not or if Jews were expelled by the Romans or not. What counts is that the Jews became a people in what was later called Palestine, some 3500 y ago. Regardless if the Bible stories are true or not, they were written by members of the Jewish people. The Mernaptah stele (1200 BCE) mentions Israel, indicating that it was a significant socioethnic entity. And, in spite of losing their territorial base for more than 1900 years, and being dispersed all over, they managed to preserve their historical memory and did not disappear like so many other nations of antiquity did.
The Zionist movement was founded by totally secular Jews. They were motivated by nationalism, not religion. They wanted to re-establish an independent Jewish state in Palestine, not because God promised the land to the Jews but because the Jews became a people in that land, The Jews never lost their emotional connection to that land and through the centuries there was always a Jewish presence there. The Hebrew term “Am Israel” (Jewish people) was coined many centuries before the appearance of political Zionism.
The Zionist movement was one of the most successful movements of national liberation of the 20th century. After all, there is no precedent in all of recorded history that a people, having lost its territorial base and being dispersed all over for more than 1900 years is able to reestablish its independent nation state in the place of its origin. If one adds the revival of the long dead Hebrew language one can appreciate the success of the Zionist movement. That explains why Sand, a known anti-Zionist, is trying to deny the existence of the Jewish people and its right to its nation-state.
Jacob Amir, M.D.