For the e-mail see post below.
Dear Mr. Davis,
Thank you for replying in such a timely manner. You have written a great deal, but you have not understood or have simply ignored my very deep concerns about the booklet Steadfast Hope: The Palestinian Quest for Just Peace.
There are several issues in your letter I must address. First is the issue of racism and I will connect that with anti-Semitism. The second has to do with Jewish history; the third with Christianity and the biblical text. They will overlap. They all center on the quote I find so offensive, therefore I will also start my essay with it.
“The founding narrative of the State of Israel links the modern-day Jews’ claim to the land of Israel/Palestine to their direct genealogical descent from the ancient Israelites. Recent anthropological scholarship shows that this widespread belief is very likely a myth, not historical fact. Shlomo Sand, an expert on European history at the university of Tel Aviv, and author of When and How Was the Jewish People Invented? posits that the Jews were never exiled en masse from the Holy Land and that many European Jewish populations converted to the faith centuries later. Thus, he argues, many of today’s Israelis who emigrated from Europe after World War II have little or no genealogical connection to the ancient land of Israel.”
In your e-mail you bring up the issue of racism with this sentence. “Even so, it would be a mistake to reduce the vitally important ongoing conversation about Israel/Palestine to an argument about genetic purity and we assume your inquiry to Ms. Hylkema is not an attempt to so.”
Others who are reading your e-mail may not understand the significance of that statement. So I will explain. And this certainly has to do with Sand’s book and your use of the quote. In a review of Sand’s book, Jewish Professor, Israel Bartal, dean of the humanities faculty of the Hebrew University, explains some of the problems. They include Sand’s attempt to caricature the early Zionists and Zionist historians with a form of racism. Sand does this by contending that the Zionist historians covered up any story that connects converted Gentiles to the people of Israel.
Bartal refutes Sand in his article “Inventing an Invention.” For instance, while Sand insists that the early founders of the State of Israel tried to cover up any knowledge of the Khazars, an ancient people who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages, Bartal has memories of reading about them in the 1950’s in “the Mikhlal Encyclopedia, an almost mythological reference text that nearly every Israeli high school student relied on in those years, the flagship of what is termed ‘mainstream Zionism,’ in the lean Hebrew of 21st-century Israel.”
Continuing, Bartal explains that Sand sees the Zionist insistence on the right of land for the Israelis resting on “on a biological-genetic ideology,” which “became the ‘narrative of the ruling group’ thanks to the fact that the ‘authorized scholars of the past’ have concealed the truth concerning the real, impure origin of the Jews.” But Bartal, as his article shows, has clearly refuted any such nonsense about early Zionist or Zionist historians.
Both Sand and the publication produced by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network are attempting to make the founders of the State of Israel as well as Zionist historians out to be racists, that is, those who insist on a genetically pure ethnic group. And this fits very well, not with true history, but with the constant insistence, in Steadfast Hope, that the Israelis have committed “ethnic cleansing.” Please see my post, More from the Presbyterian Israel/Palestine Mission Network's booklet Steadfast Hope, on this subject.
Instead the Jewish people were strengthened in their knowledge that their people and faith had converted Gentiles to the Jewish faith.
The claim that Zionist founders and historians are and were racist is anti-Semitic.
But even true stories of conversion, such as the Khazars or the stories in Esther, do not negate the truth that the Jewish people in Diaspora are linked genetically to ancient Israel. Sand’s theory, that most contemporary members of European Jewry are not genetically connected to ancient Israel, a theory also upheld by the authors of Steadfast Hope, is clearly refuted by genetic investigation.
Under the “Science” column, the New York Times published an article titled, Y Chromosome Bears Witness to Story of the Jewish Diaspora. The article written by Nicholas Wade begins:
“With a new technique based on the male or Y chromosome, biologists have traced the diaspora of Jewish populations from the dispersals that began in 586 B.C. to the modern communities of Europe and the Middle East.
The analysis provides genetic witness that these communities have, to a remarkable extent, retained their biological identity separate from their host populations, evidence of relatively little intermarriage or conversion into Judaism over the centuries.”
The article goes on to connect the Jewish people with the Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese and to “a common ancestral population that inhabited the Middle East some four thousand years ago.” This is a very interesting article and should be read by anyone interested in the subject.
Also for information on the Sephardic Jews and their relation to ancient Israel see The forgotten refugees": some film clips and scientific proof here.
To return to the e-mail nothing you write absolves you of using a quote which many radical Muslims and racist, anti-Semitic groups in the United States accept with glee. It does not absolve you of disconnecting the Jewish people from their own history. Both Christianity and Judaism are faiths whose history is of utmost importance. “The sacred books and prayers” are important because of the true Jewish connection to ancient Israel not because of a collective consciousness.
And, in fact, if the Jewish people’s connection to ancient Israel is less than historical, Christianity is grounded in nothing and may once again become the tale of the heroic or noble Aryan as it did in Nazi Germany.
Sand is a historian interested in historiography, and also in a one state solution to the Middle East problem. His words and ideas, which he intends for good, are open to misuse by all manner of anti-Semites and also those whose agenda is incessantly slanted against the Jewish people.
This brings me to my final issue, Christianity and the biblical text. The authors of Steadfast Hope have written for what is supposedly a Christian ministry in the Presbyterian (U.S.A.) And yet they chose to use a historian who is not only on the margins of Jewish historical thinking and one without a background in ancient history, but also one who is a minimalist historian as far as Israel is concerned, that is, he denies the existence of Moses and the exile of Israel as well as King David and Solomon. He denies the ancient Kingdom of Israel.
But the Israel/Palestinian Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) surely knows better than this. Hopefully they uphold the faith of the Church. It may be easy for a secularist, even when he is Jewish, to deny the connection between the Jewish people of today and ancient Israel; perhaps all he believes in are memories of collective communities. But Christians should be grounded in the Holy Scripture.
Christians should understand the connection between the Jewish people and their sacred texts, because part of our text belongs to the Jewish people. To deny the Hebrew Bible is to deny our faith.
I hope I do not offend my Jewish friends, but for a Christian to deny Moses and the Passover is to deny the shed blood of the Lamb. To deny King David is to deny the King of heaven, the coming Ruler. And, woefully, to deny the exile is to deny the sinfulness of humanity and the 'judgment' that eventually came to Rome. So why use a historian who denies all of the Hebrew Bible and bases his historical maneuverings on his denial?
You have suggested the use of Dr. Mary Mikhael’s “Joshua: a Journey of Faith,” the Presbyterian Women’s Bible Study. Its political slant is very much in agreement with yours. And in the study Mikhael, using Richard D. Nelson, refers to the text of Joshua as displaying “a folkloristic character.” With all of this I am reminded of a chapter in the book The German Church Struggle and the Holocaust, in which Franklin H. Littell complains about the state of liberal Christianity in the United States in regards to the Jewish people, likening it to what came before Hitler. (He is saying this in 1974) He writes:
“The irony of our recent decades as men of education is severe: those who have found the particularity of ‘Jewish folklore and fable’ too confining, too earthy, too finite have ended in the pitiful vulgarisms of Teutonic or Anglo-Saxon or other Gentile ethnicity infused by a vague piety.”
That is a warning. Too many in the Presbyterian Church and other denominations are, as I have stated before, descending into the murky waters of anti-Semitism. Your booklet is proof of it. I will be writing about it in further postings.
Elder, Fremont Presbyterian Church,