"Shlomo Zand and the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem"
For 2,000 years, philosophers and historians have tried to understand the Jewish problem, others have tried to solve it by eliminating the Jews. No Jews, no problem! Sometimes it requires a non-expert to find a solution. Shlomo Zand, an Israeli professor of French history and cinema, is the latest contender to offer a final solution to the Jewish problem. His solution has French elegance: Prove that there are no Jews, get everyone to believe it, and then there will be no more Jewish problem. His book, "Matai ve'eych humtza ha'am hayehudi?" ("When and How was the Jewish People Invented?") was just published in Israel and is a best seller. By September, it will be published in French. By that time, Zand should be well on his way to solving the Jewish problem.
Zand is to be commended for a solution that at first glance, seems to have no mess, no fuss and no bother, a great improvement over previous models. No auto da fe is required, no charging Cossacks are needed, no gas chambers, no smelly crematoria. It is not even necessary to be baptized. Nothing! A coterie of non-Jewish Jewish sycophants have already written laudatory reviews of the book and interviews with the budding genius, in which he explains the workings of his ingenious invention for annihilation of the Jews.
Zand's major contention is that the Romans never exiled any Jews. All European Jews are therefore descendants of converts. That includes the Jews of Spain, whom he claims were converted "Berbers," (the racist epithet used by Arabs to describe Amazigh and other native peoples of North Africa suppressed by the Arabs). The Ashkenazy Jews are descendants of the central European Khazar tribe according to him, following Koestler and others, and the Yemenites are Arab converts. Josephus Flavius, he asserts, never mentions exile, and there is no mention of exile in any other ancient source, for either the revolt of 73 AD or the revolt of Bar Kochba. There was no exile, because Romans had peculiar logistical problems transporting Jews. Josephus Flavius, he asserts, never mentions exile, and there is no mention of exile in any other ancient source, for either the revolt of 73 AD or the revolt of Bar Kochba. They could bring myriads of Greek slaves from Asia minor, Egyptians, Syrians, Africans. Gauls, Illyrians, Goths, Britons and all other races that we know were in Rome. Jews, for some reason, spoiled during transport or were not movable according to Zand. Moreover, Zand cannot imagine why after the capital city, Jerusalem was laid waste, and hundreds of thousand of people were killed by all accounts, it might have been just possible that some Jews would, of their own volition, seek their fortune outside the ideal conditions of near starvation prevailing in Roman Palestine.
Zand has a final solution for every Jew! A true communist and citizen of the world, Zand considers that only people who speak Yiddish are really Jews, of a sort that has no historic connection with Israel. If you don't speak Yiddish, forget about being Jewish according to Rabbi Zand and the Zandinistas. Here is an anti-Zionist Mapainik Ashkenazi elitst, more racist than the worst stereotypes of Mapainiks. The real "Jews" or ex-Jews of the land are the Palestinian Arabs he claims. Presumably that includes all the Palestinian Arabs who came here from Africa as slaves, and the Husseini and Dajani and Nashashibi families who came here as conquerers at different times. Presumably, they must've been Jews who temporarily wandered off into Arabia and then returned home a thousand years later. That includes Izzedin al Qassam, born in Syria, and Fawzi el Qaukji the Lebanese.
And why does Zand wish to complete the annihilation of the Jewish people that was begun by the previous racist theorist? For the most progressive reasons of health, justice, social improvement, and public welfare, in the best traditions of all Jew eliminators. Israeli democracy is imperfect and unfair to Arabs, claim the Zandinistas. The way to improve it and make the world a better place, they believe, is to deny Jewish people the right to self-determination, by simply wishing them away. Zand does not want to abolish Israel. There will be one Palestinian Arab state, for who could deny self-determination to the Palestinian Arabs, descendants of the ancient Jews or Phillistines or whatever? Only a Mapainik like Golda Meir would be so insensitive and racist as to say "there are no Palestinians." That is an entirely reprehensible and morally repugnant idea, as opposed to the noble declaration, "There are no Jews." Alongside this Palestinian Arab state, reserved only for lineal descendants of King David presumably, there will be a state of undetermined national character called Israel.
One flaw in Zand's thesis is that nobody sane, including Zionists, ever claimed that a nation or a people consists only of genetically related individuals. Only Adolf Hitler and the Nazis made that claim. The Zandinistas attribute that claim to Zionists, but it was not made by Zionists.
A second problem that Zand does not deal with, is that Josephus Flavius hardly needed to mention exiles, because he was one, and in any case, Josephus enumerated 97,000 captives from the siege of Jerusalem, including 700 specially picked choice grade A captives who were, logistical problems notwithstanding, brought to Rome to march in the triumph and probably fed to the lions. Most of the rest were presumably sold to slave jobbers who followed the Roman armies, and were the main source of revenue for Roman generals. For slaves, as a good Marxist like Zand should know, were both the means of production and the renewable and sustainable energy source of the ancient world. They supplied the motive power of the ancient ships, provided the manufacturing capacity and the entertainment too. Slaves of all kinds were always in great demand, including and especially those who were literate, and the ancient Jews had a relatively high literacy rate. The Romans did not have the logistic problems that plagued the medieval French armies with which Zand is more familiar. They had excellent roads of course, and their ships plied the Mediterranean, always hugging the coast, from Egypt to Gaul, and even across the channel to Britain and down the Atlantic coast to Africa occasionally. They had very efficiently run slave auctions, and private enterprise always found a way. Moreover, it was inevitable that in a land that was massively depopulated and laid waste and taxed, many farmers who were not taken captive or killed, would eventually fall into debt, and sell first their land, and then themselves as slaves, in order to redeem the debt. This problem must've become especially acute when climactic changes in subsequent centuries made Palestine increasingly more arid, along with North Africa. The ancient global warming problem apparently produced the ancient sub-prime meltdown, on a scale that can only be imagined today.
A third aspect of Zand's thesis that is problematic, is that numerous genetic studies show that Jews from all over the world are related to each other, and that Ashkenazi Jews are genetically closer to Kurds and other fertile crescent peoples than they are to Khazars. There is also strong genetic evidence of links between Jews and Palestinian Arabs. Thanks to analysis of the distribution of genetic mutations and variant genes, it is now possible to follow the migrations of human populations and subgroups without relying on folktales about Khazars and "Berber" queens. Amazingly, though the Zand's whole argument would appear to turn on genetics, neither he nor his interviewers ever discuss the subject.
It would be a mistake however, to base the major contentions against Zand and the Zandinistas on genetics. In claiming that Zionism is based on a genetic relation of the supposed descendants of Abraham,they have set up a straw man. No nation is genetically "pure" and Zionism did not make that claim. The law of return is based on ancestry as a matter of convenience, because lawmakers could not find a better criterion. Claims that Jews are all descended from Khazars and "Berbers" are fatuous and are easy to disprove. But surely some Jews are descended from Khazars, or Turks or Germans or Russians or Arabs or "Berbers," at least in part. Will we institute criteria for the minimum number of "Jewish" alleles needed in order to claim right of return? Scientific findings and their interpretation are always subject to change. If we allow the Zandinistas and their allies to tie our rights in Israel to genetic findings, we can find ourselves dispossessed by someone's gel electrophoresis results.
Finally, Zand's notion of the Jewish people is racist and exclusivist. He insists that the only true Judaism is the Yiddish culture of central Europe. When the revolution comes, we will all eat Gefilte fish, whether we like it or not. Yemenite Jews, descended from an Arab tribe, Ethiopian Jews and the "Berbers" that we all think are Sephardic Jews, all have no place in Israel and no part in the inheritance of Jacob according to Zand. Only Yiddish speakers in the image of Zand, Yossi Gurevitch and Tom Segev can enter the covenant of Abraham.
Zand's thesis is flawed, to say the least. The political implications of the thesis may be disastrous. He is announcing that the Jews are not the "real" owners of the land of Israel, which, according to him, belongs to the Arabs of Palestine, who are the real Jews. Our Arab neighbors have been looking to root us out of the land for a hundred years. Zand's thesis gives them an excuse. At the same time, Arabs may not take kindly to the idea of being accused of being "al Yahud." Zand tells Yosi Gurevitch, in one of the interviews, that he hopes his thesis is not mistranslated when it is published in Arabic, as it could be "misunderstood." The danger, rather, is that it will be understood.
I examine Zand's ideas at greater length in Are the Jews a people? The Zand Controversy, a work in progress.
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