Given up on being a Jew: Professor Shlomo Sand speaks out

Professor Shlomo Sand

“I am tired, and feel that the last leaves of reason are falling from our tree of political action, leaving us barren in the face of the caprices of the sleepwalking sorcerers of the tribe” (Shlomo Sand)

“I wish to resign and cease considering myself a Jew.”

These are the word of Shlomo Sand, an Israeli professor of history at Tel Aviv University.

Risking opprobrium in a deeply narcissistic society that spares no quarter to those who contradict the worldwide Judaeo-centric groupthink which sees Jews as the chosen Übermenschen and everyone else, especially the Palestinians, as the Untermenschen, Professor Sand has issued a damning verdict on Israel and the Jewish culture that has emerged within it.

His views on Israeli society – “one of the most racist… in the Western world” – and his realisation that his “fleeting utopian dream that a Palestinian Israeli should feel as much at home in Tel Aviv as a Jewish American does in New York” would never come to pass are outlined in his book, How I Stopped Being a Jew, published by Verso and available at the Guardian bookshop.

Here are extracts from the book:

“I wish to resign and cease considering myself a Jew”

…Now, having painfully become aware that I have undergone an adherence to Israel, been assimilated by law into a fictitious ethnos of persecutors and their supporters, and have appeared in the world as one of the exclusive club of the elect and their acolytes, I wish to resign and cease considering myself a Jew…

Jewish men dancing at the Western Wall

“A small minority in an exclusive club that others have neither the possibility nor the qualifications to join” (Shlomo Sand)

In the light of the historic tragedies of the 20th century, I am determined no longer to be a small minority in an exclusive club that others have neither the possibility nor the qualifications to join…

Israel “one of the most racist societies in the Western world”

I am aware of living in one of the most racist societies in the Western world. Racism is present to some degree everywhere, but in Israel it exists deep within the spirit of the laws. It is taught in schools and colleges, spread in the media, and above all and most dreadful, in Israel the racists do not know what they are doing and, because of this, feel in no way obliged to apologise. This absence of a need for self-justification has made Israel a particularly prized reference point for many movements of the far right throughout the world, movements whose past history of antisemitism is only too well known.

To live in such a society has become increasingly intolerable to me…

From a “fleeting utopian dream” to despair

I am often even ashamed of Israel, particularly when I witness evidence of its cruel military colonisation, with its weak and defenceless victims who are not part of the “chosen people”.

Earlier in my life I had a fleeting utopian dream that a Palestinian Israeli should feel as much at home in Tel Aviv as a Jewish American does in New York. I struggled and sought for the civil life of a Muslim Israeli in Jerusalem to be similar to that of the Jewish French person whose home is in Paris. I wanted Israeli children of Christian African immigrants to be treated as the British children of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent are in London. I hoped with all my heart that all Israeli children would be educated together in the same schools.

Two Israeli Jewish girls with a sign in Hebrew that reads "Hating Arabs is not racism, it’s values"

Two Israeli Jewish girls with a sign in Hebrew that reads “Hating Arabs is not racism, it’s values”

Today I know that my dream is outrageously demanding, that my demands are exaggerated and impertinent, that the very fact of formulating them is viewed by Zionists and their supporters as an attack on the Jewish character of the state of Israel, and thus as anti-Semitism…

Israel’s occupation a “serpent that swallowed too big a victim, but prefers to choke rather than to abandon it”

…In fact, our relation to those who are second-class citizens of Israel is inextricably bound up with our relation to those who live in immense distress at the bottom of the chain of the Zionist rescue operation. That oppressed population, which has lived under the occupation for close to 50 years, deprived of political and civil rights, on land that the “state of the Jews” considers its own, remains abandoned and ignored by international politics. I recognise today that my dream of an end to the occupation and the creation of a confederation between two republics, Israeli and Palestinian, was a chimera that underestimated the balance of forces between the two parties.

Israeli soldier points his gun at a Palestinian woman and her children

“I recognise today that my dream of an end to the occupation and the creation of a confederation between two republics, Israeli and Palestinian, was a chimera that underestimated the balance of forces between the two parties” (Shlomo Sand)

Increasingly it appears to be already too late; all seems already lost, and any serious approach to a political solution is deadlocked. Israel has grown used to this, and is unable to rid itself of its colonial domination over another people. The world outside, unfortunately, does not do what is needed either. Its remorse and bad conscience prevent it from convincing Israel to withdraw to the 1948 frontiers. Nor is Israel ready to annex the occupied territories officially, as it would then have to grant equal citizenship to the occupied population and, by that fact alone, transform itself into a binational state. It’s rather like the mythological serpent that swallowed too big a victim, but prefers to choke rather than to abandon it…

“I am tired, and feel that the last leaves of reason are falling”

I am tired, and feel that the last leaves of reason are falling from our tree of political action, leaving us barren in the face of the caprices of the sleepwalking sorcerers of the tribe. But I cannot allow myself to be completely fatalistic. I dare to believe that if humanity succeeded in emerging from the 20th century without a nuclear war, everything is possible, even in the Middle East…

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