https://promosaik.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/shlomo-sand-bild-3.jpg 553 450 promosaik https://promosaik.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Promosaik_brandwordmark.png promosaik2015-01-19 11:34:232015-01-19 11:34:23Paul Eisen comments Shlomo Sand's Declaration
Last week we had asked Paul Eisen to comment the declaration the Israeli historian Shlomo Sand made. It is an understandable statement for ProMosaik e.V. as we are convinced that being Jew today by looking at Israeli injustice, racism, colonisation, and war crimes and ethnic cleansing against Palestinians is very difficult for somebody who loves justice and for somebody who studies history. As no Jew of course for me there is an important alternative which is being an anti-Zionist Jew… but this is also difficult, because there are interferences all the time… not all Jews are Zionists, but many Zionists are Jews…. So no solution? Paul Eisen shows us the way…. He should be what he is and never stop struggling!!
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Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi – Editorial Team of ProMosaik e.V.
You ask me to comment on this piece by Shlomo Sand in which he makes a declaration that he no longer wishes to be a Jew. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/10/shlomo-sand-i-wish-to-cease-considering-myself-a-jew?CMP=share_btn_gp.
The piece is from his book “How I Stopped being a Jew” which I haven’t read but Gilad Atzmon has, so your readers may wish to read his comments as well as mine below: http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/how-shlomo-sand-ceased-to-be-a-jew-or-did-he.html
I sympathise with Sand, I really do. He sounds exhausted and I know the feeling. But he’s not the first decent Jew to try to give up on the whole thing – I may well try it myself someday – trouble is, even if it were possible to give up on being a Jew simply by making a declaration (which I doubt) there are things in Sand’s statement that lead me to question its efficacy.
First, the very making of a declaration itself. What a very Jewish thing to do? How many statements and declarations – often beginning with the words ‘I or We the undersigned…” and containing somewhere the dread words “As a Jew, I…” or “as Jews, we…” and so often somewhere containing the pointed request that I sign it too– statements claiming to relinquish this or that – have I seen in the last fifteen years? And the vast majority of these statements have been…. by Jews!
But even more Jewish is the fact that Sand’s statement is peppered with claims for a Jewish exceptionalism, namely exceptional Jewish suffering. This is not the place for a detailed examination of Jewish suffering but the following points may stimulate thought:
– During even the most terrible times of Jewish suffering such as the Crusades or the Chmielnitzky massacres of seventeenth century Ukraine, and even more so at other times in history, it has been said that the average peasant would have given his eye-teeth to be a Jew. The meaning is clear: generally speaking, and throughout most of their history, the condition of Jews was often far superior to the mass of the population.
– The above-mentioned Ukrainian massacres took place in the context of a peasant uprising against the oppression of the Ukrainian peasantry by their Polish overlords. As has often been the case, Jews were seen as occupying a traditional position of being in alliance with the ruling class in their oppression of the peasantry. Chmielnitzky, the leader of this popular uprising, is today a Ukrainian national hero, not for his assaults on Jews (there are even references to his having offered poor Jews to join the uprising against their exploitative co-religionists – the Jews declined) but for his championing of the rights of the oppressed Ukrainians. Again, the inference is plain: outbreaks of anti-Semitic violence, though never justified, have often been responses to Jewish behaviour both real and imaginary.
– In the Holocaust narrative it is claimed that Jews were targeted but so were Gypsies, homosexuals, Slavs and Poles. Similarly, the Church burned Jews for their dissenting beliefs but then the church burned everyone for their dissenting beliefs. So again, the question must be asked: what’s so special about Jewish suffering?
Like everyone else, I’ve never managed to answer the question: what is a Jew? But the nearest I’ve got is to conclude that the one thing all self-identifying Jews share is a feeling of specialness, and more particularly a belief in the specialness of Jewish suffering.
The inference is clear. It is hard to see how someone like Sand, himself a historian, can claim to be serious about relinquishing his Jewishness whilst still clinging onto that most basic of Jewish delusions.
In my experience, the only Jews who have ever managed to successfully relinquish their Jewishness are those who embrace Christ or Islam. Perhaps Sand should consider one of those or, alternatively he could find solace in these, his own words:
Does this mean I, too, must abandon hope? I inhabit a deep contradiction. I feel like an exile in the face of the growing Jewish ethnicisation that surrounds me, while at the same time the language in which I speak, write and dream is overwhelmingly Hebrew. When I find myself abroad, I feel nostalgia for this language, the vehicle of my emotions and thoughts. 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. I do not go to synagogues to dissipate this nostalgia, because they pray there in a language that is not mine, and the people I meet there have absolutely no interest in understanding what being Israeli means for me.
This sounds great to me – truly authentic – a man with a visceral love for what he is but nonetheless, relentless in his quest to comprehend and to criticise it.
We are what we are so I think Sand should do what he does best – be what he is but never, ever, ever stop struggling.
I wish him all the best