Schlomo Sand was born on September 10, 1946 in Linz, Austria, to Polish Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. In 1948 his family moved to Jafa, now part of Tel Aviv. His parents were communists and, at an early age, Sand joined the Union of Israeli Communist Youth. After his military service, he enlisted in the more radical splinter group Matzpen, which gave rise to an espionage ring of Israeli Jewish and Arab communists, who trained as terrorists in Syria. In 1975 Sand received his B.A. at Tel Aviv University and went on to pursue graduate studies in France, first at Université de Paris VIII and then at l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales where he received his doctorate in 1982. From 1985 onwards, he taught at Tel Aviv University and, in 2002, became a Full Professor of history there. He has received numerous fellowships to teach and conduct research at l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and the University of California, Berkeley. Tel Aviv University provides funding that enables him to travel the globe to disseminate his anti-Israel theories.
Writing chiefly in French, Sand is the author of numerous books and articles. The Invention of the Jewish People has become both his most successful and controversial work and has been translated into seven languages. In it, Sand recycles myths disseminated by radical and Neo-Nazi groups in contending that modern Jews have no authentic connection with ancient Israel. The Jewish right of return, Sand declares, is a mythology – and present-day Palestinian Arabs are the proper heirs of the lands presently occupied by Israel. Sand bases his claim on research that purportedly supports the notion that Jews of Sephardi descent most likely originated in North Africa, and Jews of Eastern European descent are most likely to have come from the Khazarian kingdom. The notion of a Jewish people, Sand contends, is a fiction created by 19th-century historians.
For Sand, Israel’s existence is based upon the same violent colonialism that founded America and Australia:
“Most Israeli Jews believe in a historical right. If there is no such right, what justifies our existence here? Arabs also ask me, after writing this book, how can I justify the existence of Israel. I say to them that even the son of a rape has the right to live. It was a kind of rape in 1947 and ’48 and the Palestinian tragedy continues. But you can say the same about the USA and Australia.”
Sand sees the power structure of “ethocentricism” as the source of Israel’s racism and maintains that this ideology is further strengthened by a “global ethnocracy [that] invokes the myth of the eternal nation, reconstituted on the land of its ancestors, to justify internal discrimination against [Israel’s] own citizens.”
Sand, a Marxist, considers the Jewish religion to be the main impediment to Israel’s continuing existence. He longs for a new Jewish history, free of the religious underpinnings of Zionism: “It will remain difficult to imagine a new Jewish history while the prism of Zionism continues to fragment everything into an ethnocentric spectrum.”