The New York Times’ Patricia Cohen takes down a new book which claims the modern-day Jews are not descended from the Judeans of the First and Second Temple period, but are descendants of various converts who reverse engineered their links to the Holy Land.
Cohen clearly signals to the reader that Shlomo Sand, the author of The Invention of the Jewish People (Verso Books), is pushing an agenda, and that his book is a polemic, not a careful or serious piece of scholarship.
Cohen calls out Sand on his use of “dubious theories” (as opposed to “theories some have called dubious,” which invites the benefit of the doubt) and she remains similarly skeptical throughout. She highlights Sand’s agenda: “Professor Sand’s mission is to discredit Jews’ historical claims to the territory,” which guides the reader to take his theorizing with a grain of salt. She shows no sign in waffling or wiggling in quoting someone who says “experts who specialize in the subject have repeatedly rejected the theory.”
This paragraph is especially damning of Sand and his methodology:
Professor Sand accuses Zionist historians from the 19th century onward — the very same scholars on whose work he bases his case — of hiding the truth and creating a myth of shared roots to strengthen their nationalist agenda. He explains that he has uncovered no new information, but has “organized the knowledge differently.” In other words, he is doing precisely what he accuses the Zionists of — shaping the material to fit a narrative.
The debate – and the Jews – are well served by Cohen’s piece, which eschews “objective” news reporting for analysis. If done as a straight-forward news story, the reporter would have been obligated to offer “equal time” to the other side of the argument – X says this, but Y says this. The Times did this in covering the “intelligent design” debate – in trying to appear objective, they put ID “experts” on an equal footing with genuine biologists and “balanced” the overwhelming evidence of the scientific method with folklore.
I think we should thank Cohen for not bowing to the false god of objectivity.