I've quoted extracts from "The Invention of the Jewish People" a couple of times before (link and link) so let me give a broader overview of it now. It's one of the most thought-provoking books I've read in a while. It poses enormous challenges to Jewish ideology and self-image but also a few for those of us who are critics of Jews. The author, Shlomo Sand, is a former professor of history at Tel Aviv university. He generally comes across as a leftist who wants Israel to stop being an "ethnocracy" [a word he uses] and more like a "normal" democracy, such as the countries of western Europe or the USA. (See here (link) for an exposition of his politics and worldview). That is the political agenda his history is written to serve.
The essence of the book is his argument that the Jews are not, and never have been, an ethnically pure people; and that they continue to cherish this fantasy in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The Jewish avoidance of proselytism and distaste for would-be converts is well-known (at least among the red-pilled) in the present day. But Sand argues that it has not always been so. He quotes Jewish population figures from various times and shows that certain massive growth spurts could not possibly have come about through natural increase. In other words, the Jews were engaging in proselytism and conversion, on a mass scale. His contention is that Judaism originally competed with Christianity for converts but when Christianity gained the upper hand and was adopted officially by the Roman empire, Jewish proselytism was forbidden. Something similar happened in the later Islamic empires. Thereafter proselytism was confined to outlying regions where imperial edicts could not be enforced. Sand argues that Sephardi Jews (Sefarad means Spain), were largely North African converts to Judaism. There was also significant Jewish proselytism among Arabs. Indeed, Sand's account confirms claims about the similarities between Jews and Muslims and sheds light on why they exist (link and link).
The most controversial part of Sand's argument is his claim that Ashkenazi Jews are descendants of the Khazars, a grouping of east European Turkic/Slavic peoples who converted to Judaism in the 8th century. There are suggestions in the historical record that not all of the Khazars converted to Judaism, only the upper stratum of society. This suggests a possible explanation for the higher average intelligence exhibited by Ashkenazi Jews. If you took the upper stratum of any society, you would find it had a higher average intelligence. If that upper stratum then adopted an ideology that called for the avoidance of outmarriage, you could expect its genetic distinctiveness to be preserved to a high degree.
One of the things that continues to intrigue and puzzle me about Jews, even as I spend much of my time reading what they write and what others have written about them, is their obsessive hostility to Russia. You see this almost every day in the press, endless articles about "the Russian threat", "The Menace of Putin", etc. You can see the rationale, from a morally myopic ethnic perspective, for most items on the Jewish agenda. They support Israel cuz it's their country; they support immigration to dilute the demographic strength of the majority population; they support restrictions on free speech cuz the goy shouldn't be allowed to say bad things about the Chosen and anyway it might lead to A New Holocaust. But the animus towards Russia doesn't make any obvious sense.
My best hypothesis previously was that it represented some kind of would-be revenge for "The Tsarist Pogroms", even though these pogroms are largely an imaginary construct the Jews have confected and Communist tyranny could reasonably be considered an appropriate quittance for almost any act of wrong-doing. Sand's book has suggested another hypothesis to me, although he does not mention it himself. Jewish Russophobia might be the Revenge of the Khazars. Because it was Russia that defeated and disempowered the Khazar kingdom, although Mongols delivered the fatal blow some time later. Could the Khazar-descended Jews continue to have nurture some folk memory of this? Even if the conscious memory has been lost, could the anti-Russian memes it must have inspired somehow have trickled down across the generations? Or is there such a thing as ancestral antagonism, hostility in the genes?
When did the great Khazar empire collapse? In the past it was assumed by many that it happened in the second half of the tenth century. The principality of Kiev, out of which grew the first Russian kingdom, was for many years a vassal of the rulers of Khazaria. The principality grew stronger in the tenth century, struck an alliance with the Eastern Roman Empire and attacked its powerful Khazar neighbors. In 965 (or 969), Sviatoslav I, the ruling prince of Kiev, attacked the Khazar city of Sarkel, which controlled the Don River, and captured it. Sarkel was a fortified city, originally built by Byzantine engineers, of important strategic value to the Jewish empire, and its loss marked the beginning of the empire’s decline. Contrary to prevalent opinion, however, this was not the end of Khazaria.
Reports about the fate of the capital Itil in this war are contradictory. Some Arab sources state that it fell; others state that it survived the Russian victory. Since it consisted largely of huts and tents, it may well have been rebuilt. What is certain, though, is that in the second half of the tenth century Khazaria lost its hegemonic position in the region. Prince Vladimir I of Kiev, Sviatoslav’s young son, expanded the boundaries of his principality as far as the Crimea, and,in a significant step for the future of Russia, converted to Christianity. His alliance with the Eastern Roman Empire undermined its long connection with Khazaria, and in 1016 CE a joint Byzantine-Russian force attacked and defeated the Jewish kingdom.
Sand claims that east European Jewry was the broken remnant of this Khazar kingdom. He also points out that modern Jewish historians have gone quiet on the Khazar kingdom even though it may have been the source of Ashkenazi Jewry from among whom Zionism ultimately emerged. Why the silence? Because the history of the Khazar kingdom undermines any claim the Jews have to be a people of pure lineage, descended from the inhabitants of ancient Judea.
The deconstruction of the fables of Jewish and Israeli historians in general is a strong point of the book. Sand demonstrates that they have bent over backwards to make Biblical fables seem like real history, even though decisive evidence exists to the contrary. The notion of "Exile", so central to Jewish thought, and usually supposed to have followed an expulsion decreed by Roman or Arab conquerors, he dismisses as a fantasy, unsupported by any evidence. These fables continue to be taught in Israeli classrooms.
Sand also shows how Jewish historians have nurtured the myth of a Jewish ethnos, insisting over the years that Jewish genetic identity was preserved despite their geographic dispersal. They have done this by artfully obscuring inconvenient facts and countervailing evidence. When they deign to discuss the Khazars at all, for example, Jewish historians have tended to insinuate that they were somehow seeded from the original population of Judea.
If Sand's book demolishes the Jewish self-image, it also, as I indicated previously, poses some challenges for critics of Jews, who have tended to accept, from an opposing point of view, the basic claim Jews make that they are a "race" or genetically distinct ethnic group. For example, one reason I generally prefer the term "European" to "white" is that it excludes Jews, on the assumption that they originated in the Middle East. If, in fact, Ashkenazi Jews are descended from east European Khazars, however, this logic would no longer apply.
A vigorous conception of self, a confident assertiveness and even a national mythos of some kind are probably prerequisites for the healthy existence of any people. Jews have often played a crucial role in undermining the intellectual foundations of European peoplehood. Now a Jew has brought the same destructive critical spirit to bear on his own kind.