It is not always easy to decide whether expressions of appreciation are genuine messages of solidarity or merely politically expedient and opportunist attempts to curry support.
Sifting the genuine from the duplicitous can be difficult and many times in our long history we have been fooled into believing the best only to discover too late that it was all faked. Those who do not like us and are honest about their intentions at least are up front. Whether we take them seriously enough is another question which has mixed answers.
The subject came to mind once again as Jewish communities received Chanukah greetings from politicians in particular. No doubt many of these individuals are genuine friends and their felicitations written after some research or input from Jewish advisors contain some elements of reality. Whether the deeper meaning of the religious occasion is understood is an entirely different matter.
Holiday foods and family gatherings notwithstanding the two main themes remain the lights of the Chanukiah and the historical message fundamental to our commemoration. Most messages made mention of the candles shedding their light and how this light dispels darkness. A few discerning individuals noted the resurrection once again of hatred against Jews although a significant number ignored this increasing phenomenon. The crux of the Chanukah story was of course the xenophobic hatred of Jews and Judaism by the Seleucid Greeks of the day.
This leads to the real lesson totally ignored by many who are either genuinely ignorant of the subject or deliberately avoid it because it is definitely not politically correct these days.
We celebrate at this time the victory of the Maccabees who restored Jewish sovereignty in Judea, reunited the Capital Jerusalem under Jewish control again and rededicated the Temple after it had been defiled by the previous pagan occupiers. Latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (donuts) may be the centre of attention for many but it is the eternal Jewish experience of the few and powerless against the many and powerful which should resonate. The fact that in many cases the restoration of Jewish sovereignty is not mentioned speaks volumes about the situation we currently face.
Interestingly most political leaders who post greetings prefer to ignore the obvious because it raises too many awkward questions. How many conveyors of Chanukah greetings have stopped to think through the implications of their messages? How many who wax lyrical about the holiday realize the hypocrisy that accompanies it?
By not recognizing Israel’s modern day restoration of sovereignty in Jerusalem they make a mockery of their pontifications. While we celebrate Jerusalem’s central place during this Festival of Freedom the rest of the world, except the USA, denies that the Jewish State has any right to claim it as its Capital. Moreover the United Nations negates the unique Jewish connection to the city.
Some people may complain that we are splitting hairs and making a mountain out of a molehill. However by deliberately ignoring this continual scandal and keeping quiet we merely give credence to its perpetuation of lies and distortion of history.
Meanwhile we have been and are continued to be bombarded with messages which are clear in the meaning they convey. We should listen to them carefully and respond where necessary. Some examples from the past and from this week:
In 1925 the exiled German Emperor stated: “Jews and mosquitoes are a nuisance that humankind must get rid of some way or another – I believe the best way is gas!”
In 1942 Belgium’s King Leopold said: “I have no personal animosity towards Jews but they are nevertheless a danger to our country.”
In 2018 the Dutch Foreign Minister urged Diaspora Jews to condemn the “occupation.”
In 2018 the Irish Foreign Minister expressed his annoyance that the USA Ambassador to Israel had linked the celebration of Chanukah with Israel’s claim to its Capital today.
In 2018 the Irish Senate passed a law which bans all products from Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and the Golan and provides heavy fines and incarceration for any Irish citizen daring to flout this modern day version of 1930’s Nazi boycotts of Jews and their businesses.
In 2018 Jeremy Corbyn sends Chanukah greetings to British Jews. A former Israeli deputy Foreign Minister commented in response: “wait until he finds out Chanukah is a Zionist holiday that celebrates the military victory of the Maccabees who liberated Jerusalem and restored it as the Capital of Israel.”
In 2018 the Pope meets and greets Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican and proclaims: “it is important to recognize and preserve the identity of Jerusalem and the universal value of the Holy City for the three Abrahamic religions.” From 1948 to 1967 the Vatican remained silent as Jews were denied access to their holy sites in Jerusalem and it was only when Israel re-established control and guaranteed freedom of worship for all religions that the Vatican once again resurrected its age old desire to internationalize the city.
In 2018, Abbas, the angel of peace declared: “Jerusalem is the Capital of Palestine and there will be no peace, security or stability for anyone without it.” The Pope was obviously not listening then or since.
These unambiguous messages are just miniscule examples of what we encounter on a daily basis.
As Chanukah draws to a close for yet another year take a look at this moving video which encapsulates in the space of several minutes the real message of this holiday and explains how and why the Jewish People have triumphed over those who sought and seek our demise.
Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.