Sorry, “New York Times,” Hanukkah Celebrates Religious Freedom, Not Persecution

On Sunday, the New York Times published an op-ed article titled “The Hypocrisy of Hanukkah,” in which Michael David Lucas—a novelist who this year decided to do some cursory research on the subject—reports discovering that the holiday commemorates a war between radical Hellenizers and those who wanted to preserve Judaism. The author cites Hasmonean efforts to repress Hellenistic Jews while making no mention of the persecution of Jews at the hands of the Syrian Greeks (or “Romans,” as Lucas had it before a correction was published). Jonathan Tobin explains what he gets wrong:

Lucas concludes that . . . he would have identified more with those city-dwellers embracing Hellenistic practices, like eating pork, than with the efforts of “rural religious zealots.” He sees the Maccabean victory as one of “fundamentalism over cosmopolitanism.” Lucas seems to see the victorious Jews as the moral equivalent of red-state evangelical supporters of President Donald Trump, and their opponents as people, well, like him, who have mixed feelings about circumcision, don’t keep kosher, and support Bernie Sanders, whom, [he claims], the Maccabees would have hated.

But the point of the festival isn’t one of warfare against less observant Jews. . . . [W]hat the Jews fighting the Greeks wanted was to be left alone to worship in freedom; [they faced] a foe who didn’t merely disdain their faith, but was actively seeking to repress it. . . . Lucas may think that the Hellenizers were defending diversity, but they—and perhaps the author—were actually too narrow-minded to tolerate those who think or worship differently.

Hanukkah is about the struggle of Jews, both then and now, to refuse to bow down to the idols of popular culture. The miracle is not merely the one about the oil lasting eight days, but the ability of a small ethno-religious [group] both to resist the forces that sought to eradicate their existence and to preserve the flame of Jewish civilization. Hellenism threatened to wipe out a moral vision of the world rooted in the Torah, as well as the autonomy of a small people. Had the Hellenizers, for whom Lucas says he will say a prayer, prevailed, it would not have been a triumph for individual freedom but one in which the right to faith or of a small group to defend its own culture and identity would have been extinguished.

If you can’t sympathize with that cause, then don’t blame Judaism, Hanukkah, or some foolish desire, as Lucas puts it, to “beat Santa.”

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More about: American Judaism, Hanukkah, Maccabees, New York Times, Religion & Holidays

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary], approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat