Those wondering why antisemites like British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn have found it so easy to promote hatred of Israel need only read the sympathetic BBC account of Banksy’s antics to understand why Israel and Jews are so assailed in Britain.
This also ignores the fact that what has happened in the territories in the past few decades is the way Christians, who once dominated Bethlehem, have been systematically forced out of their homes by Muslims. The complaints about the security fence also conveniently omit the fact that Palestinian gunmen turned both the Jewish shrine at the Tomb of Rachel outside of Bethlehem and the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo into shooting galleries during the Second Intifada. The fence may sometimes inconvenience Palestinians, but it protects Jewish lives that would otherwise be in peril.
Yet if Christmas can be about the descendants of Arabs who didn’t arrive in what is now Israel until several hundred years after the events written about in the Christian Bible, then why can’t Hanukkah be about attacking Israel as well?
That absurd notion was demonstrated by a Hanukkah video message tweeted out by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) in which she praised Jews who share her goal of fighting the Jewish “occupation” of “Falastine.” It went viral after a British pro-Israel group, the Israel Advocacy movement, shared it on Twitter.
The Forward defended Tlaib against the charge. An article in that publication argued that the message was intended only for members of the Michigan chapter of the anti-Zionist IfNotNow group and not all Jews, and that Tlaib also tweeted out a more conventional celebratory message about the Festival of Lights. But Tlaib’s critics were right to point out that the Hanukkah story is about Jews fighting foreign invaders in Judea and to implicitly compare those Jews who seek to aid the effort to eliminate the one Jewish state in the planet to the Maccabees is the stuff of satire. Or at least it would be if those who believe that Israel ought not to exist weren’t so eager to turn the December holidays into a vehicle through which the Jewish state can be further isolated.
Outrage about the Palestinians’ attempt to turn the narratives of both Christmas and Hanukkah into stories in which the Jews become the oppressors and the Palestinians become the Jewish underdogs has become a staple of anti-Zionist propaganda.
It is the source of similar efforts (sadly legitimized by international groups like UNESCO) to strip the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, and the city of Jerusalem of its links to the Jewish people. The goal here is to depict Israel and contemporary Jewry as foreign European invaders victimizing the indigenous Arabs. This is the core of intersectional arguments about Israel being a colonial “apartheid” state. The fact that it ignores that the land of Israel is integral to Judaism and Jewish identity, and that the majority of Israeli Jews are also “people of color” — descendants of Jews who were forced out of Arab and Muslim countries — is swept under the rug with the rest of history.
But it’s time that this big lie stopped being tolerated as merely a matter of opinion by the mainstream media. Far from being simply a different point of view, efforts to steal the Jewish narrative about Hanukkah or to misrepresent the identity of the inhabitants of the country 2,000 years ago are simply examples of virulent antisemitism.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS-Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter @jonathans_tobin.