The New Importance of Chanukah
It's not just about the oil, or even the victory
As is hopefully becoming increasingly clear to everyone, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not about the West Bank, and cannot be solved with a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Rather, it’s about Palestinian rejection of Jewish sovereignty anywhere in the Land of Israel. “From the River to the Sea, Palestine shall be free” - of Jewish sovereignty. And on October 7th, we all saw what “decolonization” looks like.
Inherent to the Palestinian narrative is the effort to erase the rich historical Jewish connection to the Land of Israel. They even engage in denial of simple and concrete historical facts, like the existence of the Temple. Accordingly, the Palestinian and pro-Palestinian narrative is that Jews are nothing more than European settler-colonialists. This phrase is repeated like a mantra. It’s the way for them to tap into modern Western notions of who is good and who is evil.
Of course, this is a denial of historical fact. The genesis of Jewish sovereignty was in the Land of Israel, three thousand years ago. The Jews were the main settled inhabitants for well over a thousand years. Even after the Romans and the Moslem (colonial) conquest caused the dispersal of the Jewish People, there was a continuous small Jewish presence in the Land of Israel, supported by Jews elsewhere who yearned for a national return to their ancient homeland.
Now, this is not to deny that many Arabs also have a long history in this land. Nor is it to claim that Israel’s right to exist is based on the fact that “we were here first” - after all, we wouldn’t be open to a lost tribe of Canaanites coming back and demanding the land! Rather, the point is that we also have an ancient connection to the land, which in terms of aboriginal rights, is unmatched. We are not European imperial settler-colonialists who decided to plunder a land for its resources, and such terms are wholly misleading, inaccurate and wrong. Rather, we were a globally persecuted ethnic minority, fleeing European genocide, who sought refuge in our ancient, indigenous homeland. And we were given a legal mandate to do so by the nations of the world.
(Did this come at the expense of the Palestinians, many of whom had been living here for centuries and wanted their own sovereignty? Arguably, yes. But their identity back then was “Arab,” not Palestinian, and they had other areas of Arab land to live in with Moslem sovereignty, both inside and outside of Israel, whereas the Jews had no such recourse. In fact, they should still be allowed to move to those Moslem Arab states today. And those that chose to accept the UN vote and reconcile with Israel ended up with far superior lives; those that reject Israel paid, and continue to pay, the consequences of their past and present poor choices.)
This is one of the reasons why Chanukah is so crucial. With other Jewish festivals, their historical veracity cannot be proven to others. But the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Greeks - and more fundamentally, the Jewish sovereignty in Judea over which they were fighting - is a historical fact that is not contested by any serious historian. While from a Jewish perspective, the point of the festival is to celebrate the miraculous victory of the Maccabees, the wider goal today is to publicize that the very conflict existed to begin with! We were here, until we were driven out. And then we returned, fleeing persecution and genocide, to our ancient homeland, for which we were given a justly-deserved international right.
(Map from Wikipedia)
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