Christopher Hitchens delivered himself of his opinions regarding Hanukkah
. He wrote Bah Hanukkah. The holiday celebrates the triumph of tribal Jewish backwardness
Hitchens went on to illustrate his ignorance of things Jewish as well as the history of the ancient Middle East by claiming that Hanukkah was about the victory of primitive Jewish tribalism over Hellenistic progressivism. Hitchens evidently doesn't understand what the holiday was about or why it was revived in modern times by the Zionist movement.
Hanukkah was a victory for Jewish political as well as religious freedom over the imperialist government of Antiochus IV and his Seleucid dynasty. Perhaps the Jews did not invent the ideas of freedom, self determination and religious toleration, but the revolt of the Maccabees struck a blow for all of these. From Hitchens' point of view, the victory of the American colonists in 1776 was a victory of colonial provincialism and particularism over the magnificent culture and traditions of the British Empire, whilst the expulsion of the British from India must be regretted as a victory of paganism and backwardness over European civilization. Hitchens should also have pointed out that if the story of Passover is true, the Jews escaped from the benefits of the sophisticated culture of Egypt into the primitive wilds of the Sinai desert.
Hanukkah was not a revolt against Greek enlightenment, but rather a revolt against a repressive Syrian imperialist regime. The successor dynasties of the empire of Alexander the Great were only a pale survival of the great traditions of ancient Greece. We might as well propose that it is wrong to celebrate VE day, since in doing so we are negating the contributions of Goethe, Fichte, Hegel and Werner Heisenberg in favor of American pop culture and Coca Cola.
Hanukkah was not well beloved of Jewish zealots, because the Maccabees were Hellenizers, and because the victory elevated a civil authority as central to the Jewish people, eclipsing the priesthood. The Pharisees were not particularly happy that the Maccabees fought on the Sabbath, and when they wrote the Second Book of the Maccabees they made their displeasure clear. The victory of Judas over Nicanor was celebrated on the 13th day of the month of Adar. However, this martial and hence un-Jewish holiday honoring the Hellenizing Maccabean dynasty did not suit Jewish orthodoxy. It was conveniently eclipsed by the fast of Esther, which was perhaps devised for that purpose. Hanukkah itself lapsed into obscurity and was a minor holiday until its revival by the Zionist movement as a symbol of Jewish nationalism.
Bah fourth of July. The holiday celebrates the triumph of American tribal backwardness. Ami Isseroff
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Replies: 2 Comments
Hitchens writes polemics, some good some bad and the Hanuka one is one of his poorest. When it comes to a few topics like religion in general and the Jewish claim on the land between the Med and the Jordan, he gets positively ignorant. It wasn't known as Palestine to anyone until 130 AD, some many years after the Maccabean revolt, and wasn't particularly popular with anyone until the 1960s, when "Arab refugees" became "Palestinians". And he'd have a complete ****-hemorhage if anyone talked about the hostility towards Jewish settlement in Palestine in the 1800s as being theocratically-inspired reactionism in the face of a far more enlightened population that was industriously setting about improving destitute lands that were sold them by landed elites who cared little for it.
Lynne T, Tuesday, December 11th
I am amazed that Hitchens is taken seriously by anybody. The fellow is a long time elitist who seems convinced that he understands the sociology, culture, mind set, and general point of view of people who lived thousands of years ago.
I wonder if he wept over the expulsion of the Soviets from Afghanistan. After all, weren't they trying to build schools and teach the unwashed Afghan masses the glories of communism, which is little more than socialism enforced with bayonets. Though I might agree with him that the Taliban was no improvement.
He actually thinks he knows what's best for the rest of us because he isn't seduced by that silly notion that the universe might have had a creator.
Howard Wolf, Monday, December 10th
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