Doorstep Postings: Mess Gadol Haya as Hanukkah has come with an airing of grievances

Jesse Brown replies to Jeet Heer on X as the arguments go on about contextualizing antisemitic incidents in Canada.

This is a special edition of Doorstep Postings, the periodic political commentary column written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.

Those who have made a recent show of lecturing Jews about being on the wrong side of history can’t possibly be too familiar with said history.

Then again, it’s hardly their fault. History itself is increasingly in dispute.  

Take Hannukah, for example. Is it a festival of lights with eight crazy nights where we light candles and spin dreidels? Or is it a commemoration of another time in history when some folks tried to impose their will on Jews in Israel and it ended very bloodily and unpleasantly for the instigators? 

And what about the Moncton politicians who worried that menorahs would be too political and divisive? On some level, you can understand the bind they’re in as a result, the same bind that Antiochus IV Epiphanes was in. He’s the bad guy in the Hannukah story if you’ve forgotten, the Seleucid tyrant who decided he was going to go with the option of trying to be the first guy in history to get the Jews to go along quietly or else.

Leaders everywhere are faced with the eternal problem of these Jews insisting on doing their weird stuff, the whole not-Christmas thing in this case. It’s not like Christmas has ever been violent or political, has it? Don’t think about that too hard: Christmas is the thing that everyone does, so it’s not a problem. Nobody’s going to make a leader pull out of a Yuletide celebration because it was “too political” or because some war was involved. Man, it would just be so much easier if Jewish people did what everyone else did, wouldn’t it? 

Except here’s where ignorance of Jewish history and being on the right side of it gets dangerous.

Jews have always tried to be on the right side of history. If there’s a side, we’ve been on it. There’s always that faction of Jewdom that says, “Just do what they say and they’ll leave us in peace.”

In the 1st century BCE it was adopting Greek names and—I’m quoting from the 1 Maccabees 1:15 here—removing the “marks of circumcision.” (How is that even survivable? Ouch!) Today, it means posting whatever the Palestinian Youth Movement tells you to post and insisting that Zionism is some foreign white-supremacist plot that was grafted onto Judaism. 

You know what, maybe there are worse things than reversing a bris. For example, you could be Canadaland podcast publisher Jesse Brown, who for a decade did everything he could to convince everyone that he was disturbing the peace as an anarchist media critic—only to lose credibility with the loudest members of this clique because he expressed discomfort about attacks on Jewish-owned businesses.

Or, you could be Naomi Klein, who enthusiastically supported slopping red paint all over the flagship Indigo store—where her new book is naturally being sold—only to be mildly dragged online this week for an article she wrote after Oct. 7 that was insufficiently pro-Palestinian. As left-wing online purges go, it was extremely mild, but the point stands: Are you less pro-Palestinian than Naomi Klein? If so, go directly to Supporting Genocide Town. 

Now here’s another one of those difficult things that we all know but don’t say out loud. No matter where you come from—except Israel, of course—it’s never going to be enough for Jews to just sacrifice everything just to try and fit in. Whoever’s in charge in those not-Israel places would just really rather not have to inconvenience themselves remembering to include non-pork options with the holiday dinner, or taking a break from the constant Christmas music, or having to explain just what an Elf on the Shelf is supposed to be about.

That’s why universities can police themselves for microaggressions but can’t give a straight answer on whether genocide against Jews is a bad thing. It’s why people who hate being called snowflakes react with disgust at “privileged Jewish kids” talking about being unsafe on campus. You can talk all you like about the arc of history bending towards justice and making a more equitable future, but when you come down to it, it’s really all about sucking up to power. You just can’t say so out loud, because that’s rude.  

But this is a First World Problem. In fact, in some places, places where Israel is hated the most, Jews are second-class citizens, if they exist at all. So, it must be quite the culture shock for folks from those places to encounter Jews who refuse to kneel, who refuse to be dominated.

You mean we can’t snap our fingers and issue commands and paralyze them with shame and fear? Well that doesn’t make sense—don’t they know that there are so much more of us than there are of them? Don’t they know that we have a throttle on the world’s reserves of oil, or supply of electric vehicles and high speed trains? By the way, no holiday bonus for whomever it decided that shame would be an effective weapon against Jews. That’s what you get when you assume everyone is like you!  

Well, if shame won’t do it, then active violence against Jews will! It works out wonderfully. Here in Canada, you can cheer for Hamas and tell everyone that they are permitted to resist in whatever way they deem necessary, even as the Jews have a problem with their Hannukah candle lighting celebrations. You don’t actually have to do any of the violence yourself and get in real trouble—just protest outside a restaurant or day school or a bookstore. You don’t even have to protest the war-supporting Hanukkah candlelighting ceremony in Calgary! You can just tweet or post TikToks, or failing that, just refuse to believe anything the Zionists say, instead of doing the real work of organizing, and be told that you are good and moral and speaking out against fascism. Meanwhile, the Palestinian people can be the tip of the spear for all concerned. Don’t worry about them—their leaders are fine with them being a nation of martyrs. 

All of this to say that the real message of Hannukah has never felt so contemporary. I can just see the morning papyrus fretting about the Seleucid genocide and with good reason—when’s the last time anyone heard of a Seleucid? Teenage Hasmoneans would have taken off their skullcaps as their friends bullied them at the local gymnasium, telling them that Israel was so over, while adults would have looked on approvingly and commented that you can’t fool this generation with the same old propaganda.

The word “antisemitism” hadn’t been invented yet to describe all of this—but there’d still be complaints about how it’s being overused.

Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.