Thursday, December 22, 2005

# Posted 6:43 AM by Patrick Belton  

THUS EMANUELE OTTOLENGHI: Let's embarrass Iran's evil regime. During this festive season, let's light some Hanukkah candles in front of their embassies.
(13) opinions -- Add your opinion

This isn't the worst idea I've ever heard, but it would have a certain irony. The Maccabees -- the Jewish heroes of the traditional Chanukkah story -- started out as extreme religious conservatives. One could, in fact, see them as the mullahs of their time. And their main concern was to purify the Temple by eliminating hellenistic (i.e., "western") influence from Judean life. Their military tactics resembled what we would could terrorism. I have no doubt that, had nuclear weapons been available at the time, Judah Maccabee would have tried as hard as he could to get them.

The parallel can also be reassuring. The Maccabee's descendants, in fairly short order, became the Hasmonean dynasty: accomplished hellenizers themselves.
Of course, Iran has no such locations in the United States.
How about in front of all those Persian carpet stores? Maybe we could light some Chanukah candles there. ;)
Have Neo-cons gone from Oliver North selling 1000 TOW missiles to 'moderate' Iranians all the way to harassing Persian-American small business owners?
Good point. Harassing small business owners violates the spirit of capitalism. Let's harass the employees of those businesses instead. ;)
Iran has an interests section in DC. A candle lighting vigil is being organized for December 27 in the US capital. No need to harass Persian owned businesses. Let's focus on the institutional sites only, the people and the regime are not the same.

The parallel between the Maccabees and the mullahs forgets that the hellenizing influence against which the Maccabees fought was being imposed under the pain of death and through the prohibition to worship freely. So, while the Maccabees would today strike us as religious zealots, in their time they were fighting for the right to practice their religion against a colonizing power that forbade them to do so. It was not just 'influence', it was foreign domination and oppression. Let's not forget that.

"It was foreign domination and oppression."

Really? Didn't the conflict also have aspects of a civil war between a modernizing urban elite, which was open to the world, and the rural priesthood, which may have been afraid of losing afraid of losing its perqs?

To be sure, Judea was part of a global empire -- a "colonizing power", as you say -- that backed the hellenizers. But the Islamist mullahs could comfortably co-opt that analogy.

Of course, we're both wandering around in a fog. Most of what we know about the Chanukah story comes to us via Hasmonean propaganda. And I'm probably taking this whole discussion much too seriously. But I do think its important, especially when reacting to Iran right now, to distinguish as clearly as we can between myths and established facts.

Happy Chanukah!
in their time they were fighting for the right to practice their religion against a colonizing power that forbade them to do so

Indeed, and further, all representatives of such colonizing powers who forbid others to practice their religion (for example, by building walls cutting them off from their holy places) are equally deserving of such candle-studded protests, right?

"(for example, by building walls cutting them off from their holy places)"

If youre implying that Israels wall cuts Pals off from their holy places, you are incorrect AFAIK. There are crossings enabling Pals to get into Jerusalem. And of course the whole wall wouldnt have been necessary if it wasnt for terrorism.

But I suppose whenever anybody mentions Iran its just a reflex to make a moral equivalency with Israel.

They overthrew the CIA imposed Shah. Then there was the hostage crisis. Compare and contrast this with our accidental bombings of the Swiss Embassy in Tripoli and the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. Then they were invaded by Iraq. As neutrals, we backed Iraq, except for Ollie. We shot down one of their airliners, while Saddam accidentally slipped an Exocet into one of our destroyers, the USS Stark.

They're a democratic theocracy, sort of where Iraq is headed. Judaism is recognised and reserved seats in the Majlis (at least until 2000). According to the CIA Factbook, Persians account for only 51%. They are in fact quite multicultural, yet they have less ethnic strife than say India.

No other recent wars although they did take in quite a few refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq.

I'm not sure where to find the moral equivalency.

Oh, and if Beverly Hills 90210 had been realistic, it would have had a ton of Persians.
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I think you'd fit right in with the Party of God, CS.
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