Today’s Inverted Chanukah: The Holiday of Rights in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria

In the year 164BCE, the Jews in the land of Israel successfully evicted the Selucid Greeks from Jerusalem and rededicated the Jewish Temple which had been defiled. Roughly 2200 years later, history has been inverted.

The Selucid Greeks Come to the Holy Land

The Selucid Greeks (from Syria) and the Egyptians were the major powers in the Middle East 2200 years ago. Israel acted as a buffer region between the two powers, and often fell under the authority of one or the other.

The Selucid King Antiochus III (241BCE-187BCE) expanded his kingdom into Asia and took control of Israel from the Egyptians. Generally, he treated the Jews well and they continued their autonomy and Temple worship in Jerusalem.  When he died, his son Antiochus IV became king, who sought to unify the various parts of the expanded Selucid kingdom via a common religion and culture. He removed the Jewish High Priest Yochanan from the Temple in Jerusalem and installed Yochanan’s brother Jason who was willing to permit more Hellenistic and pagan worship. Jason was later replaced by Menalus who promised even more pagan rituals.

Before long, Antiochus IV came to the holy land and began to ban important parts of Judaism such as circumcision and observing the Sabbath. He enforced his vision via the sword.

As the Selucid Greeks rampaged through Israel, they descended on an important city in the heart of Judea, 19km northwest of Jerusalem.

The Priestly City of Modi’in

Modi’in had grown into a large city full of priests to help manage Temple worship in Jerusalem. As thousands of Jews from northern Israel went to Jerusalem for sacrifices, the city was often overwhelmed both in terms of places for pilgrims to stay and in processing animals and offerings. Modi’in became the main city for Jews of northern Israel to stop into before continuing to the Temple in Jerusalem.  The priests in Modi’in acted as partners to Jerusalem’s priests in managing an orderly Temple service.

The priests of Modi’in were already alarmed by the defilement of the Temple when Antiochus came to their city to install pagan altars. The priests, led by Mattityahu, rebelled against Antiochus and over the next years, turned back the Selucid’s evil decrees and rededicated the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The holiday of Chanukah is a celebration of the re-establishment of Jewish autonomy throughout the holy land and purification of the holy Jewish Temple.

The Inverted Chanukah Today

The modern city of Modi’in was established in 1993 as a central hub halfway between the major Israeli urban centers of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. As the city grew to nearly 100,000 people, it incorporated the neighboring villages of Maccabim (named after the Maccabees who fought the Selucid Greeks) and Re’ut. Nearby towns also carry the names of the Jewish heroes of 2200 years ago, such as Chashmona’im, named after the Hasmonean Dynasty.

In August 2012, the European Union declared that Modi’in was not part of the Jewish State.  The EU followed that ruling in November 2015, when it began to label any products from the city and the rest of Judea and Samaria as distinct from Israel.

While the EU was declaring that the heart of Judea and Samaria were not part of Israel, the Palestinian Arabs were complaining that Jews were defiling their holy places on the Temple Mount.

In September 2015, acting-President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas called for Arabs to rebel against Jews who were defiling Jerusalem: “We bless you, we bless the Murabitin (those carrying out Ribat, religious conflict/war to protect land claimed to be Islamic), we bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah, Allah willing. Every Martyr (Shahid) will reach Paradise, and everyone wounded will be rewarded by Allah. The Al-Aqsa [Mosque] is ours, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is ours, and they have no right to defile them with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem.”

Arabs took the streets with knives stabbing Jews throughout the holy land.  The United Nations, the United States and the EU did not condemn Abbas’s calls of incitement.  Instead, they spoke about the “legitimate grievances” of Muslims and Arabs.  In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to limit access for Jews to the Temple Mount.

 

This Chanukah, the world bears witness to evil in the Middle East once again, as Palestinian Arabs stab Israeli civilians and the Islamic State beheads infidels.  The desire to establish a homogeneous religion and culture still simmers in the Arab world.

But some history is now inverted:

  • Modi’in, the large ancient city where the Jewish revolt was launched, which now houses nearly 100,000 Jews, is now not considered part of the Jewish State by the global community.
  • The Jews complained and fought to remove pagan practices from their Temple long ago, and now Muslims seek to remove Jews from the Temple Mount (even though the Jews have done nothing to block Muslim worship).

On the first Chanukah 2200 years ago, Jews purged the pagan presence from Judea and Jerusalem.  Today, the world works to purge those cities of Jews.

This year, Jews should not just celebrate the holiday of lights, but commemorate the holiday of rights.  The meaning of the holiday is about Jewish autonomy and rights of worship from Judea to Jerusalem.  Put your menorah in the window and your voice on the web.

Moddin menora
Chanukah in Modi’in 2015
(photo: Elliot Bache)


Related First.One.Through articles

The UN’s Disinterest in Jewish Rights at Jewish Holy Places

Visitor Rights on the Temple Mount

The Journeys of Abraham and Ownership of the Holy Land

The United Nations and Holy Sites in the Holy Land

Losing the Temples, Knowledge and Caring

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The EU’s Choice of Labels: “Made in West Bank” and “Anti-Semite”

The European Union has taken upon itself to challenge the labelling of products that are made east of the Green Line as “Made in Israel”.   They should consider international norms and the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians before doing so.

“Made in USA” in US Territories

It is common practice for countries that have territories that are not incorporated into the country, to label products produced in those locations as being made in the country. For example, products produced in American Samoa (say for Sears Department stores) sport the “Made in USA” label even though the products were produced thousands of miles away from US shores on an island that was never part of the country by non-US citizens.

“Made in Israel” in Israeli Territory

Similarly, Israeli law allows products made in Israeli territory to carry the “Made in Israel” label.  The differences between the US and Israeli polices are that the products made in Area C of the West Bank are made by Israeli citizens, and many countries consider the Israeli territory to not be Israeli at all.

The claim that Area C is not Israeli is peculiar, since the land is specifically designated as Israeli territory by the 1993 Oslo II Accords that were agreed to and signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. That agreement laid out that Israel continues to have both civil and security control of Area C.  The final determination of control of the area will be decided in a final status agreement, which has not yet occurred. Until that time, the area remains Israeli territory (as opposed to Area A which is Palestinian Authority Territory).

Reasons behind Labelling

The labeling of products is meant to do two main things: inform a consumer about the origins of a product; and distinguish items as they relate to taxes and tariffs.

In the United States, labelling a product from American Samoa as being “Made in USA” may be misleading to consumers about the true origin of the item, but it is consistent as it relates to tariffs. The same holds true for Israeli policy towards items from Area C.

From the EU’s perspective, not only does it seek to inform European consumers about the precise location of origin of foreign products, it wishes to uniquely harm Israel as it disputes the Israeli claim over Area C (despite the Israel-Palestinian Authority agreement noted above). It is therefore requiring a change of labels from “Made in Israel” to “Made in the West Bank” for items produced east of the Green Line.

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Dates in London, England labelled “West Bank”
(photo: Friends of Al Aqsa London)

Israel has attempted to stop the European Union from embarking on this policy. It fears that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement will hurt its economy by not only not purchasing Israeli products, but by trying to ban the items from store shelves. Some argue that providing a distinct label for products from the settlements would actually help Israel as there are people in Europe who only seek to avoid products from the settlements, but would gladly purchase items from within Israel’s 1949 Armistice Lines. The reality is that many organizations that are promoting the EU policy for distinct labelling of Israel vs. “West Bank” seek to boycott and harm all of Israel. For example, Friends of Al Aqsa (FOA) prints advertisements that call for boycotting all products from anywhere in Israel and its territory.

label Israel
Ad by FOA calling for Boycott of products from “Israel, West Bank (Settlements) & Jordan Valley”

As it relates to taxes and tariffs, the European Union established a framework of trading with Israel in the EU-Israel Association Agreement (1995) which took effect in June 2000. The language in the agreement repeatedly refers to “countries and territories” which can be interpreted broadly to include territories of both European member states as well as Israel.

EU Action Only for Israel

The European Union distinction of strictly labelling products to exclude Israeli territory is unique for Israel.  The EU makes no distinctions for countries where it does not challenge the legal authority (like the US with American Samoa), AND for other countries where it disagrees with the claim on disputed land. Some examples:

  • In 1974, Turkey illegally seized one-third of the Cyprus and declared the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, an entity which is not recognized by any country in the world other than Turkey. Yet the EU avoids heated discussions with Turkey over the labelling of products from TRNC such as its famous halloumi cheese.
  • When it comes to China, the EU trips over itself to facilitate trade. As stated on the EU website on trade: “China is the EU’s biggest source of imports by far, and has also become one of the EU’s fastest growing export markets. The EU has also become China’s biggest source of imports. China and Europe now trade well over €1 billion a day.” Trade includes items made in Tibet, and the EU has not addressed any specific “Made in Tibet” labelling. This is despite China occupying Tibet and transferring 7.5 million Chinese into the territory, counter to the Fourth Geneva Convention.
  • India has a long running dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir. The EU stated that it is “committed to further increase their trade flows in both goods and services as well as bilateral investment and access to public procurement through the Free Trade Agreement negotiations that were launched in 2007.” No specific labelling program has been discussed for items coming from Kashmir.

The European Union has shown a unique fascination with Israeli territories.

  • It makes no labelling distinction for other disputed territories such as Tibet and Kashmir to assist consumers
  • It does not dispute the tariff system that countries use for its territories like the United States with American Samoa
  • The EU ignores the Oslo II agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority which specifically segment the Israeli settlements in Area C as Israeli territory
  • It ignores its own trade agreement with Israel

And the EU does all of these things knowing full well of the intention of the BDS movement to leverage their actions to harm the Jewish State.

Double standards and unique critical attention for Israel is considered anti-Semitism, even by US President Barack Obama who said “[if] you acknowledge the active presence of anti-Semitism—that it’s not just something in the past, but it is current—if you acknowledge that there are people and nations that, if convenient, would do the Jewish people harm because of a warped ideology… you should be able to align yourself with Israel when it comes to making sure that it is not held to a double standard in international fora, you should align yourself with Israel when it comes to making sure that it is not isolated.”

It would appear that many Europeans would choose to wear the “Anti-Semitism” label with honor.


Related FirstOneThrough articles:

Names and Narrative: Palestinian Territories/ Israeli Territories

Palestinians agree that Israel rules all of Jerusalem, but the World Treats the City as Divided

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Bibi’s Paris Speech in Context

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu came to Paris, France in January 2015 to show his support for free speech and to confront anti-Semitism in the wake of terror attacks at the Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher supermarket. He addressed a large Jewish audience at the Grand Synagogue where he invited the Jews to make aliyah – to move to Israel.netanyahu paris shul

“Any Jew who chooses to come to Israel will be greeted with open arms and an open heart, it is not a foreign nation, and hopefully they and you will one day come to Israel.”

Many people criticized his statement including, not surprisingly, his Israeli political opponents during an election season.  The French were also unhappy with the call to move to Israel. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that “if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure.”
French President Francois Hollande made a similar statement a few days later: “French people of the Jewish faith, your place is here, in your home. France is your country.

It is right and proper that the leaders of France seek to assure the country’s Jewish citizens that France is their home and they should not flee the country from fear.  But to berate Netanyahu for his remarks does not take into account the climate in which the invitation to move to the Jewish State was made.

Consider that Netanyahu did not come to France and invite the French Jews after attacks targeting their community in 2012 or 2006. But he felt that the situation for Jews in Europe had deteriorated significantly throughout 2014 which compelled him to invite the largest Jewish population in Europe, with an estimated 500,000 people, to move to Israel:

In summary, the year before the Paris shootings was a cascade of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activities in Europe.  The year 2014 began with Netanyahu releasing terrorists to push forward a peace initiative (of which he was very skeptical) at the urging of the USA and Europe.  It proved meaningless to the peace process and world opinion; Israel and Jews in Europe were attacked throughout the year, first by Palestinians and then by Europeans.

For Netanyahu, the prior twelve months had:

  1. Israel release prisoners, including Palestinian murderers of Israeli civilians, at the direct urging of allies
  2. Their Palestinian counter-party break peace talks by joining with Hamas and international organizations
  3. A summer in which: three teenagers were abducted and murdered; Israel located an extensive Hamas tunnel network from Gaza into Israel to launch attacks; Israel combated thousands of incoming missiles from Gaza. Yet Israel was still criticized by Europe and the global community for defensive actions
  4. European cities launch multiple riots against Jews
  5. European countries reward the Palestinians with admission to more world bodies and votes of endorsement
  6. The European Union remove Hamas from its terrorist list

For Netanyahu – and many Jews – the year in Europe echoed back 75 years to a period in which the continent nearly annihilated its Jewish citizens.  It was bad enough that Israelis contend with Palestinian Arabs that are more extreme than the Nazis of the 1930s.  But that Europeans embraced this ideaology was truly frightening, particularly as it stood in contrast to values they claimed to support.

In 1939, at the early stages of the Holocaust, Britain drafted the White Paper at the behest of Arabs in the Middle East, which limited Jewish immigration to Palestine at the outset of the Holocaust – a move which likely killed over 100,000 Jews – despite the specific mandate to facilitate the immigration of Jews to their homeland.

In 2015, the Prime Minister of Israel heard the calls to kill Jews, and made clear that a world with an established Jewish State will not allow a repeat of the European Holocaust.


Related First One Through articles:

Europe hurting the peace process: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/failing-negotiation-102-europe/

Europe penalizing Israel even though Palestinians are the reluctant peace partner: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/european-narrative-over-facts/

Jews continue to move out of Europe to Israel and the US music video (Diana Ross): https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/the-loss-of-jews-in-europe-continues/

Ignoring Jihad only when it comes to Israel: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/radical-jihadists-in-europe-and-dislocated-and-alienated-palestinians-in-Israel/