While Bill O’Reilly, John Gibson and everyone else on the Fox News Channel may be up in arms over the so-called “war on Christmas,” they conveniently forget about the war on Hanukkah. The war on Christmas may have been epitomized with greetings of “Happy Holidays” in place of “Merry Christmas,” but the war on Hanukkah is marked with actual violence.
Over the Hanukkah holiday, last month, menorahs in Sunnyvale and Mountain View, Calif. were vandalized. A menorah, for those unaware of Jewish practices, is a candelabrum that serves as the symbol of the Jewish people. It usually has seven branches, but a nine-branch version is used for Hanukkah. The Sunnyvale menorah, placed in front of a Jewish center, was bent in half and its candles were stolen. The Mountain View menorah, an electronic version placed in front of a civic center, had its lights removed and wires ripped out.
Two more incidents were recorded in Texas. Near Houston, a Jewish resident videotaped a man drive by his house, exit his vehicle and destroy a Hanukkah bear on his property. In Fort Bend County, a menorah was completely destroyed while a nativity scene nearby was left completely unharmed.
The desecrations were reported on the East Coast as well. Two menorahs were obliterated in Massachusetts, along with three in New York and one in Pennsylvania.
Largely ignored by the national media and only covered by local press, these attacks demonstrate the undeniable: anti-Semitism is alive and well. There are two opposing popular myths regarding anti-Semitism. One is that it’s dead, while the other suggests there is a “new” version rampant among the extremist critics of Israel.
It should be obvious, however, that the old anti-Semitism, exemplified by cultural stereotypes, has not disappeared at all. While it may be taboo to call Jewish people cheap, evil and money-grubbing in public, negative stereotypes persist in private. Who on this campus hasn’t referred to or at least heard of the reference of the Jewish American Princess? Whitney Dibo explored the topic (That girl is such a JAP, 10/28/2005) when she noticed that in private lives, this ethnic and sexist slur against Jewish people continues. “The term is used so liberally it has lost the harshness of an ethnic slur,” she opined. As time has gone on, instead of disappearing, anti-Semitism has become more commonplace and accepted.
Anti-Semitism has simply gone below the surface. All it takes for it to bubble up again is a little agitation. While evangelicals like Pat Robertson and Billy Graham may be “great” friends of Israel, their true attitudes toward Jews are revealing. In the early 1970s, Graham was recorded in conversations with President Nixon at the White House saying that he believed Nixon needed to break the Jewish “stranglehold” on the media.
Let’s not forget Mel Gibson’s anti-semitic tirade when, after being arrested for drunk driving in July of last year, he proclaimed, “Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” We cannot make judgments on a new anti-Semitism if the old anti-Semitism is alive and well, as shown by recent vandalism of Jewish symbols and decorations.
While the neoconservatives love to use the term “Judeo-Christian” when they want to find someone to share blame for their disastrous policies, the truth is that there is nothing “Judeo” about the culture they claim to respect. Some of the neocons in the Bush Administration may be Jewish, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves – it’s the Christian Right that calls the shots. They may believe supporting the policies of Israel will expedite the second coming of Jesus, but when it comes to the Jews as a people, they either need to convert to Christianity or submit to the Christian Right’s will.
Jews are still the victims of an overwhelming number of hate crimes in this country. According to 2005 FBI hate crime statistics, of the 1,405 victims of a religion-based hate crime, 69.5 percent were Jews. Although they’re not in the same danger as in 1938, the simple fact remains that Jews are still seen as outsiders, criminals, usurpers and people to laugh at.
The “war on Christmas” may be nothing more than the demented fiction of Fox News pundits, but the war on Hanukkah – the result of a deeply ingrained anti-Semitism – is as real as the ruined menorahs left in its wake.
Jared Goldberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org