There, I said it.
Yes, I know I was supposed to have been traumatized from having to sing X-mas carols during my elementary school years. But I tend to lump that history in with the fact that I attended more Catholic masses than Jewish services during my youth (although you could add all the religious activities I participated in during my childhood on two hands and, possibly, one uncovered foot).
And yet, despite all this cultural “indoctrination,” I never seem to have shaken my religious and cultural identity, to the point where my children will be given far more religious education than I ever had (Jewish, by the way).
It was sometime after I had obtained my own Jewish religious and cultural consciousness that it became de rigueur among the wider Jewish community to fret that the Christian symbols permeating the landscape (despite that landscape having been long cleared of public-school Christmas carol singing and public-square crèches) were intimidating or insulting to those of us who belong to religious minorities.
But, as someone whose Jewish identity didn’t get derailed by having to sing Silent Night to an audience of bored parents of all religious denominations in the 1970s, it dawned on me years later that today’s Christmas would bother me much more if I were Christian.
After all, the bulk of what passes for the holiday season deals either with shopping or generic good will for all. And while I’m no Scrooge with respect to either contributing to the economy (by caving in to my kid’s every whim) or showing good will towards others, it strikes me that a religious holiday should ultimately be about something other than generosity of wallet and spirit (although there’s nothing wrong with either).
Which gets me to the real problem we should be having with Christmas this holiday season, regardless of whether we are Christian, Jew or other. For this year, it seems like the tendency to co-op the holiday for self-centered politics seems to have reached a level of tackiness unseen since the days of Europe’s overtly anti-Semitic Passion Plays.
First, as NGO Monitor points out, “charitable” non-governmental organizations with church affiliations seem to be taking particular delight this year in retelling the history of the Middle East in religious (even super-sessionalist) terms.
Under this storyline, Jews and Arabs are not dealing with a contemporary political dispute over land (much like similar disputes that take place all over the world). Nor, are they even talking about the conflict by using the usual one-sided, self-serving language related to objects of contemporary belief such as “human rights” and “international law.”
No, instead, we are back to medieval narratives of Jews denying Christ (or Christ’s descendents, who we are told with the usual tastelessness and imperviousness to historical accuracy are actually the Palestinian Arabs), emanating from groups such as Sabeel which never tire of characterizing Jews doing things like limiting access to their cities by those who perpetrate and celebrate blowing up school buses in those cities as the equivalent of nailing Christ to the cross (again).
Such quasi-religious (but really secular and hyper-political) condemnations tend to accompany annual grotesques, such as celebrations in “Palestinian” Bethlehem which couple ten minutes celebrating the birth of Christ with four hours condemning the Jewish state for the depletion of Christians in the area. This all in spite of facts that anyone who has not built barriers around their mind and senses can see (notably that the flight of Christians from Bethlehem being the result of handing that town over to the very Palestinians now crying crocodile tears over missing Christians they themselves forced out).
Needless to say, the abuse of Christmas finds its most tasteless expression by our own home-grown BDSers who have taken in recent years to demonstrate their impotence by singing their own butchered X-mas carols in front of stores selling the latest hit Israeli product (Ahava cosmetics in recent years, but Soda Stream this time around).
The fact that sales of Israeli goods have exploded, despite their out-of-tune warbling and outrageously contrived lyrics has not prevented this hoard of self-centered grinches from doing what they can to confuse, annoy and appall shoppers in places like downtown Boston who clearly pay no heed (except to express contempt).
But remember, lowering SodaStream sales are not the point. Nor (despite what the BDSers will tell you) are they doing their thing to “make a statement” or “start a conversation” about the “plight of the Palestinians” or anything (or anyone) else.
For the reason why these tired, old, has-beens gather to torture passersby can be found on the Facebook page of the group itself. For that Facebook page IS the point: the chance to show off to friends and allies that they (the brave, bold, BDSers) are “doing something” are taking “direct” action so bold and edgy that it’s worth, well… posting on Facebook!
So as the body count increases in Syria, tanks roll against civilians in Egypt, and the Middle East not-so-slowly descends into the mire, we can at last see what those friends of humanity in BDSland have as their priority: placing themselves as the object of celebration this holiday season in place of you-know-who.