Sunday, March 11, 2012

Joshua Stanton is the Grinch That Stole Purim

At this point, it doesn't surprise me to see HuffPost bloggers and commentators use holidays and famous people such as MLK to push their politics. But usually, they don't actively change the point of holidays to the point where the holiday is no longer recognizable. Let me give you an example.

Purim was this past Thursday, and Joshua Stanton is the HP blogger tapped to spin it to bash the Jews. Ironically, he titles his article Purim: A Serious Misunderstanding of the Festival's Mirth, which is exactly what he writes. According to Stanton, the point of Purim is the following:
"Purim's cathartic effect is remarkable, providing an opportunity for Jewish communities to parody themselves and their own hierarchies and imbue often-serious religious practices with music and merriment... it mocks royalty and magistrates, the mob-mentality of the masses and the not-so-courtly political classes...Yet there is also a somber edge to Purim's story: the narrative of devolution in interfaith relations"
 OK, I acknowledge the fact that religious scripture and practices are open for interpretation so people can read whatever they want into the Purim story. But in all my years celebrating Purim, I've never heard anything about Jewish self-parody or the importance of interfaith relations. Of course, Stanton works in interfaith relations, so he's probably just self-promoting, but I wish he could do it more subtly.

The point of Purim is the same as Passover and Hanukah: "They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat." I know the far leftists hate the idea of winning and losing, the history of people trying to kill the Jews, and Jews as a nation, but I for one would appreciate it if they didn't try to twist the point of our holidays into something that bears no resemblance to the original. Stanton is Jewish (I think) but you would be hard pressed to find many Jews that agree with his interpretation of Purim (IMHO). But let's keep going, because it's about to get worse.

Stanton takes his interpretation of the Purim holiday to the next level:
"Perhaps mocking Persian bureaucracy, the decree [of Haman's to kill the Jews] is not repealed. Rather, a second decree, intended to compensate for the first, is issued. It does not undo the harm of the first edict, but rather ensure that the harm is more evenhanded -- a true disaster if measured by standards of current interfaith relations.
Jews, the second edict determines, are to take up arms in defense of themselves and slay their would-be attackers. The Jews do, wiping out their potential adversaries -- and realizing in verse the fanciful dream of a people versed in oppression."
For those of you who had the Reform Jewish version taught to you growing up, like I did, it may surprise you to know that the Purim story doesn't end with Haman being hanged and the Jews living, but the Jews being allowed to fight back against the people trying to kill them and a lot of people dying as a result. Naturally, this horrifies Stanton from the perspective of "inter-faith relations" since the harm will be "more even-handed." For any thinking person, the fact that Haman and company were trying to kill the Jews indicates that inter-faith relations had already collapsed, but apparently Stanton disagrees.

Then Stanton goes off the rails:
"Yet extremists, notably Jewish settlers in the West Bank, have taken the second edict of this sacred comedic scroll to be a pretense for violence against non-Jews. Missing the point of the entire holiday, they don't dress up humorously, but as the thugs that they truly are.

Most notorious is the 1994 massacre Baruch Goldstein carried out against Palestinians praying at a local mosque in Hebron. The American-born Goldstein is still lauded in some fringe settler circles as a role model for killing 29 innocent Palestinians and wounding of 150 more.

This past fall's vandalism of mosques (including some in Israel proper) suggest that Goldstein's horrific acts are not simply heinous history. Real threats exist to the well-being of non-Jews living near extremist settlers...

Purim may provide the tragic excuse for such acts of violence -- or less vicious but all-to-hurtful expressions of disdain for non-Jews. "
Let me summarize: Jewish settlers are using the premise that Jews are allowed to defend themselves, as enshrined in international law as well as common sense, much less the Book of Esther, to attack Palestinians. Let's just let that hang for a second and look at Stanton's conclusion:
"Extremists who misuse a joyful holiday to cause misery to others are not merely sadistic but also utterly unaware of Purim's innate message of sacred irony and humor.

It is upon us to stand up to extremists within our midst who misapprehend and misappropriate a holiday of joy to cause others pain. Laughter may help us overcome our own tears, but the tears of others must not bring us joy."
 So Stanton is making the claim that Jewish settlers include Baruch Goldstein are motivated by Purim of all things to do the things they have done to the Palestinian Arabs. From that claim, he then makes the case that anyone who "misuses" Purim to make the case that Jews have the right of self-defense is an "extremist" and "causes pain and misery." The irony of him accusing others of "misapprehending and misappropriating a holiday of joy" is palpable.

Can the lessons of Purim be used for evil? Of course. Is completely warping the message of the Purim story like Stanton done also wrong? Absolutely.

The reason why Purim is a joyful holiday is not because of we get to make fun of royalty or parody ourselves. It's that we Jews survived a terrible threat and are happy to be alive today. I apologize if the reason that we are alive today (violence) is offensive to Mr. Stanton and his goal of inter-faith dialogue, but I refuse to pretend Purim is something that it is not.

If Mr. Stanton wants to denounce the settler treatment of Palestinian Arabs, that is his right. But arguing that people who are willing to use violence to protect Jews are extremists and misusing Purim is hypocritical and pathetic.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hey guys we've started to employ a slight comment policy. We used to have completely open comments but then people abused it. So our comment policy is such: No obvious trolling or spamming. And be warned: unlike the Huffington Post we actually enforce our comment policy.