Hanukkah commemorates a revolt against tax rates that we would call “low”

How is everyone’s pre-Kwanzaa candle-lighting going this week? The Righteous are showing their commitment to stopping Jew-hatred by wishing everyone a Happy Hanukkah and, oftentimes, bringing out a menorah to sit in front of next week’s kinara. This is a little strange considering that the official Hanukkah narrative concerns some Jews whose policies were similar to those we decry in Afghanistan and Iran, i.e., forcing people to obey religious laws. Maybe the unofficial narrative is even more upsetting from the point of view of of a modern American holding correct views? From a professor of history at the University of Tel Aviv, “Religious Persecution or High Taxes? The Causes of the Maccabean Revolt against Antiochus IV”:

The issues of tax increases and royal appointments to the High Priesthood arise repeatedly throughout 2 Maccabees—always in conjunction with one another, and always decried by equating royal appointments with unworthy candidates. Because of the account’s emphasis on piety, these denunciations have been discounted by modern commentators, but if we read through 2 Maccabees’ culturally-conditioned narrative codes, the argument presented is perfectly rational—and plausible. The Seleucids’ attempt to control the appointment of the Jerusalem High Priests was indeed an innovation introduced by Antiochus IV, who exploited his appointees’ weakness—their lack of dynastic legitimacy—to extort sharp tax rises from them.

Like all popular revolts in ancient times, its principal cause was the newly-imposed high taxes.

Dying in a fight against high taxes struck no symbolic and no emotional chords in Judean culture—conversely, dying for the Law did. The account of the suppression was reshaped using a narrative pattern that is well documented in Babylonian literate culture: righteous kings enforced divine law, and wicked kings violated it.

Here’s an example of a politician who promises tax increases and also commemorating a tax revolt:

The tax-and-spend House Democrats similarly want to remember when ancient people rose up against what was likely a minimal tax by our standards:

How about their counterparts in the Senate?

In short, seemingly everyone who wants to increase the percentage of the U.S. economy devoted to taxation is lighting candles and partying during this pre-Kwanzaa holiday celebrating folks who fought against a tax increase.

Meanwhile, back in my home town of Bethesda, Maryland and actually at the high school from which I dropped out, some drama:

Quite a few folks took issue with my statement that the consummate DC-insider suburb of Bethesda was primarily populated by Republicans…

Separately, who wants to bet that the author of “Jews Not Welcome” is, in fact, a Jew? The phrasing seems rather decorous for a Jew-hater. Would an actual Jew-hating Nazi (e.g., Donald Trump) say “Jews: Please don’t come to my cocktail party”? (See also “US-Israeli teen convicted of threats against Jewish centres” (BBC) for what happened when threats blamed on Trump supporters were investigated.)

Oh yes… to readers practicing Jewcraft… Happy Hanukkah!


4 thoughts on “Hanukkah commemorates a revolt against tax rates that we would call “low”

  1. Democracy is certainly much worse for a common man than monarchy. Modern democracies routinely take around half of income of middle class in taxes and government fees.

    Most European absolute monarchies had around 10% tax load. See for example https://www.jstor.org/stable/41788066

    Democracies also create total wars – in monarchies wars are basically family affairs and peasants and artisans are neutral non-combatants (the enemy is monarch and his lieges), while in democracy all population is considered legitimate targets based on theory that government represents the population. The days of “gentleman’s wars” are gone with monarchies.

    • > Democracies also create total wars

      An astute observation! The first “war for democracy” might be the War of 1870. Defeated France, rejecting its Emperor, refused to recognize reality and pointlessly prolonged a war it could not win. The popular (or at least, less unpopular) “Government of National Defense” added a streak of viciousness to their futile struggle which showed itself after the fall of Strasbourg:

      ‘Uhrich [the French commander] had conducted the defence with resolution and with a courteous correctness matched by [the German commander] Werder’s own. …on his surrender Uhrich received the chivalrous attention due to a brave but defeated foe. Such observance of protocol was little to the taste of the French. The garrison, to whom the privilege was accorded of marching out with honours of war, streamed out of the gates undisciplined, humiliated, and many of them drunk; breaking or throwing away their arms rather than yield them to the enemy. Uhrich… found himself the object of bitter attacks from his countrymen who declared that his courtesy towards the enemy and his “premature” surrender were alike symptomatic of treason. In a Peoples’ War there was no room for such courtesies, and they were seldom to be repeated.’ – from The Franco-Prussian War by Michael Howard.

  2. > Separately, who wants to bet that the author of “Jews Not Welcome” is, in fact, a Jew?
    It does seem like the graffiti artist took a lot of time and had a fairly advanced level of writing skill. Then again, it *is* Walt Whitman High, so there are lots of smart(ass) kids around. And we have to factor in the “internet copycat” phenomenon that is now an inextricable part of all our lives. And we know that smartass internet copycats exist and they do in fact get a big kick out of fanning all kinds of flames.

    But beyond that? Speculation. I’ll give it 60/40 against: if a Jewish kid did that, and now tries to live with a clear conscience or boast privately about it, that’s a deep, deep shame in my book, even deeper than if someone else did it. So I sincerely hope not, but I can see the Road to Hell there.

    If anyone wants to practice Jewcraft by talking seriously about lower taxes and a whole host of other issues, that’s fine with me. Especially if they’re in favor of it. We can get some falafel and have a great time.

    Happy Hanukkah! and Merry Christmas to everyone, whether you celebrate or not.

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