In the spirit of the eight nights of Chanukah celebrants should reflect and act on the violence being perpetuated in Gaza and around the Middle East.

First, continue to demand, through words and actions, a complete ceasefire in Gaza. Even the corporate media, usually beholden to Israeli lobbyists cannot bear to be neutral in the face of the bombings and destruction (particularly the killing of children) they have to report day after day.

Second, assess the enormous role the United States is playing in fueling this violence: sending arms, finding ways to avoid the transparency of such actions, and advocating for increasing military aid to Israel beyond the yearly $3 billion.

Third, reflect on the extent to which the United States economy is driven by military spending, a permanent wat economy. Huge profits have been recorded for the five leading defense contractors since the Ukraine war began (the Raytheon CEO in fact spoke in celebratory tones in early 2022 about how the Ukraine war was good for its business). The war on Gaza has been an extra benefit for the militarists.

Fourth, think about how the wars in Ukraine and Gaza have rekindled the long historical narrative of American exceptionalism. From Theodore Roosevelt’s praise of the special role of the white race in building civilization to the Clinton/Obama/Biden claim that the United States is “the indispensable nation,” the old ideology has been dusted off to rationalize a new drive for global hegemony. This time the US faces a changing world order in which the Global South is rising up angry and large and powerful nations such as China are asserting their influence.

Fifth, mobilize against a “new McCarthyism,” that is being spread across the land, particularly in educational institutions, claiming that criticisms of Israeli policy are in fact manifestations of antisemitism. In fact, thousands of self-described Jewish activists have been hitting the streets and organizing lobbying campaigns demanding a cease fire in Gaza and registering support for a free Palestine. They see the historic role of the Jewish people as bound, as the Maccabees in the Chanukah story, to resistance against repression.

Sixth, for those who are appropriately concerned about the possible impacts the war on Gaza supported by the United States might have on the 2024 elections it is clear that opposing what is commonly called fascism at home requires opposing fascism overseas. In this Chanukah season Jewish activists need to support politicians who have been calling for a ceasefire, a reduction of military aid to Israel, and the defense of the rights of Palestinian people. Liberals and progressives should be aware of President Biden’s loss of support among the young, people of color, and Muslims, and as well as peace activists generally.

Seventh, revisit “root causes” of Middle East violence over the last 75 years. Unfortunately, the horrific violence against the Jewish people for centuries and particularly the Holocaust was followed by what Illan Pappe has called “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians resulting from the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and the 1967 war and Israeli policies ever since. There are many issues to reflect upon and debate but it is clear that the violence in the Middle East did not begin with the founding of Hamas or their terrible violence on October 7, 2023.

Eighth, finally as we celebrate with families while lighting the candles, peace activists should revisit peace alternatives. A two-state solution is not enough; one secular state is needed.  Expropriating Palestinian property and land must be addressed while protecting the rights of Israeli citizens as well. The two peoples who have so much in common historically and culturally must find a way to live together much like the diverse families who assemble for the Chanukah season.

 By Harry Targ