Monday, July 31, 2006


Dual Loyalty

One of the most persistent anti-Semitic canards has been the notion that we Jews have "dual loyalty" to both our "host country" and to the Jewish people with sometimes the latter loyalty outranking the first. Interestingly, you do not hear this canard so much from the right anymore -- at least not about Jews: you hear it applied to Mexican immigrants, etc. Has anybody noticed this connection in reactionary rhetoric? I wonder if those who are so quick to claim that we Jews ought to have a dual loyalty, e.g., toward Israel, are so enthusiastic about the supposed dual loyalties of other groups?

Anyway, with the advent of Israel, "dual loyalty" became something for which there could be evidence given as Israel is a national entity to which one could indeed be loyal, far less nebulous, for example, than the Jewish people. While one should not blame victims of discrimination for that discrimination, is there any obligation among those victims to especially avoid those negative traits ascribed to the group at hand? One could argue from Fackenheim's famous dictum never to grant Hitler a posthumous victory that there is such an obligation: if, e.g., Hitler would say "the Jews are bad because they do bad thing, X", then for Jews to embrace doing X would be granting Hitler the victory of being right.

Yet, according to the narrative, out of the ashes of the Holocaust sprang forth Israel, which could serve as a lightening rod for the dual loyalty charge -- and also a mentality that since we Jews are victims of anti-Semitism, we Jews should be able to behave, even in accordance with what ought to be mere canard, in any way we want and any negative responses to our behavior are still solely the fault of the anti-Semite (which behavior, ironically is paired with a mentality of "we Jews will never again be victims even if it means that we have become persecutors" -- motivating Israel to respond so disproportionately whenever it is attacked out of the mindset that we Jews need to be strong: but what is a bully except one who is afraid of being seen as weak? Don't Israel's actions bespeak the very Jewish fear of which Zionism was supposed to rid us? Is this another way in which Zionism is, as the Rabbis of yore could have warned us, albeit in a non-secular language even the most religious of moderns often fail to understand, futile?). Some Jews have gone further and urge us Jews to have dual loyalties. Is this mentality acceptable? Is it fine for us to take a canard and embrace it? Or is this a part of the sin of granting Hitler a posthumous victory?

I think I know which side Isaiah would be on: why bring on more punishment to yourself? What is the joy that some have in being the martyr, even of divine wrath? Why did Israel, which in this current mess could have had for once the international community behind it, squander that support? Is there a comfort in being the eternally hated one? Do people think "others hate us" frees them from moral responsibilities? Is this why some Jews seem to court anti-Semitism and encourage Israel to behave provocatively? Is this what's behind "we are not provocative, if people think we're provocative, that's their problem"?

Isaiah obliquely wonders this sort of thing from the outset of his recorded prophecies. So who's right? David Galerntner or Isaiah? While there are many things, especially in the realm of technology, about which David Galertner has been perspicuitous and even prophetic, my money on geo-political issues and what's good for the long term of the Jewish people is on Isaiah, who, after all, was right about Egypt.

Also, the issue of dual loyalty cuts both ways. If I as a Jew ought to have a loyalty to Israel, ought Israel to have a loyalty to me, even though I am not a citizen of Israel, nor do I pay taxes there nor have I served in their military? If it need not concern itself with the needs of Galuth Jews (of which Duluth Jews, such as my late grandmother who babysat some kid named Robert Zimmerman, are only a small subset), why should we be loyal to it? On the other hand, what kind of state is it that has loyalty to its diaspora even over the safety of its citizens? Even assuming Israel is "in the right" with its attacks on civilians, these attacks are sufficiently un-clear-cut in their justifiability that they provide very real evidence of Jewish malevolence, to those inclined to see it that way. While some would argue that any anti-Semitism engendered by Israeli actions is per force, by the principle of not blaming the victim, the fault of the anti-Semite, many of us would still maintain that crime prevention, so to speak, is important. Do these people who are always saying "don't blame the victim" vis-a-vis anti-Semitism leave their doors unlocked? After all, if their homes get burgled, it is not their fault, but the burglar's!

Forget about the issues of innocent civilians (even assuming the graded guilt idea of Dershowitz, if the numbers of "civilian" casualties are all due to his quasi-civilians, Israel has a huge enough problem on its hands that I bet even the most hawkish of chicken-hawks would be calling for Israel to fold), etc, ... I simply cannot abide by the fact that the Jewish state is pursuing a counter-productive strategy (they always talk of having to respond with resolve -- I wonder what would happen if Israel for once did nothing: by now the terrorists are counting on Israel reacting the way it does, so Israel doing nothing, rather than trying to do something to scare its enemies, might really be what terrorizes the terrorists!) that makes it, and by extension, us Jews, look bad. There are certain things I just don't want to be done "in my name", so to speak. But what kind of state can be expected to have a dual loyalty to both its dedicated citizens and people like me? But what kind of state in Israel's position, with it's diaspora in our position, can avoid the responsibility of dual loyalty? Certainly, the case is stronger that Israel should have dual loyalty to us Jews in the diaspora than we should have to it.

So what is Israel to do? What are we to do? You can see why, even though I generally am supportive of Israel and would hate to see its hard won gains for the Jewish people (providing us with a place of refuge and access to our holy sites in a reasonably secular democracy), I cannot call myself a Zionist nor, even as I wholeheartedly say the rest of the prayer, I cannot say the part of the prayer for Israel calling it "the dawn of our redemption". That language does not belong in a Jewish prayerbook (it sounds suspiciously dispensationalist to me anyway) until such time as geo-political realities allow Israel to and Israel does function in such a way that it does not serve to provide evidence anti-Semites can use to justify their hatred. We have an obligation to not make anti-Semitism even seem reasonable. Doesn't the Jewish state have this obligation as well?

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