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September 21, 2004

Dear Friend of FLAME:

"Dual loyalty," the reproach or accusation that American Jews love Israel more than they love the United States, is one of the canards that is being rolled out by anti-Semites at every opportunity. This red herring is being adduced as "proof" that because Jews are not loyal to the United States they cannot be trusted. The betrayal by Jonathan Pollard (who, by the way, was punished much more severely than his crime warranted) stoked the fires of Jew haters in this country and indeed made American Jews concerned, uncomfortable and confused. The current "affair" involving Larry Franklin (who is not Jewish) turns out to be a molehill, rather than a mountain. Still, it once again raises the specter of "dual loyalty." The following article by Hillel Halkin, a contributing editor of the New York Sun, throws an important and reassuring light on this subject.

Gerardo Joffe
President, FLAME

Dual Loyalty and Larry Franklin
New York Sun, September 1, 2004

The “mole,” so it seems, has given birth to a molehill. This seems to be the direction in which the FBI’s investigation of Larry Franklin, the Pentagon analyst suspected of espionage for Israel, is headed. Mr. Franklin, it now appears, was not in the employ of the Mossad and did nothing more heinous than give, on his own initiative, officials of Aipac, the powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington, a classified document pertaining to Bush administration debates over Iran.

If true, this will cause a sigh of relief in Israel and the American Jewish community, in which the shock waves that followed initial reports of Mr. Franklin’s entanglement had more to do with Jonathan Pollard than with Mr. Franklin — a middle-echelon, highly pro-Israel employee of the Defense Department who is not Jewish himself.

Like a devastating earthquake that leaves behind a permanent nervousness about another one, the Jonathan Pollard affair was a trauma that is re-evoked by every slight seismic tremor of a similar nature. Always a sensitive issue for American Jews, the accusation that they are guilty of “dual loyalty” because they feel as much allegiance to Israel as they do to America was never raised so painfully, or with as many repercussions, as it was by Pollard’s arrest and conviction. The fear of a repetition has been there ever since, and the Franklin case activated it instantly.

And yet one might point out that, while the “dual loyalty” charge has generally been treated as an anti-Semitic canard both by Jews and non-Jews well disposed toward them, the matter is not quite so simple. An American Jew who takes his Jewishness seriously does not and cannot have the same attitude toward Israel that an Italian-American or Polish-American has toward Italy or Poland, even though this is the kind of comparison that has commonly been made in dismissing the notion that there is any problem.

Native-born Americans of Italian or Polish ancestry are not Poles or Italians; while they may feel a sentimental attachment to the country of their ancestors’ origin, this is rarely strong enough to make them care deeply about its fate. A strongly identified Jew, on the other hand, must care deeply about Israel’s fate, because Israel is the state of the Jewish people and a sense of Jewish peoplehood is an intrinsic part of being Jewish. A large number of American Jews feel attached to Israel in a way that no other American ethnic group feels attached to any other country, and it is not only false but also demeaning for Jews to deny this.

In this sense, “dual loyalty” is not an anti-Semitic libel but a fact of life. Many Jews do feel an allegiance to Israel that is as great as their allegiance to America, not because they do not love America — it would be hard for them not to love a place in which Jews have lived better and in a friendlier atmosphere than they have anywhere else in their long history — but because they love Israel, too. They would be placed in a highly difficult position if Israel and America were ever to become enemies, or even if the two countries’ interests were to diverge sharply.

Fortunately, this is not likely to happen, since both countries need each other to be strong and could not have, barring currently unimaginable geopolitical changes, any possible interest in seeing the other seriously weakened. This may seem more obvious in Israel’s case, since America is its only dependable ally in a world that is in no small part hostile. The reason it is so absurd to accuse the Jewish neoconservatives in the Bush administration of knowingly pushing America into a war that is bad for it in order to benefit Israel is that if America were to suffer a military or political defeat in Iraq, Israel would pay an even stiffer price than would America itself. An Iraqi misadventure that ended in the loss of American power and prestige would make the Middle East an even more dangerous place for Israel to be in than it was before the invasion of Iraq.

But the opposite, though perhaps less obvious, is true, too. For America to try improving its relations with the Arab world by fundamentally compromising Israel’s position cannot possibly redound to America’s advantage. This is true, first of all, because it will not make the option of democracy more attractive to the Islamic Middle East if the region’s one functioning democracy is not supported by America, and secondly, because an Israel that cannot defend itself militarily is an Israel that America will ultimately have to defend with its own troops. A strong Israel is not just a sentimental American interest. It is a coldly realistic one.

Although “dual loyalty” may exist for some American Jews in theory, it is not, therefore, a practical reality. Perhaps some day, when the war against terror has been won, and a democratized Arab world stretches from Morocco in the west to Baghdad in the east, and from Damascus in the north to Khartoum in the south, America may correctly decide that it is in its deepest interest to side in this or that dispute with the popularly elected government of Syria, or the parliamentary regime in Saudi Arabia, against Israel. But from Israel and its supporters’ point of view, this is a day that cannot come too soon, for such an Arab world would no longer be out to destroy it.

If “dual loyalty” turns out to be a problem then, this would be the kind of problem one can only wish for.


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