September 21, 2004
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.
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 FBIs 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. Franklins 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 Pollards 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 Israels 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 Israels 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 Israels position cannot possibly redound to Americas
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
regions 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.