In Defense of Dual
February 18, 2003
Well, the fur is flying now. The debate about war
on Iraq often seems to be less about the reasons for and against war than
about the motives of the debaters themselves. The touchiest and most
volatile point in the debate is the old question of Jewish loyalty,
especially as regards Israel.
When the British issued the
Balfour Declaration calling for a Jewish homeland in Palestine back in
1918, the Jewish Lord Montagu wept. He thought it was a tragic mistake,
because it would call in question the loyalty of Diaspora Jews to their
native countries. He thought the suspicion of dual loyalty
He was right, but he didnt
foresee how that suspicion would be suppressed in our time. Today the
charge of dual loyalty is considered disreputable, so disreputable that it
should never be entertained even as a possibility. Writing in the
Washington Post, Lawrence Kaplan insinuates that those
who suspect Israeli loyalists, especially within the Bush administration,
of pushing for war are though he avoids the word
Well, if were going to
argue about this, lets start with an obvious question: Whats
wrong with dual loyalties? I love this country in my way, but I love the
Europe of my ancestors too, and I dont blame Jews whose chief
loyalty is to their own people. I rather expect it. Its called nature.
It isnt necessarily sinister. But it has to be taken into account.
All stereotypes are more
or less accurate, writes the sociologist John Murray Cuddihy. That
doesnt mean they are universally true; it means they are broadly
true, even if there are exceptions. Just because an ethnic generalization
isnt always true doesnt mean its never
Politicians, who dont traffic in subtle nuances, know this. Crude stereotypes,
usually implicit, serve them well. New York politicians, bidding for the
Jewish vote, assume what they wont say outright: that the best
way to get Jewish votes is to call for all-out U.S. support for Israel. That
is, they assume that most Jews first loyalty today is to Israel. And
nobody accuses them of anti-Semitism for assuming this.
Whats more, it gets them
elected. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Robert Wagner, Jacob Javits,
John Lindsay, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Al DAmato, Ed Koch, Rudy
Giuliani, Charles Schumer, Hillary Clinton ... Nobody ever lost a New York
election by being too pro-Israel. Never.
Its unfair to blame the
Jews for doing what most of us do. But its absurd to pretend that
they dont do it. Are we really supposed to believe that the
Jewish-Zionist-Likudnik hawks around President Bush the
Perle-Wolfowitz-Feith-JINSA crowd would be so eager for war if
they thought Iraq was Israels friend? Please. And most of the big
Jewish organizations want the United States to fight Israels
enemies. Naturally! We arent supposed to notice?
Read the Jewish press. How often
do you find its writers saying, Well, this war might be good for
Israel, but it would be bad for America, and after all, we are American
citizens first!? Almost unimaginable. Actually, dual loyalty would
be an improvement. It would mean putting American interests ahead of
Israeli interests every once in a while.
For all that, the Jewish hawks
may be right. Its possible that American and Israeli interests
coincide now and then. But how likely is it that those interests are always
identical? That there is no tension at all between loyalty to both
At the moment there is certainly
tension between my American and European loyalties, and you may say, if
you like, that Im with Europe. The millions of peace marchers who
turned out last weekend spoke for me. They were the voice of European
civilization; and when America threatens Europes peace, I see no
reason to side with America.
But I also see no reason to hide
my loyalties. Im proud of Europe, especially now. Im
sometimes ashamed of America, especially now. I just think Israel-first
Jews ought to be equally frank. Lets all declare our interests.
I dont think this war will
really be good for America. Im not even sure it will be good for
Israel. But as the Godfather asks, with a fine sense of relevance,
What is the interest for me and my family? My family, in
this case, is not only America, but Europe. And Europe wants peace.