Why It’s not Anti-Semitic for Ilhan Omar to raise the question of Dual Loyalty
Why It’s not Anti-Semitic for Ilhan Omar to raise the question of Dual Loyalty
Those who accuse Ilhan Omar of ‘anti‑semitism’ are guilty of
Middle East Eye today printed my article on Dual Loyalty, one of the most frequent Zionist talking points. As my article suggests, their arguments are dishonest and self-serving. I have made some slight changes to the printed version.
I have always had a problem with the concept of dual loyalty. I agree with what Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto. The interests of the working class and the oppressed crosses borders. Loyalty is not to the ruling classes of ‘their’ own countries but to their class.
Palestinians struggling against the Occupation have more in common with Black Lives Matter than with Mahmoud Abbas or his cronies. As Muhammed Ali once put it, ‘No Vietcong ever called me a nigger.’ In the words of Samuel Johnson patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Appeals to patriotism never apply to the rich and powerful who invest in the cheapest non-unionised labour regardless of country and then salt away their ill-gotten gains in offshore islands.
When Ilhan Omar, the new Congresswoman from Minnesota responded to Glenn Greenwald’s comment that “It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans.” by tweeting “It’s all about the Benjamin’s baby.”all hell broke loose.
Batya Ungar-Sargon asked Ilhan who she thought was paying American
politicians to support Israel. In response she got a brilliant one word
answer ‘AIPAC’. The air was thick with cries of ‘anti-Semitism’
Even Donald Trump, who came to power nakedly using anti-Semitic theme
tunes and for whom the neo-Nazis at Charlotteville were ‘fine people’
condemned the Democrats as the ‘anti-Jewish party’ for not condemning
Ilhan’s ‘terrible comments’. This is the man who lit the fire that
resulted in the worst anti-Jewish massacre in American history at
Pittsburgh. The Donald does not do irony.
Ilhan then repeated much the same remarks at the Busboys and Poets Cafe: ‘I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is O.K. for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”
According to Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine this statement was “much worse” than her previous statements, when she ascribed support for Israel to financial contributions from the lobby. ‘Accusing Jews of “allegiance to a foreign country” is a historically classic way of delegitimizing their participation in the political system.’ Michelle Goldberg in the New York Times accused her of waging a series of ‘microaggressions.
So is it true? Well the first problem is that nowhere did Ilhan mention Jews. She talked about a foreign country, Israel. Is Ilhan Omar anti-Semitic and even more pertinently is talk of ‘dual loyalty’ in itself anti-Semitic?
The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which Zionist groups have lobbied for strongly in Britain, a definition which conflates anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, states that ‘Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel… than to the interests of their own nations is an illustration of anti-Semitism.’ The IHRA also states that ‘Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination’ is anti-Semitic! If Israel is the embodiment of Jewish self-determination then why is it anti-Semitic to accuse Jews of being more loyal to Israel? Would it be anti-German to accuse Germans of being loyal to Germany?
Others such as Philip Weiss in Mondoweiss have argued that far from Ilhan being anti-Semitic even many Jewish writers agree that the question of dual loyalty is no myth. Palestinian American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib made similar comments when she said in January that Senate supporters of anti-boycott legislation “forgot what country they represent.”
So are accusations of dual loyalty, in respect of Israel, anti-Semitic? The first and most obvious point to make is that it is fundamental to Zionism that Jews form a single nation. If the concept of dual loyalty is anti-Semitic then that is because Zionism rests on the anti-Semitic canard that Jews, wherever they live, are aliens and not part of the nations among whom they live. In 2015 after the supermarket killings Netanyahu told French Jews that their ‘real home’ was in Israel. A call repeated by Israeli Labour Party leader Avi Gabbay after the Pittsburgh murders.
Israel is unique among states in not having its own nationality. It has hundreds of nationalities but only one, the Jewish nationality, is of any importance. That is why Israel is an apartheid state. This issue was settled in 1972 in the case of Tamarin v State of Israel. George Tamarin wanted to change his nationality from “Jewish” to “Israeli” but the Court refused. Chief Justice Agranat ruled that:
‘the desire to create an Israeli nation separate from the Jewish nation is not a legitimate aspiration. A division of the population into Israeli and Jewish nations would … negate the foundation on which the State of Israel was established.’
The court went on to state that
‘There is no Israeli nation separate from the Jewish People. The Jewish People is composed not only of those residing in Israel but also of Diaspora Jewry.’
This decision was upheld in 2013 in Uzi Ornan v Ministry of the Interior. The Jewish Nation State Law passed last summer makes it explicit that Israel is the nation state of the Jews, all Jews, wherever they live. That is why Netanyahu has described himself as the ‘Prime Minister of the Jewish people.’
Last Sunday popular Israeli actress Rotem Sala asserted that “the Arabs are also human beings’, in response to an accusation from Culture Minister Miri Regev that the opposition in the current general election wants to form a government with the support of the Arab parties. In Israel such an accusation is almost like accusing someone of being a child molester. Netanyahu immediately wrote in response that ‘Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish nation – and it alone’.
Half of the world’s Jews live outside Israel and are nationals of the country they live in yet Israel claims that they are part of the same nation as its own Jewish citizens. It is this claim, not what Ilhan Omar said, which lies behind the belief that Jews have a dual loyalty to both Israel and the country they live in. Clearly it is not possible to be a member of two nations simultaneously (although legally one can be a dual national).
So when Ilhan Omar accused members of the Senate of spending time defending a foreign nation by attacking its own nationals’ right to free speech she is correct. There is nothing whatsoever anti-Semitic in such an assertion. The reason isn’t so much ‘the Benjamins’ i.e. money but because support for Israel is seen as in the United States’s strategic interests. Hence why some of the most vociferous supporters of Israel are not Jewish but fundamentalist Christians and many, such as Trump, are also anti-Semitic.
Ilhan was attacking all those Senators, regardless of religion, who voted for a Bill that prioritised the defence of America’s racist Rottweiler in the Middle East over the democratic rights of Americans.
Those who accuse Ilhan of ‘anti-Semitism’ are guilty of dishonesty. They are arguing in bad faith. It is inherent to Zionism that the first loyalty of any Jew is to Israel because their stay in the Diaspora is temporary. ‘The negation of the diaspora’ is fundamental to Zionist ideology. The accursed Galut (diaspora) needs to be wound up, although it is convenient having a large community in the United States that can lobby on its behalf.
The wrong sort of Jews
This is not an academic argument. Like most anti-Zionist Jews I receive my full quota of abuse from Zionists. One of the most frequently used terms of abuse is to call us a ‘traitor’ to which I respond by asking who it is that I am disloyal to?. What lies behind this accusation is the belief that a Jew’s first loyalty is to the State of Israel not the country they live in.
That was why the Israeli Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Absorption distributed in 2013 a survey asking American Jews ‘where their allegiance would lie in the case of a crisis between the two countries.’ Netanyahu had the survey stopped in its tracks but what is interesting is that this survey was ever thought of. It would have been interesting to see the results!
Phillip Weiss cites a number of Jewish writers such as Joe Klein who wrote about the push to go to war in Iraq by the neocons:
The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives – people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary – plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel.
When you support AIPAC you support the interests of a foreign state, Israel. As the former Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren tweeted ‘AIPAC is Israel’s national strategic asset.’ If anyone is questioning American Jewish loyalty it isn’t Ilhan Omar it people like Israeli government minister, Michael Oren.