As a country built on immigrants, the USA has a large number of its loyal citizens with some other ‘homeland’ attachments. For the most part, the old homeland attachment is more emotional than material. It may present itself in the excited discussions about politics ‘over there’, in going crazy about how that country ranks in world soccer, or in sending some money for various overseas charities, etc.
For many Jews, born and raised in the United States, the situation is unfortunately more complicated. Israel claims them as citizens that should ‘come back to their ancestral homeland’, helps pay for their visits to establish association with Israel, grants them citizenship on demand, sends Israeli politicians to meet with them on regular basis and, above all, expects them to support Israel no matter what. That leads some to raise the issue of dual loyalty for American Jews; sometimes legitimately and sometimes not.
For example, a Jewish American politician that promotes pro-Israel interests to be totally aligned with the USA interests can be seen as merely expressing a political reality in the eyes of some, but for others -- who may see Israel as the greatest foreign policy liability to the United States -- that politician has ‘loyalty-confusion’ issues.
The subject of conflict between American interests and American foreign policy behavior when it come to Israel is rarely brought up because it could bring about the dreaded charges of anti-Semitism as raising the subject may imply double loyalty for many politicians, governments officials and foreign policy experts who happen to be Jewish.
The assumption made by the anti-Semitism accusers is that whatever is good for Israel is always good for the US, that whatever is not good for Israel is never good for the US. Questioning this divine dictum is not encouraged, to put it politely. Denying it is tantamount, in the eyes of die-hard pro-Israel crowd, to accusing Jewish American policy makers and advisors of double-loyalty – thus justifying for them launching the anti-Semitism screams.
But to be totally honest, the behavior and expectations of Israeli politicians -- and possibly conservative American Jews as well -- sometimes make one confused to the point of suspecting that there is some expectation of loyalty to Israel from Jewish American that goes far beyond what is healthy for our primary homeland, the US.
The most recent example of that kind of burden on some Jewish American is the statements by the Israeli prime minister published this Thursday (online) in Haaretz. Netanyahu had the audacity to accuse David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel of being self-hating Jews. What that implies for Obama is not clear. But for Obama, as the man who relied on these two as presidential campaign strategist, senior policy advisors and highest ranking staff in the White House, employing self-hating Jews may be construed as anti-Semitism.
Strong anti-Obama feeling in some segments of the Israeli society and amongst conservative American Jews is not secret (see here for example). Many conservative American Jews and Republican Jewish groups have been behind some of the dirtiest, most racist and hateful presidential campaign ads and rumors about Obama, and I am sure they would love to see him fail at any cost. Slandering Obama’s Jewish advisors that virulently may be a way to slander Obama, or send him a message.
But to accuse an American Jew of being a self-hating Jew because they do not support what the Israeli government wants, or for not use their influence to sway things in Israel’s favor, goes to show what Israel has come to expect from American Jews: blind loyalty even at the expense of what their conscience or policy expertise tells them.
And if we, non-Jewish Americans, grow to believe that blind loyalty to Israel is what to be expected from American Jews in politics, then no one should scream anti-Semitism when Israel’s harmful influence on our foreign policy and the subject of American Jewish double-loyalty are raised.
Israel did that to American Jews.