This morning I woke up with a fresh understanding of the dual-loyalty issues I have been chewing away at in this blog.
It is actually staggering when you think about it, that a leading professor of political philosophy–Michael Walzer–can speak proudly of our "anomalous" Jewish citizenship, involving membership in one nation that spans two countries, the U.S. and Israel, to a standing-room-only crowd at the Center for Jewish History, with the editor Martin Peretz at his side, and god knows how many leading intellectuals in the crowd– staggering that he can offer this definition and that no one challenges him about the issue of dual loyalty. "Isn’t the Jewish identity you’re celebrating a recipe for legitimate accusations of dual loyalty?" Simply staggering. Especially when you consider that the U.S. unleashed a horrifying bloodbath in Iraq, in part because some of the policymakers shared a similar understanding to Walzer of the congruence of American and Israeli nationalities. And at Walzer’s speech, Iraq is not mentioned at all. Nor the horrifying conditions of the Palestinians.
I speak here as a member of the Jewish community. No, I’m not religious, as Walzer is. I can’t read Hebrew, I’m assimilating, etc etc. It doesn’t matter. I’m a Jew, and my challenge to my Jewish community has a long pedigree. 100 years ago, many leading American Jews were opposed to Zionism on just these grounds, that it would create a conflict between American citizenship and some new binational citizenship, this anomalous citizenship Walzer so extolled. Back then, there was criticism, ultimately stifled. Today there is almost none. But has Walzer answered my political challenge? Has Peretz answered John Judis’s challenge? This is an identity crisis whose time has come.
One other point. The Hillel House at Columbia has a cafeteria called Nana, with a giant photographic mural of the Israeli desert along one wall and the slogan, "A Taste of Home." The cafeteria is in the Arthur H. and Iphigene Sulzberger Lounge. That German-Jewish couple was anti-Zionist for the reason that I am, that our home is the United States, not Israel. Consider how their legacy has been insulted. Again, I say, let the soul-searching begin…