The New York Times has published an article quoting several right-wing American Jews (and Aaron David Miller and Michael Lerner) on the Jonathan Pollard issue. “Talk of Freeing a Spy for Israel Stirs Old Unease for U.S. Jews.” The piece repeatedly cites the unfair suspicion of Jews having dual loyalty for Israel before it ends with this quote from a non-American:
“He is the embodiment of a national narrative of the Jew who sacrificed himself for his people,” said Michael B. Oren, an American-born historian who renounced his American citizenship in 2009 to become Israel’s ambassador to the United States.
The most important thing about Oren’s statement is that it demonstrates in case you had any illusions about it, that Israel and the U.S. have very different interests. Pollard gave a container-full of secrets to the Israelis, who then reportedly traded them to the Soviet Union when the U.S. was in a cold war with the Soviet Union. People may have died because of that betrayal; the Israelis have never accounted to their closest ally the U.S. for everything they stole from us and where it went.
The next time someone says there should be no daylight between the US and Israel, reflect that Israel’s former ambassador regarded an American traitor as a hero. By the way, Oren also said that Israel prefers al Qaeda in Syria to Assad with his Iran allegiance.
Then there’s the dual loyalty piece. Oren– who grew up in New Jersey with the name Borenstein and experienced anti-Semitism in a largely-Catholic town and emigrated to Israel in his 20s and then came back here to pursue his career before giving up his citizenship in 2009– has placed a question mark after the patriotism of all American Jews. His understanding of modern Jewish identity angers me. My people are Americans. Pollard didn’t sacrifice himself for my people but for a militant religious state that has depended for the 66 years of its existence on support from the U.S.
One good thing about late Zionism is that it is removing the mask from this issue. Zionists used to cover it up: a Hadassah leader said it was “suicidal” for American Jewish organizations to call on Jews to vote based on Israel and the banker Jacob Schiff warned Jews that Zionism would “place a lien upon citizenship,” creating “a separateness which is fatal” (according to John Judis’s new book on Truman). Now Israel is at once so dependent on the U.S. and so far from American values that desperate Zionists are openly invoking that loyalty on the part of American Jews to try and hold the Israel lobby together. It won’t work. MJ Rosenberg did as much as anyone to stop the push for war with Iran by making the accusation “Israel-Firsters.” American Jews don’t want that suspicion.
Oren doesn’t care, but then he’s not American. He and I grew up in the same world and took different paths. When the synagogue committee gave my brother a record of Abba Eban at the U.N. in 1967 after his bar mitzvah, we never got through it, but listened to John Wesley Harding instead.
P.S. Ali Gharib insists that it’s single loyalty:
Actually, dual loyalty is natural for many members of many diasporas. Pollard’s problem was loyalty to Israel at the expense of US. Betrayal
— Ali Gharib (@Ali_Gharib) April 3, 2014
(Thanks to James North for the second and third full paragraphs of this post.)