A case of dual loyalties

Our affiliation to Israel apparently baffles a large swathe of the British public.

WILL THE bonds with the Diaspora break?  (photo credit: REUTERS)
WILL THE bonds with the Diaspora break?
(photo credit: REUTERS)
You couldn’t say it today.
“A large proportion of Britain’s Asian population fail to pass the cricket test,” said Conservative MP Norman Tebbit a mere 28 years ago. “Which side do they cheer for? It’s an interesting test. Are you still harking back to where you came from or where you are?”
Tebbit was wrong, not only in attributing a false significance to sport. The patriotism that he sought but couldn’t measure is not monolithic. Am I English or British? Some think we’re European. And at what point does country take precedence over religion or, in today’s fragmented society, tribe? Across the UK, people are increasingly flying the flag of their allegiance – be it the rifles of Hezbollah, the rainbows of gay rights or the baby blimp of US President Donald Trump – at protests and marches. You don’t have to invest your emotions in a single nation or culture.
Unless you are a socialist. Political ideologies are by definition inflexible and self-righteous. Once a dogma is written in stone, there is no excuse for deviations and no need for individual thought. Even when that dogma is discredited by a century of atrocities inflicted in its name, the mindset of obedience lingers, in the Labour Party’s case to the dictates of political correctness. Earlier in the summer, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn refused to blame the Kremlin for the nerve-agent poisonings of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, despite the assessments of scientists and intelligence experts at Porton Down. It is decades after the fall of the Soviet Union and still Labour’s leadership remains loyal to Russia’s Communist past.
Even today, the party’s annual conference closes with a unifying rendition of “The Red Flag,” sung as though it were the battle hymn of their republic.
There are therefore many ironies over Labour’s exclusion of the “dual loyalty” canard in its code of conduct’s examples of antisemitism.
Orthodox, Reform and Liberal congregations all recite a prayer for the royal family and another prayer for Israel on Shabbat. So it’s true to say that Jews have more than one loyalty. This is true of any minority. Nobody objects to London Mayor Sadiq’s Khan’s “emotional connection,” in his words, to Pakistan. Only in the case of Jews is the canard raised as a slur. According to the notorious Czarist-era forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Jews put world Jewry before their country, a charge that now reads “Israel” instead of “world Jewry.” The greatest irony is hearing the accusation from those who would depose the royal family and raise the red flag over Parliament.
In August 2012, then-backbencher Corbyn was paid to appear on Iranian state propaganda outfit Press TV to discuss a jihadi attack on an Egyptian army base in the Sinai, in which 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed while sitting down to their Iftar meal to break the daily Ramadan fast. Corbyn doesn’t have any expertise in international relations, but he always appreciates the opportunity to defame Israel to an international audience. Without any prompting from his interviewer, he asked rhetorically: “In whose interests is it to destabilize the new government in Egypt? In whose interests is it to kill Egyptians, other than Israel?” You can see on his face his satisfaction in identifying what he calls “the bigger picture,” by which he means the underlying conspiracy. The anchor thinks the story of a jihadi attack “is a bit strange, that a Muslim would go against his Egyptian brother, open fire, on Ramadan” and Corbyn agrees that “it seems a bit unlikely that that would happen, during Ramadan, to put it mildly, and I suspect the hand of Israel in this whole process of destabilization.” (The Campaign Against Antisemitism is preparing a disciplinary complaint against the Labour leader over this interview.)
More than ever in our era of fake and dubious news, we choose what to believe. Corbyn and his like want to believe ill of the Jewish start-up nation. This prejudice is shared, in milder form, by our news media, whose disinterest in Israel’s humanitarian relief efforts throughout the world and its advances in life-enhancing technology is so stark as to seem like a boycott. Even the nominally pro-Israel Sunday Times ran a whole-page report on the rescue of the White Helmets in Syria without ever acknowledging that it was Israel’s soldiers and they alone who entered a war zone to carry out a brave, altruistic mission.
An unfortunate consequence of the politically correct bias against Israel is its impact on the UK’s craven liberal Jews. There’s no stopping those talking heads desperately signaling their virtue by proclaiming their disloyalty to Israel. Jewish opponents of the Knesset’s Nation State Law wouldn’t dream of criticizing legislation passed by other, less democratic countries but feel obliged to condemn the actions of the Jewish state to anyone who will listen.
It is not part of the Board of Deputies of British Jews’ remit to involve itself in Israel’s internal politics. But that didn’t deter Sheila Gewolb, the BoD’s senior vice president (whose grandiose title says it all). She just had to use the issue to advertise her own, or worse still the BoD’s, right-on virtue: “Being Jewish is a wonderful thing, but this should not lead to doing down others.” she said, in the manner of a teacher guiding a kindergarten class. ‘All people should be valued and Israel’s Arab and other minority populations should be a treasured part of society. The lesson of Jewish history is that societies are stronger when minorities are affirmed, and they decay when minorities are degraded. We will be writing to Israel’s ambassador to express concerns at these measures.”
If you live in Israel, if you have skin in the game, you obviously have every right to protest against the government. Jews in the Diaspora have a different responsibility, a duty to be taken all the more seriously at a time when anti-Zionism is such a prevalent article of faith to so many enlightened and woke ‘progressives.”
Our affiliation to Israel apparently baffles a large swathe of the British public. Why do Jews, especially if they’re secular, especially if they’ve never traveled beyond Greece, feel so strongly about a small plot of land in the Middle East? One could in response cite the power of a communal subconscious, or the preponderance of devotional references to Israel, Zion and Jerusalem that recur throughout thousands of years of Jewish culture. One could cite our historically recurring need for a refuge, or point to Israel’s democratic credentials and the perfidy of its enemies. But I’d rather answer the question with a question. Would you refute the dual identity of African-Americans who have never been to Africa? Or of native-Americans exiled from their Nation?
Personally, I fail the Tebbit test. When England play Israel, I don’t care who wins. But when Arsenal play Spurs, that demands my loyalty.
The writer, an Israeli and British citizen, lives in England.