‘Dual Loyalty’? A Liberal Jew Pleads ‘Guilty’

The following is most of a Facebook post on the issues swirling around Rep. Ilhan Omar by Walter Ruby, a veteran journalist (posted here at TTN, with his approval):

• Ilhan Omar has made me and many American Jews extremely uncomfortable by asserting that US support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins” and raising the issue of “dual loyalty” on the part of American Jewish backers of Israel, but I wouldn’t label either of her comments “anti-Semitic.” Yes, the organized Jewish community has for 50 years or more focused its political power and considerable amounts of money to help build solid Congressional support for Israel. That’s undeniable…A lot of other lobbies—internal and foreign related have done so as well, though the pro-Israel lobby is one of the most successful.

Dual loyalty? I plead guilty. For much of my life I cared more deeply about Israel than the U.S., in part because I perceived Israel as more threatened. But how different is that than Rashida Tlaib as a Palestinian-American wrapping herself in the Palestinian flag? How different is AIPAC from Greek Americans or Armenian Americans or Taiwanese Americans lobbying for U.S. support for their respective homelands? The truth is that most Americans are hyphenated and have dual or triple or quadruple loyalties. That’s the future of the world—interdependence and so dual loyalty is more of a good thing than a bad thing. Except when its dual loyalty to Trump and Putin.

• Many American Jews are taken aback by the advent of Tlaib, Omar and AOC criticizing Israel and a growing number of progressive Americans cheering them on. It’s a paradigm shift but it’s been a long time coming. For 40 years, Jews like me have been warning that if Israel continued to build settlements and hold the Palestinians under occupation there would eventually be a heavy cost to support for Israel from liberal Americans.

Just think of the cost over the past decade when “master strategist” Bibi came over here and dissed President Obama—America’s first African-American president before a joint session of Congress in conspiracy with the GOP and then the full-bore endorsement by Bibi and much of Israel of the obscene Trump who threatens everything decent in this country. Did we think all of that would come cost-free?

Bibi seems to think that if he allies with Dictators Row—Trump, MBS and Putin, that he can afford to write off liberal Americans—including Jews. Now the chickens are coming home to roost and Israeli voters may want to reconsider that equation in April and dump the master strategist and let him focus on fending off jail time for his veniality and corruption. In terms of his damage to Israel, Netanyahu is truly in “another league.”

• For our part, American Jews need to remain part of a progressive coalition to depose Trump and save our country and our planet, while encouraging Israel to the best of our ability to abandon expansionism and reach a decent two-state solution with the Palestinians that would involve evacuating the vast majority of the settlements. That is the only way to secure a decent future for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

In the meantime, we will need to work with—and dialogue frankly with—folks like Tlaib and Omar who sometimes say things that make us uncomfortable. We need to grapple with the reality that Israel is no longer a sacred cow. For the sake of Israel itself, that’s also more of a good thing than a bad one. The alternative is for Jews to ally ourselves with a brutish authoritarian right wing that is destroying democracy and threatening the future of the planet. That’s against every tenant of Judaism as I know it, and utterly repugnant.

P.S. Consider reading “TTN Debates Rep. Ilhan Omar“; also “Ilhan Omar, Aipac and Me,” by a native of Omar’s Congressional district, NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman. He’s disappointed by Omar, but not a fan of AIPAC either.