In the course of a subtle comparison of black and Jewish discussions of ethnic solidarity, Adam Serwer makes a really wonderful point

There’s nothing actually wrong with having “divided loyalties”—if that means that being Jewish means that Israel matters more to you. This is part of the game in a nation made up of immigrants—the politics of affiliated nations matter. It’s part of the double standard shouldered by ethnic and religious minorities that such behavior is seen as somehow sinister. I’ll cop to caring about Israel more because I’m Jewish—but that doesn’t mean I’ll evaluate their actions uncritically out of blind loyalty. In fact, it’s precisely because liberal Jewish bloggers — the so-called “Juicebox Mafia” — care about Israel that they’re critical of its actions: They see their behavior in the region, particularly their treatment of the Palestinians, as harming Israel’s long term interests.

Exactly. "Dual loyalty" is a noxious charge precisely because it’s actually such a commonplace occurrence. All of us have different components to our identity and myriad claims on our hearts, our attention and our allegiance. If someone accuses me of dual loyalty between Israel and America, it’s offensive precisely because all of us have ancestral ties that make us care about some areas of the globe more than others. Yesterday I was chatting with a fellow who works for an Armenian-American lobby group. I’d be foolish if I expected him to care about Israel more than Armenia, and I’d be racist if I held his attachment to a prosperous and strong Armenia against him.

"Dual loyalty" in a domestic political context becomes a charge more like "fifth column," implying that you care about your ethnic heritage at the expense of your Americanness. And I’m not really inclined, if someone says I have dual loyalties, to answer such a bad-faith interlocutor with, "Well, sure, on the level of platitude, but…" And yet Adam is still, in a real way, right about this. 

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman

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