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Letter | They don’t hate us because we have ‘dual loyalties.’ They hate us because we’re Jews

Dear Editor,

In a recent opinion piece in this paper, an anonymous writer complained that American Jewish schools are “preaching dual loyalty to Israel.” This was quickly followed up by a response whose author proudly waved the red, white and blue.

While they both made important points in their own way, they each equally missed the point in opposite directions. The truth is, a Jewish school with an American flag in every room will be just as hated as a Jewish school with an Israeli flag in each as well. And a Jewish school that adamantly rejects the State of Israel will be just as hated a one celebrating Yom Ha’Atzmaut with a daglanut presentation.

That is because Jews are hated for being Jews, not for anything we actually do or don’t do.

At the end of the day, the “dual loyalty” canard has never been a cause of Jew-hatred — just a helpful excuse used by those who already hate us. The charge long predates the founding of the State of Israel; before the Jewish State, Jews were still accused of being more loyal to other Jews than their gentile neighbors, not because we were, but because we were Jews.

The problem is that since we continue to use the term “dual loyalty” to describe this particular form of Jew-hatred, we end up fighting it on the terms of anti-Semites, which is exactly how they prefer it. This is why I propose we stop using this term entirely, since it has never properly described the actual accusation.

Jew-haters have never actually believed that Jews are loyal to Israel in addition to the country in which they live; they have instead believed that Jews are only loyal to each other and the State of Israel — and no one else. According to the anti-Semites, Jews are simply disloyal, and no amount of US flag waving or Israeli flag burning will change that.

The truth is, everyone has dual loyalties — multiple loyalties in fact, to our country, to our families, to our God, to our particular ethnic and/or extra-national groups just to name a few. When it comes to everyone else, these multiple loyalties are publicly celebrated and recognized as complementary rather than contradictory, so why should Jews suddenly feel guilty and worried when we openly hail both our major points of pride as well?

And even if we somehow succeeded in convincing them we are in fact equally loyal, those who hate us would just move on to hating us for some other myth, like owning the media and government, starting all the wars, or any of the other myriad excuses they have for their hatred.

This is something that seems to have been lost particularly on the anonymous teacher bemoaning the level of Zionism in the American Jewish day school system. While he or she may have a point about teaching kids about a fictional, utopian version of Israel that can lead to a shallow connection or even opposition once they find out that Israel is not in fact perfect, this is entirely beside the point. A more nuanced approach to Israel education is certainly something worth discussing, however, even inviting Omar Barghouti to speak on Yom HaZikaron would not change the fact that the school in question is a Jewish school and thus subject to the most enduring hatred.

So, let’s stop being shy about our loyalties and playing by the rules created by those who hate us.

We should feel free to embrace both of our identities or neither, but we need to stop acting like a neglected child, always trying to find some way to get our abusers to care for us, because in such a relationship, the victim is never at fault.

It isn’t our love of Israel that makes anti-Semites hate us and our patriotism will never get them to love us. We are proud Jews and proud citizens, and if anyone has a problem with either part of that, well, that’s their problem and not ours.

Sincerely,

Matthew Engler

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