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A Dual Message on Dual Loyalty (and 5 Other Comments about Anti-Semitism)

by Shmuel Rosner

May 15, 2014 | 3:05 am

A woman walks past a swastika and the inscription ''Death to Jews' painted on a wall in an underpass in Kiev May 29, 2012. Photo by Reuters/Gleb Garanich/Files

1.

The ADL survey of global anti-Semitism is worthy, if depressing, food for thought. Anti-Semitism is as ancient as the Jewish people, as persistent as the Jews, and as powerful as the Jews (sadly, in many cases it's even more powerful). We can "battle" against anti-Semitism, but eliminating it is beyond our – true or imaginary – power. Not even Jewish "control" of the media, the global markets and the US government can overcome anti-Semitism. Here's proof that Jews don't truly control all these things and proof that the sentiment against which they stand is much more powerful than their control of anything.

Still, one has to wonder: is anti-Semitism "high" or "low"? Of course, the instinctive reaction would be: any hint of anti-Semitic sentiment is too high. But looking at the ADL numbers – the 35% in Romania, the 26% in Mongolia, the 16% in Nigeria, the 4% in Sweden – one has to acknowledge a simple fact: the question of whether they are high or low depends on one’s expectations. That in most countries many people have anti-Semitic views is troubling; that in most countries the vast majority are not markedly anti-Semitic is encouraging.

2.

Readers don't usually like to be bothered with the methodology of studies, but methodology is key to correctly interpreting this survey. The ADL presented 11 stereotypes to respondents. Those who hold at least 6 of them as true are counted among the anti-Semites. But those who hold 5 such views aren't counted. And those who hold 4, no matter how strongly, aren't counted. That is why in Denmark, for example, the country "score" of anti-Semitism is only 9%, even though 26% of Danes believe that Jews have "too much control" over the US government, and 39% of them believe that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own countries. In fact, there are very few questions to which only 9% of Danes responded approvingly, and still, the country's score is 9%. Had the ADL decided on a different way of measuring the responses, the outcome – or "level" of anti-Semitism – would be very different.

3.

Let's stick with Denmark and the question of "dual loyalty". That is the question that is the elephant in the room, as in almost all countries a much higher percentage of respondents believe in the stereotype of "more loyal to Israel" than in other stereotypes. In Denmark, it is a whopping 39%. In Portugal (general score 21%) it is 56% for Israel. In the US (general score 9%), it is a troubling 31%. In Sweden, that has a general score as low as 4%, the Israel question is answered positively by 27%. This can mean one of three things:

A. That Jews are more loyal to Israel than they are to their own countries, and many people recognize that fact.

B. That Jews are not loyal to Israel more than to their own countries, and people still believe it to be true for reasons that have nothing to do with anti-Semitism.

C. That the dual loyalty allegation is the way for modern liberals to hide their anti-Semitic view beyond something they deem respectable.

If you accept option A, this question should not be a part of the survey. If you accept option B, this question also should not be on the survey (in both cases the reason is simple: if you accept the premise, these questions don't measure anti-Semitism, they measure something else).

Of course, if you accept option C as the most likely option, it means that the percentage of people holding anti-Semitic views is much higher than what the ADL conclusions tell us.

4.

As you contemplate the three options above, I'd urge you to read the exchange we had not long ago with David Nirenberg of the University of Chicago, author of Anti Judaism: The Western Tradition. In the third round of the exchange, I asked Prof. Nirenberg if modern anti-Zionism is really a new form of anti-Judaism. His response included the following paragraph, in which he refers to those who deny that their anti-Israeli sentiment is hidden anti-Judaic sentiment:

"It isn't Anti-Judaism that shapes my views of Israel," many people might say. "It is the actions of the Israelis/Zionists/Jews themselves." To this I'd reply that people have always said this. Anti-Judaism has always nourished itself on the conviction that it was accurately perceiving reality, and criticizing the actions of real Jews. This is as true of the 1930s as of the 1530s, as true of places where there were indeed living Jews with certain types of active agency (albeit not a country of their own), as of places where there had been no living Jews for centuries.

5.

Let me stay with Sweden. In Sweden’s low score columnist Chemi Shalev found proof that "the ADL poll more or less upsets the apple cart altogether in disestablishing the causal connection between anti-Jewish and what are widely perceived as anti-Israeli sentiments".

How is that?

Shalev's rationale is clear: "Sweden – Sweden, for God’s sake – a hotbed of anti-Israeli agitation that is routinely labeled as anti-Semitic is the LEAST anti-Semitic country in Western Europe, according to this survey, along with its Nordic neighbors – Iceland, Finland, Norway and Denmark".

I have to respectfully disagree. This is largely because I accept the above-mentioned option C. That is, I believe that Israel and the accusation of dual loyalty is a way for civilized people to have anti-Semitic sentiments that can be masqueraded as legitimate "political" views. I'm not surprised that the people of Norway are educated enough not to affirm something as blatant as "Jews have too much control over global affairs" (13%). I'm quite convinced that the 40% of Norwegians who say "Jews are more loyal to Israel than to [this country/to the countries they live in]" feel that they are not being anti-Semitic by making such a claim.

I don't see an upset of an applecart – I see a transformation in the way people express their anti-Semitic sentiments (of course, by saying this I do not – repeat, do not – mean to say that all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic).

6.

I wrote an article for Israel's Maariv this morning – the outlet I have for articles in Hebrew – about the poll. In this article I presented the numbers related to dual loyalty and urged Israelis to pay attention to the burden that Israel can be to diaspora Jews. Israel, I wrote, is an asset and a safe haven - but can also be a weight on the shoulders of world Jews. It gives the enemies of Jews ammunition with which to attack and denigrate them and to accuse them of something that is quite serious. In Hebrew, I urged Israelis to remember that when they demand support and loyalty from world Jews.

In English I would like to make the flip-side plea: It is essential for world Jews not to be intimidated by the anti-Semitic accusation of dual loyalty, not to lessen the support for Israel because of the fear of what other people might say. Of course, the support for Israel should be eloquently explained to non-Jewish peers, and should be carefully managed, and should be confined to certain areas. But it should also be unapologetic and undisturbed by false stereotypes. If you accept the ADL's implicit claim that this notion is anti-Semitic, the natural conclusion would be to never surrender to it.

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