Dual loyalty accusations perpetuate anti-semitism

Gwen Tucker, Staff Writer

Words matter, and words of people in power matter even more. In August 2019, President Trump said, “Any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat — I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” When asked to clarify what he was referring to, the President said Democratic Jews were “disloyal to Israel.” Trump’s comment suggests that because I am Jewish, I have to be loyal to Israel, and if I’m not, I’m either a bad Jew or just stupid. Aside from the fact that nearly 80 percent of Jewish voters voted for Democrats in the 2018 elections, this statement prompted allegations of dual loyalty, produced feelings of fear in many Jewish communities and left many people outside of the Jewish community confused about why this comment was so offensive. 

Dual loyalty is the idea that Jewish people cannot be trusted because their true allegiance is to their international co-religionists, the state of Israel, or an “immoral Jewish agenda.” Accusations of dual loyalty have persisted throughout history, the most infamous example of which was the “Dreyfus Affair,” when in 1894, Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish French military captain, was tried and, with little substantive evidence against him, found guilty for selling military secrets to Germany. There was an outcry of anti-Semitic hate from the French public, saying that Dreyfus was disloyal to France and was instead loyal to an “international Jewish conspiracy.” 

Dual loyalty has consistently been used as an excuse to torment, exclude and discriminate against Jews. It tends to be one of the most widely held anti-Semitic beliefs among non-Jewish individuals. In 2014, the Anti Defamation League (ADL) did a survey on global anti-Semitism. 41 percent of the respondents said it was “probably true” that Jews were more loyal to Israel than the countries where they live.

Israel seems to come up in nearly every sentence where accusations of dual loyalty are present. There is no doubt that there are Jews who feel a strong connection to Israel, whether because of religion and history or an appreciation for its food and culture. However, these feelings aren’t different from that of other ethnic groups to their countries of origin. It is inherently problematic when dual loyalty is used to dispute the trustworthiness of Jews, even though this connection isn’t particularly unique. Appreciating another place doesn’t make people any less American.

Words matter, and words of people in power matter even more. We’ve all seen firsthand how the President’s rhetoric has enabled violence against marginalized groups. These allegations of dual loyalty scare me so much because I know what they can do. In the past, they have encouraged non-Jews to turn against their Jewish neighbors and how they have justified the murder of Jewish people purely for being who they are. Because I know this history, I am scared. I am scared of the ever-present threats of violence on our Jewish communities. I am scared to go to synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in only a few days, entering a progressive Jewish space that I know is always vulnerable to violence. I am scared to be as proud and open as I am about my Jewish identity. I want my community to be safe, and so I refuse to stay silent.

Allegations of dual loyalty are, and always have been, blatantly anti-Semitic. We must trust our neighbors. We must stand together as a community and radically resist the nationalist idea that there is one way to be America: one race, one religion, one ethnicity. In reality, to be American is to be different. My Jewishness does not and will never make me any less impartial or less trustworthy. I should never have to be held to the standard of being loyal to Israel in the first place because I’m not Israeli, I’m American.