Sunday, October 17, 2010

We Need Loyalty Acts, Not Loyalty Oaths - Shalom Hartman Institute

Gil Troy, "We Need Loyalty Acts, Not Loyalty Oaths"
This past summer I had the pleasure of studying with Gil Troy at the Shalom Hartman Institute.  His insights on Israel's proposed loyalty oath are well reasoned.  I agree with much of what he states in this article.  He writes:
Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state, with its pluralistic population, in all its glorious contradictions, depends on loyalty acts not loyalty oaths. We need a renewed covenant between all of Israel's citizens and the government - not meaningless mouthings dictated by demagogues targeting one segment of the population - Israel's Arabs....

Israel's Proclamation of Independence promises all citizens civic equality, be they Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or atheist; black, white, or brown; longstanding Jewish Jerusalemite, Holocaust survivor, Jewish refugee from Arab lands, or Arab villager from the Galilee. As with other Western nations, Israeli national identity can be defined enough to have a Jewish character, to forge a Jewish public space, but elastic enough to offer full citizenship and rights to, say, a Palestinian who harbors resentment that there even is a Jewish state or whose relative in a neighboring country has fought against Israel. Does that create identity confusion, legal contradictions and political tensions? Certainly. But are these problems that cannot be resolved, or reasons to view the Jewish nation state as something to be dissolved? Certainly not....

Yes, it is true, Israel is being judged by yet another double-standard. When Canadian immigrants swear allegiance to the Queen, it is charmingly anachronistic. When Americans pledge allegiance to the flag, it is red-white-and-blue patriotic. Yet when Israelis propose loyalty oaths it becomes oppressive.

Still, while Benjamin Netanyahu's so-called "nationalist" government must do more to boost patriotism and Zionism, why start with meaningless, controversial declarations? Why not start fostering pride by fixing the education system, cleaning the streets, fighting crime? Why not create a vision of modern Zionist civics that includes Ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs, who frequently use state funds to carve out anti-Zionist collective identities? Nationalism is best nurtured not dictated; loyalty is best earned not proclaimed. We need a politics inspiring a sense of mutual obligation not generating confrontation. We need policies that encourage rather than compel....
For a view contrary to my own, read Lee Smith's "Under Oath" in Tablet Magazine.

No comments: