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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why a loyalty oath?

David Hornik explains one of our current hot-button issues.
But why the fuss in the first place? Currently, people applying for Israeli citizenship have to pledge “loyalty to the state of Israel.” Why does extending that to “Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” cause a ruckus both in Israel, where the left calls it fascist, and abroad, where critics have called it vile, racist, and the like?

To the extent that the criticism from abroad isn’t just of the de rigeur Israel-bashing type, it often reflects a misconception. Pledging loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish state” sounds, to many, like forcing people to pledge loyalty to Judaism as a religion.

To Israelis, however, “Jewish state” has a primarily national connotation and encompasses everything from ultra-religious to ultra-secular Jews. Muslims, Christians, and members of other non-Jewish religions in Israel have full religious freedom, and the oath would do nothing to change that. It would only require immigrants to avow that Israel is a Jewish — and democratic — state, the nation-state of the Jewish people that grants full rights to non-Jewish citizens.

Denying that Israel is a Jewish state means opposing its existence, and is incompatible with loyalty.If Israel ceases being Jewish, it ceases being Israel.

And the other reason why the loyalty oath evokes such outrage is that it’s associated, and was probably originated by, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman — now the chief bête noire and hate-figure both for Israel’s left and for many abroad.


And as I’ve elaborated, the issues that Lieberman raises regarding the loyalty of Israel’s Arab minority are unfortunately real. Just a few examples: while Druze and some Muslim Bedouin Israelis serve in the Israel Defense Forces, the vast majority of Muslim-Arab Israelis refuse to perform even civilian national service. A 2007 poll found 64 percent of Israeli Arabs denying Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish-Zionist state. Also that year an Israeli academic and former adviser to Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon told a conference that Israeli Arabs have “a consensus view … to destroy the national Jewish project.”

That is not to say Israeli Arabs are necessarily disloyal or a lost cause as a community. But when Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state is under attack both at home and abroad, an oath requiring loyalty to it as a Jewish state makes sense. It also dovetails with Netanyahu’s highlighting of the Jewish-state theme in the ongoing political maneuvering vis-à-vis the Palestinians.
Indeed. And by the way, what's the pledge of allegiance anyway (yes, I know, the Supreme Court has ruled in the US that you cannot be forced to say it, but the US doesn't have an irredentist ethnic minority trying to destroy it from within)?

Read the whole thing.


At 11:22 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The point is swearing allegiance to Israel as the Jewish State means accepting Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people. That is the sole rationale behind the oath. It is nothing more than that.

Which of course is exactly why anti-Semites hate it. It clarifies that they are opposed to Jewish sovereignty and that for them the Arab two state solution is nothing more and nothing less than a plan to destroy Israel by stages.

That is why a Palestinian state would be a disaster for Israel.

At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, Carl?

Are you willing to pledge allegiance to a "Jewish" and "democratic" state in Israel?

Which one trumps which around here? The oath is essentially oxymoronic.

Count me out.

At 12:29 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Shy Guy,

Obviously, I would never swear to anything except as required under Halacha. Obviously, Jewish comes first in my book. And honestly, I don't know what a pledge of allegiance means, but I don't regard it as being the equivalent of a halchic shvua.

When and if the time comes, if they insist on including Jews in this, those who choose to move here will have to ask their rabbis what to do. Fortunately, since I live here already and am already a citizen, that's not my problem.

At 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carl, it's obviously not just about you and me. It's about our fellow Jews.

This may be an impediment, even a small one, to Torah observant Jews of all varieties.

At 8:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Oath of U.S. Citizenship and Allegiance to the U.S. Constitution

The following United States Oath of Citizenship must be taken by all immigrants who wish to become naturalized citizens of the United States:

I hereby declare, on oath,

* that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen;

* that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic;

* that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;

* that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law;

* that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law;

* that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law;

* and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

In acknowledgement whereof I have hereunto affixed my signature. --

I believe every country has an oath for new citizens. I think this is just another case of the international community bashing Israel.


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