I never knew before blogging for New Voices just how diverse the opinions expressed in the magazine were. Just take yesterday’s update email, entitled “Fight the Loyalty Oath,” in which no less than three different views by three different authors were expressed on a controversial bit of Israeli legislation. The opinions were:
1) The proposed mandate of a loyalty oath to a Jewish state is discriminatory and unacceptable.
2) The proposed mandate of a loyalty oath to a Jewish state is discriminatory and unacceptable, and I will therefore now refrain from visiting Israel.
3) The proposed mandate of a loyalty oath to a Jewish state is discriminatory and unacceptable, and I will nevertheless continue to visit Israel in order to effect change from the inside.
Such diversity of opinion! Personally, I am conflicted about the bill. But I am surprised that the New Voices editorship was unable to locate and enlist even one intelligent student writer who could muster a reasonable argument in its defense (not least because I know a few such students personally). In the end, though, I refuse to believe that so prestigious a publication as New Voices is just a left wing rag, and as such, I hope that its readership is capable of considering the following few questions in the sober and critical spirit in which they are offered:
Do we think that ethno-religious nationalism is a morally acceptable form of political self-expression in the first place? That is, do we accept the right of the Kurds to a Kurdish Kurdistan or Armenians to an Armenian Armenia, or Catholics to a Catholic Vatican City? In short, do we accept the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish State?
If not, are we still Zionists?
If so, how so?
If we are Antizionists, is there any acceptable form of national expression other than a liberal-democratic conception of the United States? How is this not unspeakably chauvinist?
If we do accept this principle, i.e. the Jewishness of the State, what prevents us from expecting its naturalized citizens from recognizing it as such? The consensus in the United States is that the nature of the state is its governance by the US Constitution and laws. And we make naturalized citizens of the United States pledge their “true faith and allegiance to the same,” even if their personal philosophy happens to be anarchist. Anarchists are not second-class citizens in the US. Nonetheless, they are expected to play by the rules.
Once these questions are answered, we can raise a whole other set of questions about pragmatism, public relations, and foreign policy, regarding the loyalty oath.
I don’t like to weigh in on Israel issues in public forums. Everyone’s mind is already made up, the disagreements are about first principles, reasoned argument takes a back seat to party politics, and discussions as such tend to dissolve into cacophonic stupidity of endlessly escalating volume (and that’s before the comment feed gets started!). Forgive me for being hopeful this time around.