Little black cloud of dual loyalty masks anti-Semitism

Western Europe is running a revival of its old favorite, anti-Semitism, which so far has not seriously touched America. But we do have to watch a tiny black cloud on the horizon. Its name is "dual loyalty," and we can see coy little wisps of it adrift, even in a recent column of the San Francisco Chronicle.

The last big American Jewish concern about the charge of dual loyalty was set off by long gas station lines in 1973, following the Yom Kippur War. Gen. George Brown, for one, publicly charged the United States with breaching its own national interest by giving in to American Jewish political pressure on behalf of Israel, instead of mollifying the Arab oil sheiks. There was a small panic among Jews.

Dual loyalty had been the linchpin of anti-Semitism, long before the creation of Israel. It was behind the famous Dreyfus case, which Theodor Herzl covered as a journalist, convincing him that Jews could never live freely in Europe. The charge has been made in standard formula by the extremes of both left and right, from the czarist police to the Soviet police — and by the anti-Semitic hawkers of America.

The image is simple: The loyalty of the international Jews is greater to their group than to the society in which they live. Everything else follows. After the creation of Israel, the formula held new promise for the anti-Semites.

Our own former Peninsula Rep. Pete McCloskey once said, "I'm afraid that if the American Jewish community gets too forceful in its arguments as to the U.S. commitment to Israel, it could create a wave of anti-Semitism." The gentlemanly presentation of the dual loyalty theme often starts as a matter of winks, nods and head-fakes. (No longer a gentleman, the ex-congressman has become a spokesman for the Arab lobby in America).

Whatever his intentions, Jon Carroll's May 6 column did present some of the winks and head-fakes that often serve as a run-up to the classic dual loyalty formula. His target is an American Jewish "Israel lobby," with a slavish loyalty to the errant "current government of Israel." It is true that while the major organizations comprising the "Israel lobby" disagree with each other about Israel's tactics at one time or another, they are now united in basic support of the Israel government's agonized efforts to protect the country against terrorism. After Yasser Arafat's rejection of a huge Israeli peace proposal and his continued fostering of the terrorism, no Israeli government could do less or it would quickly cease being the government. When the column winks that "it is possible to be a patriotic American and still be against the policies of the current government of Israel," the wheels start turning. Why not add that it is also possible to be a patriotic American and be for those Israeli policies?

As a matter of fact, a little head-fake of omission pops up here. Nothing is said about America and Israel fighting on two fronts in the same war against terrorism. Sure, the Palestinians have some legitimate aspirations that should be met, but the terrorists who have them in thrall have a greater plan. They are literally a part of the same network whose ambitions include the downfall of America. Under those circumstances, it could be argued that patriotic Americans would tend to favor an Israeli victory over the terrorists.

As long as the American public continues to support Israel, Jewish support of Israel should not create the "wave of anti-Semitism" that McCloskey prophesied. When asked by pollsters who was to blame for the 1973 oil crunch, Americans blamed the oil companies first, the politicians second and the Arabs third. Jews got very little mention, and that black cloud never got past the horizon.

It is conceivable that, under stress, Americans could lose interest in the war against terrorism. Then many of them could conceivably pick up on the winks, nods and head-fakes — and begin to blame Israel and American Jews. However, it is a good bet that the American public will not fall for such a shell game, anymore than it did in 1973.

It could be that Carroll's column was just the innocent product of massive misinformation. In any case, it is important to point out these familiar little misdirections whenever we see them, and especially to emphasize the common interest of Israel and America in this fateful war against terrorism. That way, we can help keep the American horizon clear of that little black cloud.