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Jews in Politics – a Diaspora dilemma

October 7, 2009 – 9:38 am28 Comments
joe lieberman

Joe Lieberman

By Ariel

When it comes to this subject, I feel a great rupture between my intellect and emotions; between my acceptance of the reality of the world in which we live and my ideas of how the world should be; and between the different aspects of each of these faculties.

The subject to which I refer is that of the involvement of Jews in politics outside the State of Israel.

I should clarify that when I say “involvement” I specifically refer to sitting in the legislature as a representative of the people. Lobbying on the part of minority groups is important and with this I take no issue – all should be free to engage in the market of ideas and try to persuade politicians to adopt their view. If they happen to be convinced by Jewish communal concerns over those of others, then mazal tov.

I first became aware of my anxiety in 2000 when US Senator Joe Lieberman was running for Vice President on a ticket with a phoney environmentalist/filmmaker. Initially, I, like many, was enthralled that a fellow Jew – Shomer Shabbat– could be within a (literal) heartbeat of the Oval Office. It was at the same time revealed that a record number of Jews were sitting in Congress, in a huge disproportion to their numbers as a percentage of the population.

As I thought more about the idea however, I began to ask whether this was in fact a good thing. On one hand, how could one not be proud at how far Jews have come in terms of acceptance? It was not long ago that a Jew could not get a job in Europe or even the United States. On the other hand, a proliferation of Jews serving in world parliaments would undoubtedly lend further credence to the myth of the “Jewish cabal”, the “Zionist lobby” and the “Elders of Zion” which are hell-bent on world domination. America, as the most powerful country on Earth, is their focus and Joe Lieberman is the proof.

Yet surely a Jew – or a member of any minority – should be able to represent constituents as a loyal citizen of the state. After all, nobody would bat an eyelid if a Chinese-Australian were to sit in Australia’s Parliament (e.g. Senator Penny Wong), so why should being Jewish pose a problem?

This leads to another question: Why is it that only Jews are accused of dual loyalty (to Israel and their home countries)? Nobody accuses Penny Wong of having dual loyalties to Malaysia (her place of birth) or to China (her ancestral homeland). Furthermore, it is not only insulting to the individual to be accused of dual loyalty, but it is insulting to the State of Israel by insinuating that loyalty to Israel necessarily conflicts with loyalty to Australia, America or Britain. As though Israel is not a member of the Western, liberal-democratic world, but is an enemy state with values uncommon to the rest of the West. (In contrast, both the states of Malaysia and China do have vastly different moral compasses from those of Western democracies).

I believe the issue is that the Jew has never been fully accepted into other societies. Whilst Greek-, Italian- or Christian Lebanese-Australians, Americans and the British have essentially assimilated, the Jew remains ever separate from society at large, even though he has been tolerated and has integrated into its fabric. The Jew will always be made to feel somewhat unwanted. The more successful the more resented they will be. So, at the end of the day, the only place for Jews to serve is in the Israeli Knesset. Only in Israel can the Jew be a true representative of their constituents and not be accused of dual loyalty. Because in the end, Israel is the natural home of the Jew and it is to there that they will ultimately look to express themselves without recrimination from others.

Ariel is a full-time Jew with an interest in a variety of Jewish issues, and a passionate political analyst with a keen eye for hypocrisy and mismanagement. In order to pay bills, Ariel works as an electrical engineer in the Energy Supply Industry, but is not responsible for any electrical failures you may have experienced recently. Hopefully, someone will listen to what he has to say.

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