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Gallery of Antisemitism: Example 14

Classic Antisemitism: Allegations of dual loyalty

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For centuries, Jews have been ‘othered’, treated as aliens even in countries where they were born and in many cases had longstanding roots. They have been expelled from many countries, including England in 1290, and have been subjected to harassment or death because they were portrayed as aliens to be feared and hated. This ‘othering’, albeit in mild form, was apparently expressed by Jeremy Corbyn when he referred to two unnamed ‘Zionist activists’ as follows: “[They] clearly have two problems. One is they don’t want to study history, and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony either.” Corbyn insisted however that he was referring to both Jewish and non-Jewish Zionists, and had been misunderstood.

To accuse Jews of dual loyalty is part of the same essential mindset, one that regards Jews as not really belonging to the country where they live, or indeed more often than not were born. It animated the (later overturned) conviction of Alfred Dreyfus for treason in France in 1894; Nazi Germany portrayed Jews as a ‘nation within a nation’; and the phrase ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ was used to justify persecution of Jews under Stalin in the USSR. Of course, similar accusations are sometimes made of Muslims and other groups including, historically, Catholics in England.

Following the foundation of Israel the accusations have taken a new form. It is true that many Jewish people have a strong attachment to the state of Israel, not surprising given that very large numbers of Jews worldwide have relatives living there whose safety and well-being are of importance to them. But it’s a large leap from there to insinuating that Jews are in some way likely to be less patriotic or to belong less to their country of residence than other people. It is always wrong to accuse entire ethnicities of split national loyalties, and that is as true of Jewish people as it is of members of other ethnic groups. However, a December 2019 ICM Unlimited poll found that amongst the public at large, 24% believe that British Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the UK.

In the example below, Jewish Labour MP Louise Ellman, on her resignation, described antisemitism in her local Labour party.

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