Maybe I’m sensitive to this charge of dual allegiance because it’s been wielded against me in some of my political campaigns. I’ve been accused of actually being a citizen of Israel. (That’s not true, although my father was an Israeli immigrant to the United States.) In 2002, well before Donald Trump and other “birthers” questioned Barack Obama’s citizenship, I had to produce my U.S. birth certificate in my first run for Congress to disprove false assertions about my background and loyalties.
But it’s not just me who’s been subject to questions of dual loyalty. For centuries, this trope has been aimed at Jews in countries around the world. In embracing it, Omar is associating herself with calamities from the Spanish Inquisition to the Russian pogroms to the Holocaust. That’s not historical company that any American should want to keep.
One doesn’t have to be Jewish to recognize the deep and abiding relationship between the United States and Israel. Yes, there might be serious problems with Israel’s democracy—just as we’re currently experiencing our own. But Israel shares fundamental values with the United States that most of its neighbors have never embraced.
In Israel, women can vote and serve in the armed forces. So can members of the LGBTQ community. Its Arab citizens can vote, form political parties, and serve in the Israeli Parliament. And Israeli women can drive—just as badly as the rest of the population.
Steven Waldman: The ugly history of dual-loyalty charges
As for Jewish Americans who support Israel as a friend and ally of the United States, we do so because we recognize the commonality of our values and national interests. And many of us don’t hesitate to criticize Israel when its policies are wrong—or to champion American interests when they come into tension with Israeli goals.
On my very first day after leaving Bill Clinton’s administration as his senior adviser in October 1998, I received a call at 5 a.m. from the president. He was at the Wye Plantation in Maryland, where he was hosting a summit meeting between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The president was frantic that the summit would collapse if he didn’t release Jonathan Pollard, a U.S. intelligence analyst who had delivered sensitive state secrets to Israel, as Benjamin Netanyahu was demanding.
Clinton was getting conflicting advice from his political and national-security teams. Some members of the political team thought Pollard’s release was a small price to pay for a successful agreement. But members of his national-security team were strongly opposed because of the serious level of the security breach that Pollard had orchestrated.
I told Clinton not to give in on Pollard’s release, believing that Netanyahu needed the agreement more than he did. The president followed that advice, and Netanyahu ultimately signed the Wye River Memorandum.