Primary Loyalty and Secondary Loyalty

Representative Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota, recently implied that American Jews are guilty of “dual loyalty” and of “allegiance to a foreign country.” She also insinuated that money (’Benjamins”) from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) fuels American support for Israel. Her defenders deny that her comments were anti-Semitic. They insist that she is simply an outspoken anti-Zionist.

All American citizens pledge allegiance to the United States. Nearly all American citizens are the descendants of immigrants or are immigrants themselves. In addition to their primary loyalty to the U.S., many citizens may have a lesser or secondary loyalty to a country associated with their ancestors. For example, Representative Omar, a Somali refugee, may have a secondary loyalty to Somalia. Representative Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, a Palestinian American whose grandmother lives in the West Bank, may have a secondary loyalty to the territory of Palestine. Similarly, a Jewish American, whose co-religionists live in Israel, may have a secondary loyalty to Israel.

The pejorative label “dual loyalty” is wrong because it denotes equal weight. Secondary loyalty signifies lower weight. In the event of conflict, primary loyalty will always trump secondary loyalty. American citizens have no reason to be defensive about secondary loyalties. Secondary loyalty does not diminish primary loyalty to this country. Nor does secondary loyalty denote “allegiance to a foreign country.” Primary loyalty and secondary loyalty are not mutually exclusive.

The mission of Aipac is “to strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship.” Unlike the N.R.A. and other advocacy organizations, Aipac does not endorse or donate money to candidates. But its members do as individuals.

About the Author
Ted Sheskin is an emeritus professor of industrial engineering and the author of a textbook, Markov Chains and Decision Processes for Engineers and Managers. He has published peer-reviewed papers on engineering systems and mathematical algorithms. His letters to editors addressing politics, economic policy, and issues facing Israel and American Jews have appeared in the NY Times, Daily News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland Jewish News, Jewish Week, and Jewish Voice.
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