The ancient and sordid history of the dual loyalty canard

The latest crop of anti-Semitic politicians seeking to make a name for themselves by deceitfully accusing Jews of having dual loyalties are relative neophytes, when it comes to invoking this canard. It is ancient in origin and has been discredited time and time again. History can help us better understand this unique phenomenon, which has plagued the Jewish people for millennia.

The Bible[i] describes what was likely the original effort cynically to contrive the dual loyalty or more generic disloyalty false narrative. It started with the very inception of Jewish people-hood in ancient Egypt. The Bible depicts a new king arose over Egypt, who knew not Joseph[ii]. He felt insecure in his position[iii], possibly because he was not a descendant of the prior king[iv]. He gathered together with his advisors, Balaam, Job and Jethro[v] , who were not Egyptians, to deal with the perceived threat of a powerful Jewish presence in Egypt[vi]. The meeting was not about fact-finding. As the Bible reports, they had a preconceived notion that the Jewish people were too numerous and strong[vii].

The Talmud[viii] comments their concern was actually about remaining in power. It goes on to describe how this fear was borne of projection. This makes most sense when viewed through the prism of how the new Pharaoh came to power in the first place. If he could seize power, then so could someone else and replace him. The object of the cabal of Pharaoh and his advisors was to contrive a shrewd plan to deal with the perceived threat to their remaining in power. They formulated the libel that if a war came, the Jews would join the enemy and fight against the Egyptians. They deceitfully advanced this fabricated excuse for their notorious program against the Jews.

Sound familiar? It should be, because it is the same false narrative being advanced today about Jews having allegiance to a foreign country or dual loyalty.

A similar theme is evoked in Megillat Esther[ix]. This time the perpetrators are King Achashverosh, a usurper of the Persian throne[x] and Haman, a non-Persian[xi], who is his notorious advisor and partner in crime. Achashverosh is insecure in his new position. As the Talmud[xii] explains, he sought approval from the elites he invited to his 180-day long party[xiii]. He even demanded his royal wife Vashti, a descendant of Nebuchadnezzar[xiv], appear unclothed on the last day of his subsequent 7-day gathering for the people[xv] to please his guests[xvi].

After disposing of Queen Vashti[xvii], Haman and Achashverosh hatched a scheme against the Jews. They invoked the ancient canard of disloyalty to target the Jewish people[xviii]. Haman described the Jews as a certain people, who are different and scattered and dispersed throughout the realm. He then slandered them, by accusing them of following their own laws and not the King’s. In substance, he falsely asserted the Jews were not loyal to the King and it was not worth tolerating them. His solution to the perceived threat was wholly to eliminate the Jews.

Whether characterized as outright disloyalty or dual loyalty the effect is the same; it is about identifying the Jews as enemies. The promoters of this false and notorious conspiracy theory typically have an agenda. Blaming the Jews and demonizing them serves their political needs. Stoking fear and hatred of an identifiable minority can help establish solidarity within a constituency. The modus operandi is all too familiar. The pattern of branding someone else as an enemy can also divert attention away from any personal character deficiencies or similar disabilities.

It is likely the motivation for promoting this egregious canard today is no different. Like the Biblical headline of yore, the new one could just as well be, newly ennobled and insecure political actors seek validation by attacking others. It’s calculating and contrived; but it’s also reckless. The effect is only temporary, because hatred is a vile and poisonous emotion, which eats away at the souls of those involved. Historically, it eventually causes their own self-destruction, in the orgy of hatred they engendered. The real question is how many innocent people are negatively affected in the process. It’s why we have to act to prevent harm to others.

I am a child of Morris Grunstein, of blessed memory, a Holocaust survivor of Auschwitz and Ida Grunstein, a victim of the Soviet labor camps of Siberia, where her father perished for the crime of wanting to remain Jewish. I am sensitized to the fact that there is no right or left that is blameless, when it comes to anti-Semitism. Members of both the left and right have used the tools of anti-Semitism and self-proclaimed victimhood, in furtherance of their nefarious goals and programs.

There was the delusional Austrian, Hitler, may his name and memory be blotted out, who also invoked the ancient disloyalty canard. Never mind that Jews loyally served in the German army in World War I. Indeed as loyal citizens of the many countries at war with each other in World War I, they often fought against each other, too. Hitler, though, managed to unify the German people, in no small measure, by falsely labeling the Jews as disloyal and demonizing them as the enemy of the people. This enabled him, as the aggressor, to play the victim. Thus, he proclaimed the German people were the victims of the Allies and the Versailles Treaty, as well as, the Jews. He also managed to deflect attention away from himself, as an Austrian, who despite failing at most things in life became the Fuhrer of Germany. He and his cohorts were the masters of the modern big lie, invoking all sorts of conspiracy theories and fantasies about Jewish power to justify causing World War II and perpetrating the Holocaust.

Stalin, the notorious communist Premier of the Russian Soviet Empire, was also no stranger to anti-Semitism. As a Georgian by birth, he was not readily accepted by polite Russian society. Is it any wonder that he saw conspiracies everywhere? Why not single out the Jews to villainize, as the enemy, to deflect attention from himself? Almost to his last breath, he sought to brand Jewish doctors in the Soviet Union as disloyal and enemies of the state. This was to be the prelude to his new anti-Semitic campaign. Fortunately, he died before he could actually set his plan in motion. However, when leftists like the UK’s Corbyn continue to spout their deceitful hate of Jews, is it any wonder that we feel unease at the specter of renewed anti-Semitism in our wonderful United States of America?

The Talmud[xix] analyzes the problem of projection and concludes that anyone who habitually claims others are flawed should themselves be examined, because they likely posses those same flaws. This is a powerful critique of those who regularly accuse others of disloyalty or dual loyalty. Consider the misplaced focus on the legitimate domestic lobbying efforts of proponents of a strong US-Israel relationship. Is this perhaps an effort to divert attention from the outsized role of foreign money from the Gulf States[xx] and identification with terrorist linked groups[xxi]?

Given this historical perspective and my own family’s real life experiences, I can’t help but react soberly and skeptically when it comes to anti-Semitism and those who express this ancient anti-Semitic canard. They have plagued the Jewish people since ancient times and the memories of the more recent outbursts of hate and destruction, as relayed to me by my parents, are still vivid. The cry of ‘Never Again’ reverberates in my brain. We can’t sit back complacently and just let it happen again; not here; not now; not anywhere or anytime.

It is why I believe it is disingenuous, cavalierly to explain away this destructive and contemptible false narrative as somehow expressed out of ignorance. Perhaps some might have innocently misspoken. But if that were so for others, then why would they promote it publically, again and again, and publicize it so thoroughly on social media? Why defend it when questioned?

The reaction of some is to treat the accusation as if it were a rational one. However, it is most assuredly not. Efforts to explain, educate and discuss are misplaced; they often only embolden the perpetuators of the canard. This is because the entire issue is cunningly contrived just to generate this kind of a response. It is designed to enable the victimizer falsely to claim the status of a victim, because of his or her inability to respond coherently to any factual, logical and irrefutable defense. In essence, the vigorousness of the defense is used to support the very conspiracy theory he or she is falsely promoting in the first place.

We can’t afford to be naïve; we have our children and grandchildren to think about. It is reckless to ignore the connivance the Bible warned about in its introduction to its report of this canard. It uses the expression ‘Havei NisChachma Lo’, which is loosely translated as, lets deal shrewdly with them. Should we expect any less of the Jew haters of today? Don’t be taken in by the appearance of youth and inexperience. It’s an act designed to mislead and obfuscate the malicious and callous intent hidden in the evil heart of those promoting this libelous slander against Jews.

As we approach the Jewish Holidays of Purim and Pesach, we should be mindful of how we faced similar challenges to our existence in the past. We are grateful that G-d saved us then, with hidden miracles in the case of Purim and overt ones in the case of Passover. It’s, thus, also a fortuitous time to pray for G-d’s grace and aid in resolving this new present crisis of anti-Semitism, here in the US and elsewhere. However, G-d also wants us to do what we can to help ourselves, too. Calling it out for what it is, just plain despicable anti-Semitism, is something; but it’s not enough. We must vote for and support candidates who recognize anti-Semitism is unequivocally wrong and should not have a home in the USA. This doesn’t mean that we don’t disdain any form of hate. Let me be clear; hate has no home in the USA. May we all be blessed to live in a world at peace, where there is no longer any threat of anti-Semitism.

[i] Exodus 1:9-10.

[ii] Exodus 1:8.

[iii] Exodus Rabbah 1:8.

[iv] Ibn Ezra commentary on Exodus 1:8.

[v] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sota, at page 11a.

[vi] Exodus 1:7.

[vii] Exodus 1:9.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Megillat Esther 3:8.

[x] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megillah, at page 11a.

[xi] As noted in Megillat Esther 3:1, Haman was a descendant of Agag, who was an Amalakite. See also Pesikta Rabbati 13:1.

[xii] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megillah, at page 12a.

[xiii] Megillat Esther 1:3-4.

[xiv] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megillah, at page 10b and Esther Rabbah, Petichta 12.

[xv] Megillat Esther 1:5-11.

[xvi] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megillah, at page 12b and Esther Rabbah 3:13.

[xvii] Megillat Esther 1:16-19. See also Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megillah, at page 12b, which identifies Memuchan as Haman.

[xviii] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megillah, at page 13b.

[xix] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Kiddushin, at pages 70a-b.

[xx] See What about ‘the Benjamins’ coming from the Gulf States?, by Barabara Boland, dated 3/13/19, in the Spectator.

[xxi] See Ilhan Omar to Speak at Banquet for Group Known for Terrorist Group Support, by Ilanit Chernick, dated 2/19/19, in the Jerusalem Post. See also Ilhan Omar to Speak Alongside Man Who Praised Killing Jews, Report Says, by Ryan Saavedra, dated 2/11/19, in the Daily Caller and CAMERA Op-Ed: Stop Whitewashing Ilhan Omar’s Antisemitism, by Sean Durns, dated February 18, 2019.

About the Author
Leonard Grunstein, a retired attorney and banker, founded and served as Chairman of Metropolitan National Bank and then Israel Discount Bank of NY. He also founded Project Ezrah and serves on the Board of Revel at Yeshiva University and the AIPAC National Council. He has published articles in the Banking Law Journal, Real Estate Finance Journal and other fine publications.
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