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Loyalty - too much to ask?
Israel - Middle East
Friday, October 22, 2010
Alf Cengia

I’ve just read that last week, Bafta-winning writer, director and film maker Mike Leigh canceled a teaching trip to Jerusalem. He had been scheduled to participate in the Great Masters program at the Sam Spiegel Film & Television School. While citing a string issues such as the infamous flotilla debacle and also admitting to having “serious misgivings about coming” from the outset, the “last straw” was the new Loyalty Oath Bill.

Leigh declared that:

"This is the last straw – quite apart from the ongoing criminal blockade of Gaza, not to mention the endless shooting of innocent people there, including juveniles ..."

Like George Soros, Mike Leigh has a Jewish ancestry. Born in Lancashire, England, he was brought up in Jewish immigrant family who changed their name from Lieberman to Leigh. The phenomenon where someone with a Jewish background persistently and unfairly criticizes Israel continues to baffle and intrigue me. I may be wrong, but I suspect that Leigh never wanted to go to Jerusalem to begin with and the Loyalty Oath was a convenient excuse.

Leigh isn’t alone. In an opinion editorial, one UK newspaper labeled the bill as “discriminatory by design”.  

According to the paper:

“There is however a second narrative, which could be called business as usual, and it has nothing to do with occupation, Iran's nuclear programme, Hizbullah's rocket arsenal, or any threat which could be called existential. This was evident in all its inglory (sic) yesterday when the Israeli cabinet approved a measure requiring candidates for Israeli citizenship to pledge loyalty to "the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state"”

The paper went on to add that Palestinian Israeli leaders “have described this proposal as racist”. Now that’s a surprise! Let’s pause for a second here…

Palestinian Israeli leaders?

If we took a count, I wonder how many Fatah Israeli leaders we’d find - or how about Hamas or Saudi Israeli leaders? I wonder how many Jews we might find sitting in political positions of power in Muslim democracies as we find Arabs in the Israeli Knesset.

Just for fun I’d like to invite Mr Leigh to walk into a Saudi airport with a Bible under his arm and declare to customs that he intends to build a church in their country. Good luck with that and with any citizenship application forms.

The author of the UK editorial listed a number of grievances. The new Loyalty Oath will demand future citizens to declare their loyalty to an “ideology”. Apparently there’s a loyalty to be applied to Knesset members and…film crews. I wonder whether tampering with the film industry might be what really raised Mr Leigh’s indignation after all.

Moreover, there are bills being drawn that make it an offence to deny the existence of Israel. Now that’s harsh! Another will force any group financed by a foreign nation to report each contribution. Could Israel be so insecure that they suspect possible internal funding of terrorism?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently risked polarizing her party by announcing that the multicultural approach had “utterly failed”. She added that “allowing people of different cultural backgrounds (read Muslims) to live side by side without integrating had not worked in a country that is home to some four million Muslims.”

While Merkel’s comments were certainly designed to appease the conservatives without making too much waves, there is a growing trend for intolerance to the resistance to assimilation by Muslims. According to Reuters:

“She (Merkel) said too little had been required of immigrants in the past and repeated her usual line that they should learn German in order to get by in school and have opportunities on the labour market.”

Like other nations, Australia has had to address the issues of Muslim integration, home-grown terrorism and Sharia Law with its associated problems for Western culture. So far, the majority of the Australian media hasn’t been averse to occasionally tread upon the sanctity of political correctness.

When former Prime Minister John Howard and then Treasurer Peter Costello (both self-described Christians) made public statements addressing these issues, they did so with relative impunity, compared with politicians in other nations. When asked, Howard confirmed the possibility of investigating Mosques and Islamic schools.

John Howard:

"We have a right to know whether there is, within any section of the Islamic community, a preaching of the virtues of terrorism, whether any comfort or harbour is given to terrorism within that community."

Peter Costello pretty much spelled it out when, in one interview, he stated:

“... According to our Constitution, we have a secular state. Our laws are made by the Australian Parliament. If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you. This is not the kind of country where you would feel comfortable if you were opposed to democracy, parliamentary law, independent courts and so I would say to people who don't feel comfortable with those values there might be other countries where they'd feel more comfortable with their own values or beliefs.”

In other words, if you don’t like our way and won’t integrate, then leave. No doubt Mr. Leigh would have a major concern with that position, even though the film industry is well looked after there. However, I can’t find a record of his objection anywhere.

As real as they are, the existential challenges facing Australia or Germany pale in comparison to those of Israel. Australia isn’t a tiny nation surrounded by larger aggressors wanting to blow it away. Australians haven’t had a history of their citizens being targeted by suicide-murderer-bombers. Australia doesn’t have to be as vigilant as Israel for its continuing existence, yet its Government has taken measures to ensure the absolute loyalty of its citizens.

Why single Israel out?

History tells us through the lessons of wars and hardships that nations can only survive when its people make sacrifices. That can only occur when selflessness and loyalty are predominant in a society. No other nation more than Israel realizes this.

Unfortunately, too many of us forget those lessons.

About Alf Cengia

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