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by Aaron Goldstein
06 January 2004

Something profoundly disturbed me when I read Ed Koch’s recent article concerning his public intention to vote for George W. Bush in November’s Presidential elections.

Something profoundly disturbed me when I read Ed Koch’s recent article concerning his public intention to vote for George W. Bush in November’s Presidential elections.

Of course, I was delighted to read that Koch plans to vote for Bush and said so publicly.  What disturbed me was that Koch felt compelled to defend his loyalty to America in the article.   An editorial in the New York Sun claimed that Koch would vote for Bush “entirely on the basis of his concern for embattled Israel.”

Koch writes:

The United States has my loyalty, and I will do everything that I can to protect this country and provide for its general well-being.  This wonderful nation, unlike many others, permits us to maintain a continuing relationship and concern for other countries of our ancestors.   For me, that is the State of Israel.   However, where needs of the two countries diverge, my loyalty is to the United States.

If a man who was thrice elected as the mayor of the largest city in the United States feels compelled to write such words what does it say about where Jews stand in the grand scheme of things in the United States?   To be certain, anti-Semitism in the United States is not at the level where it is in Europe.   Yet somehow that is of little comfort.   The Weimar Republic of Germany in the early 1930s was considered the most civilized country in the world.   Few would have imagined the carnage that would be wrought in Europe a few short years later.

Koch recalls speaking at a Congressional Breakfast and the subject of dual loyalty of American Jews to America and Israel arose.   Koch cited the examples of other Americans who have strong ties with their countries of origin and ancestry.   He cited several countries including Ireland, Italy, Poland, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.

I have lived in the United States for just under four years, having moved from Canada and settled in Boston.   In my time here, I have taken to occasionally ambling around the city.   One of my favorite places to walk is South Boston (known affectionately as “Southie”) – especially during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.   Indeed, I walk the entire procession of the parade from West Broadway to East Broadway to the side streets that lead to Dorchester Street.    

Anyone who spends even a modest amount of time in South Boston will be struck by two things.   The first is by the strong patriotism of the neighborhood.    Veterans of past wars are held in high esteem and support is strong for the War  on Terror.   Indeed, this support is so strong anti-war protesters have been kept from marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  The second is by the strong ties to Ireland and the strong sympathy for Irish nationalism and a united Ireland.   A billboard on West Broadway reads, “Ireland, unfree, will never be at peace.”    

Yet the issue of dual loyalty somehow never arises in South Boston.  When was the last time a former mayor of Boston like Kevin White or Ray Flynn (who later became Ambassador to the Vatican) felt publicly compelled to declare, “The United States has my loyalty,”?  You don’t see former Boston mayors making public declarations on what side they would be if war were to break out between the United States and Ireland.   But at this same Congressional breakfast Koch made a point of raising his right hand and stating, “I swear  to you if Israel ever invades the United States, I shall stand with the U.S.”

The idea that Israel would invade the United States is laughable.   After all, if the United States is Israel’s closest ally why would Israel turn around and invade it?    

I’m sure the anti-Semites would have an answer for it.   They seem to have an answer for everything.  It is their answers that raises questions of  the loyalty of American Jews but not Irish Americans, Italian Americans, Polish Americans or even Haitians, Dominicans and Jamaicans.  If one observes anyone question the loyalties of Jews in America it is worth asking if they only question the loyalty of Jews.  Should that be the case then their loyalty is not to America but to their hatred, ignorance and shortsightedness.  As for Ed Koch, he doesn’t owe anyone an explanation or need to justify his existence.

Aaron Goldstein, a former member of the socialist New Democratic Party, writes poetry and has a chapbook titled Oysters and the Newborn Child: Melancholy and Dead Musicians. His poetry can be viewed on www.poetsforthewar.org.

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