From the Jewish Journal of Greater L.A. (via MondoWeiss):
David Brooks’ Son Is In the Israeli Army: Does It Matter?
by Rob Eshman
2 days ago
One of the more interesting nuggets buried in a long, Hebrew-language interview with New York Times columnist David Brooks in the recent Ha’aretz magazine is the revelation, toward the very end, that Brooks’s oldest son serves in the Israel Defense Forces.
“Brook’s connection to Israel was always strong,” the article reports. “He has visited Israel almost every year since 1991, and over the past months the connection has grown even stronger, after his oldest son, aged 23, decided to join the Israel Defense Forces as a “lone soldier” [Ed. Note: a soldier with no immediate family in Israel].
“‘It’s worrying,’” says Brooks, ‘But every Israeli parent understands this is what the circumstances require. Beyond that, I think children need to take risks after they leave university, and that they need to do something difficult, that involves going beyond their personal limits. Serving in the IDF embodies all of these elements. I couldn’t advise others to do it without acknowledging it’s true for my own family.’”
Chatter immediately heated up over this fact, which until now hasn’t cropped up in any Google searches. Many commenters praised Brooks’ for his son’s service. Others maintained that he and the New York Times have the duty to reveal the fact that his son is serving in the IDF as it personally colors his commentary on Israel and Middle East issues.
Between 800-1000 Jews from abroad serve in the IDF, according to an IDF spokesperson. It is not illegal for an American citizen to join a foreign army– unless that army is at war with America. Nor does joining a foreign army require one to relinquish citizenship. …
הקשר של ברוקס לישראל תמיד היה חזק – הוא מגיע לארץ כמעט מדי שנה מאז 1991 – ואולם בחודשים האחרונים הקשר התחזק אפילו יותר, לאחר שבנו הבכור, בן 23, החליט להתגייס לצה”ל כחייל בודד. “זה מדאיג”, הוא אומר, “אך כל הורה ישראלי מבין שזה מה שהנסיבות מחייבות. וחוץ מזה, אני חושב שילדים צריכים לקחת סיכונים כשהם יוצאים מהאוניברסיטה, ושהם צריכים לעשות משהו קשה, שכרוך גם בלפרוץ את גבולות ‘העצמי’. שירות בצה”ל מגלם את כל המרכיבים האלו. אני לא יכול לייעץ לאחרים לעשות זאת, מבלי שהדבר יהיה נכון גם למשפחה שלי”
Leaving aside the specifics of the Brooks family (which are pretty interesting: Brooks’ wife not only converted but changed her first name from Jane to Sarah) …
This is a good example of a general theme of mine: in 21st Century America, you can roughly divide white men up into conservatives and liberals based on their predilections toward loyalty. Everybody feels loyalties, but conservatives tend to be more motivated than liberals by loyalty or team spirit. And conservatives tend to experience their feelings of loyalty in a fairly natural concentric fashion, with their feelings of loyalty diminishing as they go outward to people less like themselves.
Of course, there is a sizable degree of social construction involved in defining natural-seeming loyalties, similar to the inevitable splitter and lumper questions in any field. For example, George Washington was involved in first splitting the British Empire, then in lumping the 13 colonies. But, as Plato might have said, Washington turned out to have been more or less “carving nature at the joints,” so his social constructions have endured better than, say, the British Commonwealth or the United Arab Republic.
White male liberals, in contrast, pride themselves on a certain degree of disloyalty, possessing a set of loyalties that leapfrog in disdain over some set of people not all that far off from themselves. (Of course, all other kinds of liberals besides straight white males are encouraged by the media to subscribe to crude forms of ethnocentrism, such as demanding amnesty for their co-ethnics.)
As an American, I want other Americans, especially other Americans of power, influence, wealth, and talent to see themselves as on my side, the American side. That doesn’t seem too much to ask. I particularly want Americans of influence who are by nature conservatives to train their innate urges toward loyalty to overlap with my loyalties toward my fellow American citizens.
In contrast, if, say, Noam Chomsky doesn’t feel terribly loyal toward American citizens, well, I don’t mind all that much because he’s not by nature all that conservative. Loyalty is not a big part of Chomsky’s personality, nor are his loyalties naturally concentric. There are good things you can say about Professor Chomsky, but “you’d want him in your foxhole” is not the first one that comes to mind. Expecting loyalty from Chomsky is like expecting loyalty from your cat. People don’t give their cats names like “Fido” or expect them to defend their homes from intruders.
In contrast, there are a lot of more naturally conservative Jewish-Americans whom you would definitely want on your side, not on somebody else’s side. They like being loyal. But these days, nobody expects them to be loyal to their fellow citizens.
I would like to see our society engage in more social construction to get naturally conservative Jews like the Brookses to be more loyal to their fellow American citizens and less loyal to their foreign co-ethnics.
In particular, I favor criticism. Being criticized rationally for your poor behavior tends to encourage you to improve your behavior. But criticism of Jews for Jewish-typical failings such as excessive ethnocentrism is a career-killer today.
It’s like calling an angry black woman an angry black woman, except that angry black women tend to be more angry than powerful. In contrast, when Gregg Easterbrook wrote one sentence of criticism of Jewish movie moguls in 2003 in, of all places, Marty Peretz’s The New Republic, Easterbrook was immediately fired from his sportswriting job at Michael Eisner-controlled ESPN that accounted for half of his income. This is even though Easterbrook’s older brother Frank Easterbrook is a heavyweight federal judge. But nobody fears nepotistic vengeance by people named Easterbrook, while Eisner’s actions certainly served pour encourager les autres.
It didn’t always used to be this way. For example, as a child of the 1970s, I’ve often thought about Henry Kissinger. His career and personality have always been controversial, but I think it’s safe to say he is a man of parts. Further, I’m very glad in retrospect that Henry Kissinger was on our side, the United States of America, rather than on the side of the Soviet Union or of Israel.
My impression from reading between the lines in Kissinger’s immense memoir of 1973-74, Years of Upheaval, is that Kissinger had always been very concerned during his younger days about the possibility of accusations of dual loyalties, and that he resolved to overcome them by … not having dual loyalties, by just being loyal to the United States. And to his own fabulous career, of course, but back in the post-WWII era, loyalty to Americans in general tended to help you in your career.
Kissinger’s single loyalty drove the nascent neoconservatives wild with rage, but the neocons weren’t quite as organized and influential back then. Overall, back in the 1960s-1970s, the fact that the only thing simple about Kissinger was his single loyalty greatly benefited his career domestically by allowing him to become the right hand man of the experienced and cynical Richard Nixon.
And, more strikingly, it allowed him to play the role of honest broker in his shuttle diplomacy negotiating the disengagement of Israel’s army from the armies of Egypt and Syria after the 1973 war. That Anwar Sadat (and even Hafez Assad) came to see to see this Jewish-American as representing the interests of the United States rather than of some complicated mixture of American and Israeli interests proved highly useful to the United States (and even to Israel).
In today’s atmosphere, however, the idea that Henry Kissinger had to carefully police his own loyalties to prove, not unreasonably, to gentiles his loyalty to the United States sounds shockingly retrograde and anti-Semitic.
I wrote a lot about Michael Bloomberg when he was mayor of
Gotham New York City: $30 billion in the bank, gives billions away in charity, had a 44,000 person “private army” (in his words), owns a worldwide computer network that his employees use to spy on finance guys, etc. Basically, Bloomberg is like a real world version of Bruce Wayne.
Do you want Bruce Wayne to feel, deep down, he’s on your side, or do you want Bruce Wayne to be most loyal to some other people halfway around the world? Of course you want Bruce Wayne to be on your side.
Bloomberg was a good mayor of New York because he feels a lot of loyalty toward New Yorkers. He wanted to be President of the United States too, but he would have been a disaster at that because of his lack of loyalty toward the American people. And that’s a shame because guys like Bloomberg ought to be a valuable resource for my country. Just a generation ago or so they would have been cautioned to keep their ethnocentrism down and their citizenism up, but we’re way past that age now.
For instance, in 2006 Bloomberg, who had 11 digits of net worth, went on the radio and announced that illegal aliens should get amnesty so that he doesn’t have to pay more money in monthly dues to have the fairways manicured at his Deepdale Country Club (which is possibly the most exclusive and notoriously underused golf course in America: members have included President Eisenhower and the Duke of Windsor). Conversely, he flew to Israel to accept the world’s first ever “Jewish Nobel Prize” from some Russian oligarchs.
These are the kind of things where it should occur to a Bloomberg: wow, I’m really going to get laughed at if I do this kind of stuff. I should try to behave better, like I care about Americans rather than Israelis, so I’m not such a butt of jokes.
But, here’s the thing. Nobody gets the joke. It never occurs to Bloomberg that he’s making a fool of himself. Because who would dare joke about such matters? Bloomberg is one of the World’s Greatest Victims, and if you don’t wholly believe that, if you crack a smile, your career will get crushed like a bug (as happened to Rick Sanchez, formerly of CNN, for laughing at the suggestion that Jon Stewart is a fellow minority).