A question of loyalty
The remarks made by Labour MP Paul Flynn about the supposed ‘dual loyalty’ of our Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, revive an old trope of anti-semitism. The idea that, as a British Jew, Mr. Gould’s devotion to crown and country is somehow in question calls to mind the self-same allegations as they were made against German Jews in the 1930s and Spanish Jews before and during the inquisition. It’s absurd – playing on an ancient and dangerous suspicion that Diaspora Jews are somehow connected more to each other and to Israel than they are to their home country, that they are involved by simple virtue of their faith and ethnicity in some dark conspiracy. But Flynn’s smears are not simply immoral and ugly – they are profoundly wrong. Pride amongst British citizens in their religion – whatever it may be – is not a weakness in their patriotism, it is a boon to it.
Last week Demos published A Place for Pride which was the product of focus groups and of a significant new poll of British people, seeking to understand what character traits, beliefs and values lead some people to feel more patriotic and proud of Britain than others. The polling showed us clearly that – while the 79% of the British population as a whole say they are proud to be a British citizen – those who were self-identifying members of a faith consistently polled higher than that. Significantly, faith raised levels of pride no matter what that faith may be and the small sample of British Jews included in our poll scored (alongside Anglicans) a very healthy 88%. Of course, it is difficult to draw a general rule from one poll (especially one that was representative of Britain as a whole and, therefore, contained only the proportionate numbers of each ethnic and religious minority) but the importance of faith in a God to love of this country came across strongly in our discussion groups too. Many of the participants, proud of their faith in a myriad of gods, spoke of the way in which their religious identity informs and supports their national identity – how it makes them feel closer to our national story and national community and reminded them of their luck at being born in a place where your conscience is your own and tolerance is the norm.
And, as 80% of those we polled pointed out – and as any reasonable person would be able to tell you on the basis of intuition and a basic understanding of human nature – those who are proud of their country are more likely to act in ways that are both positive and that serve the interests of their nation. On the basis of our findings about the link between faith and patriotism Matthew Gould’s Judaism, far from putting him at risk of treachery, makes him more likely to go the extra mile for our country.