Loyalty, as it plays out in the Middle East, especially with regimes such as Saudi Arabia and now Israel, seems to imply subservience and dependence.
Patriotism and loyalty to one’s country are encouraged everywhere in the world. Depending on the culture, failing to express either may lead to different forms of social opprobrium. The recent controversy around athletes kneeling for the national anthem in the US is an example of this. But rarely, outside of militaristic dictatorships, is the lack of the expression of loyalty specifically punished. Haaretz comments on a new law in Israel — reputed to be a democracy — that does precisely that.
“The Knesset passed a law Wednesday allowing the interior minister to revoke the permanent residency status of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem … Under the law, the state can deport anyone whose residency status is withdrawn.” It is applied in three situations: “If the status was granted under false pretenses, if the resident endangered public safety or security, or if he betrays the State of Israel.”
One member of the Knesset, Dov Khenin, who also happens to be a political scientist, made this comment: “You are in effect creating an obligation of loyalty for people for whom there is no connection of loyalty between them and the State of Israel.”
Here is today’s 3D definition:
An attitude of obedience and submission to someone who has the coercive power to consider it obligatory for people whose rights it otherwise ignores
Loyalty, like beauty, tends to be in the eye of the beholder, making it a particularly complex notion. In this case loyalty, which traditionally refers to an internal feeling and attitude but here is the object of legal control, can only be interpreted as applying to outward behavior. But the law does nothing to describe the behavior, leaving the identification of such behavior to the discretion of the authorities.
Al Jazeera points out that this law targets “Palestinians [in East Jerusalem] who are born and live there and do not hold Israeli citizenship, unlike their Jewish counterparts. Palestinians in the city are given ‘permanent residency’ ID cards and temporary Jordanian passports that are only used for travel purposes. They are essentially stateless, stuck in legal limbo — they are not citizens of Israel, nor are they citizens of Jordan or Palestine.”
In December 2017, Al Jazeera reported on the state of the then six-month-old Saudi-led blockade of Qatar, a radically un-neighborly act that certainly bordered on disloyalty. One of the experts interviewed, university lecturer Sarah al-Derham, made this observation: “It is interesting to see how loyalties can shift overnight and how the Gulf community is more fragile than united.” Reflecting on the meaning of the word loyalty at the time, The Daily Devil’s Dictionary considered this definition of loyalty:
The ephemeral avowal of perennial commitment made by a person, group of persons or an animal (such as a dog) to another person or institution that either feeds it, controls the resources available for its well-being or has the power to intimidate it into conformity with its whims
Loyalty, as it plays out in the Middle East, especially with regimes such as Saudi Arabia and now Israel, seems to imply subservience and dependence. The traditional understanding of loyalty implies mutual respect and a sense of fraternity or solidarity. The cynics trying to consolidate and extend their power, aware of their superior might and legal authority, appear to use the notion of loyalty not to construct and maintain relationships, but to intimidate and humiliate nations and people.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
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