Thursday, April 3, 2014

Which Nation Should One Hold Most Dear?

The Jonathan Pollard case now attracting a lot of attention is of interest to both Israelis and Americans. We are told it is the only example of imprisonment of a spy from a friendly country in US history. Even for those of us of neither of those nationalities but holding more than one passport, Pollard's case is also intriguing. Israel has awarded him Israeli citizenship while still in a US prison.

For folk with multiple national connections there can be credibility issues. In Jewish areas in our cities posters exhorting readers to buy Israeli bonds are almost ubiquitous. Not all Jews of course are Zionists so the public prominence of these posters may be thought to do those who are not no favours. However people who identify themselves as Jewish in countries outside Israel are a special case in that any identification with Israel usually will not be associated with holding an Israeli passport.

Commoner are other resident citizens who hold a second passport. I am one.

Canada is one of a number, a minority, of countries that find dual citizenship acceptable. Sometimes this gets us into difficulty, as when our government was forced to repatriate to Canada a large number of dual Lebanese-Canadian nationals during the last major flare-up of sectarian war in Lebanon. Other times dual national loyalties get a bad name as when Tamil citizens of Canada chose to inconvenience their fellow citizens by blocking a major highway during the civil war in Sri Lanka.

For those of us who hold citizenship in more than one Commonwealth country, our dual loyalties are generally not an issue due to a historic convergence of perspective. That may or may not continue into the future. In a world population that would still mostly like to move beyond nation states into more collegial forms of association like the European Union, multiple citizenships should not be of much concern. However the nation state is far from dead as we see in both recent Russian actions and in the increasing enthusiasm of ethno-cultural minorities everywhere for a more formal separation from their current national majority race or culture.

Centrifugal and centripetal forces working at the same time in nation building make for toxic brews. The work of dismantling imperial structures that caused so much death in the 20th Century has no end in sight.

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