Jews and Obligations of Partiality to Israel

One of today’s foremost debates in moral philosophy is whether there are obligations of partiality to people, groups, and causes that occupy special places in our lives. The subtext to a recent NY Times article describing the diversity of opinions among Jews regarding Israel illustrates a particular strain of questions in these debates: whether members of certain groups owe unconditional and uncritical support to their groups.

Do Jews owe Israel unconditional and uncritical support in virtue of their Jewish heritage? Although it is doubtful that many Jews would describe their allegiance to Israel in such stark terms, the fact that many within the Jewish community are inclined to immediately dismiss any criticism of Israel — if not denounce it as tantamount to anti-Semitism — suggests an underlying presumption on their part that either Israel can do no wrong, or that Jews should look the other way if Israel does, indeed, do wrong. Whether or not these presumptions are rational will depend in part on how one answers further, more fundamental questions about the relationship between the well-being of moral agents, broadly understood, and their moral probity. For instance, as a Jew trying to formulate opinions about Israel, I might do well to ask myself about the ways in which Israel’s moral probity (or lack thereof) is likely to contribute to its well-being.

Related Articles:

Citizenship and The State
By M. Victoria Costa , Florida State University
(Vol. 4, December 2009)
Philosophy Compass

Preempting Principles: Recent Debates in Moral Particularism
By Sean McKeever and Michael Ridge, Davidson College University of Edinburgh
(Vol. 3, November 2008)
Philosophy Compass

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