Saturday, February 14, 2009

Poor Citizenship

Read this and think: on the background of the attacks on Avigdor Lieberman's "allegiance or citizenship" campaign (see here), could Ralph Haller, in Israel 2009, bring up the issue of possible "poor citizenship"?

SIXTY-FIVE YEARS AGO last week, a German-American high-school principal in New York was confronted with anti-Semitism and responded very differently. In February 1944, five students from Andrew Jackson High School in Queens were caught painting anti-Semitic slogans in the nearby town of Queens Village. Principal Ralph Haller faced a dilemma. Technically, he had no jurisdiction over what students did outside school grounds. But he understood the moral importance of going beyond the letter of the law to find a way to punish the attackers and send a message to potential anti-Semitic vandals everywhere.

Where there was a will, there was a way. Searching the rule books, Haller found he was permitted to prevent a student from graduating if he or she demonstrated "poor American citizenship." At a meeting of parents on February 12, 1944, the principal declared: "I consider such [anti-Semitic] activities totally in contradiction to everything that the America of today or the America which we hope to have tomorrow stands for." Therefore, he announced, his new policy would be to consider anti-Semitism by definition as un-American, and he would block the graduation of any student involved in anti-Semitic acts...Haller emphasized that as a Protestant and a German-American, "I feel that I have the right and duty to speak out on this issue."

Yes, there is a concept of good citizenship, of allegiance, of believing in your country, of serving your country, paying taxes, not shirking civic duties, etc.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As you say, the problem is always "who decides" and on what basis.

It's pretty much unworkable and provides powerful tools to the unscrupulous to whom you would not wish any power to.