Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Malaysian PM blames it on the Jews

The Malaysian prime minister shouldn’t blame it on the Jews

One can only shake his head in outrage and frustration listening to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad accusing the Jews of controling the world by proxy and asking the representatives of 1.3 billion Muslims at last week’s annual meeting of the Organization of Islamic states to confront the international Jewish menace, albeit nonviolentenly.
Designating the world Jewry as “the enemy” is deceiving and morally reprehensible. It’s also an easy escape from confronting the real challenges stemming from America and the West in general.
Instead of charting a new way forward to tackle the dangerous post-Sept. 11, 2001 misperceptions about Muslims, Mahathir’s populist discourse will further exacerbate religious tensions and geopolitical instability.
His utterance was even more surprising considering his 22 years distinguished career as a modern statesman during which he succeeded in bringing Malaysia to 17th trading country in the world and in putting forward many intelligent and bold ideas on the development of the Third World. He should know better than to use the Jews as a scapegoat for the Muslims’ trouble. This rings particularly hollow in the West.
Lumping all Muslims and all Jews as politically uniform is misleading at best. In the US, for example, Jewish voices critical of American foreign policy are louder than most others. And in Israel, an increasing number of Israeli Jews oppose their country’s occupation and support the Palestinian right of self-determination. Mahathir’s statement can only undermine the efforts of those Jews who do not find themselves represented by the government of Israel and damage the just struggle of the Palestinians people.
The power of the Palestinian cause stems from a universal right to freedom from occupation and colonialism. It is not a religious conflict between Muslims and Jews. Remember, Israel was established by less than 3 percent of Jewish people while Palestine was betrayed by more than 50 percent of Arab and Muslim leaders. Those leaders have also been selling out their nation’s interest for 30 coins of silver. Many have allowed an unconditional US military presence on their land and turned their back on Palestine in favor of better ties with Washington.
Inflaming the religious fervor of Muslims by attacking imagined Jewish conspiracies won’t solve their real problems. The ideological underpinnings of the Bush administration radicalized by Sept. 11 are motivated by geo-economic and geo-strategic interests that go beyond any Jewish influence.
There is no denying that pro-Israeli lobbies exercise substantial influence in America (and to a lesser degree in Europe) over foreign policy in the Middle East region. But their lobbying efforts bear fruit mostly because they are complimentary to America’s foreign policy and consistent with its global hegemony.
The question of who leads whom in the American-Israeli relationship has occupied many observers in the region in light of the unmatched American support for the Jewish state. Many, like the Malaysian premier, reckon that Israel and its Jewish lobby exercise a disproportionate degree of influence over Washington’s decision-making by supporting and financing the electoral campaigns and undermining those opposing strong support to Israel. Americans’ lack of interest in foreign affairs enforces this trend.
Others see Israel gaining favor in Washington in return for its strategic role as an ally in a region hostile to US interests. Deemed a “regional cop” by the Nixon administration and a “regional influential” by the Carter administration, Israel was designated henceforth as a “strategic asset” against the Soviet “Evil Empire” by the Reagan administration. After Sept. 11, Israel emerged as America’s closest ally in the “war on terrorism.”
While there is a large degree of truth in both views, they are not mutually exclusive. Nor do they justify talk of Jewish domination. In fact, Israel has become shamelessly dependent on Washington, while America evolved into a de facto promised land for the Jewish people В­ more Jews live there than anywhere else in the world, including Israel.
Every time American and Israeli interests have clashed, Israel has retreated in favor of America’s imperial outreach. Whether selling sophisticated arms to Israel’s neighbors or demanding withdrawal from occupied Arab territories, what America wants, American gets.
Washington has many strong allies in the world and is home to over 80 thousand registered lobbyists. What makes pro-Israeli influence great is the lack of even a handful of Arab lobbyists and the total absence of a common Arab strategy toward Washington and Israel.
Israel and its Jewish lobby do seem at times to be at the forefront of confrontations with the Arab and Muslim worlds. However, as I learned from an anecdote I picked up from a Jewish text recently, if a dog is walking ahead of its master (parallels notwithstanding), it doesn’t mean the dog is leading; just that it knows where its master is going and it stays a step ahead and a heartbeat away.
If Malaysian or other leaders have an issue with America or Europe, they should have the courage to take it up with their respective governments instead of scapegoating the Jews.

Marwan Bishara (, a Palestinian analyst and professor based in Paris, wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR

No comments: