October 21, 2003
Another international flap over
putative anti-Semitism, this time in a speech at a Muslim summit
meeting. Mahathir Mohamad, finally retiring as Malaysias prime
minister, got a standing ovation after telling his audience that the Muslim
world 1.3 billion strong is on the wrong track in its
struggle with its tiny enemy, the Jewish state of Israel.
But it wasnt
Mahathirs scathing criticism of his fellow Muslims that caused
uproar in the West; it was his relatively brief animadversion against the
The Europeans killed six
million Jews out of twelve million, he said, but today they
rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.
These are pretty broad strokes, not only about the Jews but about the
Europeans. Yet, he added, even among the Jews, there are many who
do not approve of what the Israelis are doing.
He went on: We are up
against a people who think. They survived two thousand years of pogroms
not by hitting back but by thinking. They invented socialism, communism,
human rights, and democracy, so that persecuting them would appear to be
wrong, so that they can enjoy equal rights with others. With these they
have now gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny
community, have become a world power.... Of late, because of their power
and their apparent success, they have become arrogant.
Despite its overgeneralizations,
this is not an altogether unflattering portrait. Mahathir was contrasting
the intelligence and purpose of the Jews with the fecklessness of the
Muslim world, with its irrational violence, killing just about
everybody, including fellow Muslims and sending our young
people to blow themselves up and kill people and invite the massacre of
more of our own people. Some might call Mahathir a self-hating
President Bush called the speech
wrong and divisive and said it stands squarely
against what I believe in. He seems to believe in the view,
fashionable among some Protestant fundamentalists, that God gave the
Holy Land to the Jews forever.
Even most Zionists dont believe that. Zionism began as a
secularist movement, without religious underpinnings. The early Zionists
even considered settling in Africa rather than the Middle East. When the
British government mandated a Jewish homeland in Palestine, it
stipulated that the rights of the native population must be respected. Of
course it didnt work out that way. And theres the rub.
It seems to be extremely hard
for Israels supporters, Jewish and Christian alike, to grasp that if
you reject the premise that the Jews have an absolute and eternal claim
to the land, there can be no moral justification for driving the
Palestinians out of their homes, stripping them of normal human rights,
and even killing them to secure the claim.
Premises are everything. You
cant expect people to reach your conclusion from their own, very
different premises. Why should non-Jews accede to Jewish sovereignty,
especially when it means losing their homes and their rights? Israel
demands that the Arabs recognize its right to exist, but, as
Bill Clinton might say, it all depends what you mean by exist. In
this case, existing means oppressing non-Jews.
Writing in The New York
Review of Books, Tony Judt, himself Jewish, reflects that Israel
has actually become bad for the Jews. It claims the loyalty
of all Jews and purports to speak and act on their behalf, but now makes
them appear, in the eyes of the world, culpable in Israels crimes.
And many Jews do feel they must support Israel, no matter what it does.
So, it seems, do many Christians, including our president.
It also seems that America is
hostage to Bushs religious beliefs. He owes it to us, and to the
world, to make clear what his own premises are. How much does he think
we owe Israel? Is it mere coincidence that his axis of evil
is composed of Israels enemies? How many more wars in the
Middle East must we be prepared to fight? He refuses to concede that
Mahathirs speech had even a grain of truth, so it would be
interesting to hear his own explanation of some striking geopolitical
Mahathir Mohamad makes his
point roughly, but he does have a point. The rest of the world, and not just
the Muslim world, sees clearly enough that our politicians are subservient
to the Jewish state.
The fact can hardly be justified,
so it has to be denied. As usual, iniquity is shielded by hypocrisy.