Tony Judt’s Final Word on Israel


May 23, 2015

Phnom Penh

When it comes to Israel and the Palestinians, most of us are either pro-Israel or pro-the Palestinian cause. Even the honest broker, the United States cannot be impartial since its support for Israel is unconditional. No American President since Harry Truman can afford to risk his political career by not providing military aid and financial assistance to the Jewish state. The Jewish lobby is too powerful in the US Congress to ignore. But there is more to this than American leadership cares to admit. That is, in my view, that Israel is America’s most reliable ally in the Middle East to protect its economic and strategic interests in the oil rich Middle East.

The two state solution, (Tony’s binational state), is the obvious one and yet both sides, the Palestinians and the Israelis, are unable to accept the reality that they cannot but live side by side in peace and security. No, they must be at each others throats. So the conflict between the two peoples continues at a horrendous cost to both sides in terms of human lives and property.

The late Mr Judt’s interview is  an eye opener for me. Those who disagree with his views, especially those in the United States and Israel, are welcome to challenge his take on Israeli-Palestinian relations.–Din Merican

Tony Judt’s Final Word on Israel

by Merav Michaeli

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/09/tony-judts-final-word-on-israel/245051/

In this interview just before his death last year (2010), the historian discusses his controversial views on Israel, the country’s future, and a life of disputation

In this undated photo released by New York University, NYU professor Tony Jundt is shown. A New York University spokesman says Judt died Friday night, Aug. 7, 2010, due to complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He was 62. (AP Photo/Photo Provided by NYU) NO SALES

In July 6, 2010, one month to the day before his death, I sat down with the British historian Tony Judt in his New York study to film an interview. He was positioned in a special bed in which he spent much of his time, completely immobilized by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The interview was part of a larger film project, with director Gaylen Ross, about Israel and the U.S. and American Jewry. It was, for me, a profound and deeply personal conversation.

Despite his illness, Judt agreed to let me interview him over email as well. What follows here is our lengthy conversation, conducted over several emails. As an Israeli who is deeply distressed by the state of my country, and as a journalist who feels more and more helpless in trying to bring change through my work, I felt a strong intellectual and emotional propinquity to Judt. We share similar views and perspectives about Israel. Between the two of us, he was the grown-up , he was the celebrated historian; I admit I was hoping for answers.

Before I left the filmed interview, I asked Judt how he would act, and what he would do, if he were today an Israeli Jew, teaching at Tel Aviv University, thinking the way he does, publishing the things he writes?

 “I don’t think I would have done anything different from what you and my other colleagues from Haaretz and academia are doing” he said, “History always happens to us and nothing ever stays the same.” And then I had to go.

A year has now passed. Israel is enduring a social upheaval that gives some hope for change, but its relationship with Turkey and Egypt are in severe crisis, the Palestinians are working on a unilateral independence declaration to present at the UN, and former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called Prime Minister Netanyahu an ungrateful ally to the U.S. and a danger to Israel. Reading Judt’s words in light of the events, feels like reading a chilling prophecy. Our exchange started about two weeks following Israel’s controversial raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

Israeli tanks maneuver in Israel near Gaza border

How do you see Israel’s actions in the Flotilla affair?

The characterization that comes to mind is “autistic.” Israel behaved in a way that suggests it is no longer fully able to estimate, assess or understand the way other people think about it. Even if you supported the blockade (I don’t) this would be an almost exemplary case of shooting oneself in a painful part of the anatomy.

Firstly because it alienates Turkey, who Israel needs in the longer run. Secondly because it was undertaken in international waters and largely at the expense of civilian victims. Thirdly because it was an overreaction. Fourthly because it had the predictable effect of weakening the case for a blockade rather than strengthening it.

In short, this is the action of a country which is fast losing touch with reality.

The raid on the flotilla was far from being the worst of Israel’s behavior over 40 years of occupation, yet the international response to it was the most grievous. Why do you think that is?

I agree. But what happens in small West Bank towns, in the Israeli Parliament, in Gazan schools or in Lebanese farms is invisible to the world. And Israel was always very good at presenting the argument from “self-defense” even when it was absurd. I think that Israel’s successful defiance of international law for so long has made Jerusalem blind and deaf to the seriousness with which the rest of the world takes the matter.

“The identification of Israel with Auschwitz (and of its enemies with Nazism) is not only obscene, but self-defeating”

Finally there is the question of cumulation. From the Six Day War to Lebanon, from Lebanon to the settlements, from the settlements to Gaza, Israel’s credibility has steadily fallen – even as the world’s distance from Auschwitz (the favorite excuse) has lengthened. So Israel is far more vulnerable today than it would have been twenty five years ago.

What do you tell those who say Israel has willingly withdrawn from Gaza and everything that has happened since proves the Israeli claim that there’s no partner for an agreement?

I tell them that they are talking nonsense, or else prevarication. Israel withdrew from Gaza but has put it under a punishment regime comparable to nothing else in the world. That is not withdrawal. And of course we all know that there are those who would like to give Palestinians “independence” but exclude Gaza from the privilege. That too was part of the purpose of the withdrawal.

Mideast-Israel-Palest_Horo-21

There is a partner. It may not be very nice and it may not be very easy. It’s called Hamas. In the same way the provisional [Irish Republican Army] was the only realistic “partner for peace” with whom London could negotiate; Nelson Mandela (a “terrorist” for the Afrikaaners until his release) was the only realistic “partner for peace”; the same was true of “that terrorist” ([according to Winston] Churchill) Gandhi; the well-known “murderous terrorist” Jomo Kenyatta with whom London fought a murderous war for five years before he became “a great statesman”; not to mention Algeria. The irony is that Washington knows this perfectly well and expects negotiations with Hamas within five years. After all, Israel virtually invented Hamas in the hope of undermining the PLO; well, they succeeded. But they are the only ones who can’t see what has to happen.

You advocated for a binational state. What does your binational state look like? How does it work?

I don’t know. What I do know is that since I wrote that in 2003, everyone from Moshe Arens through Barak to Olmert has admitted that Israel is on the way to a single state with a potential Arab majority in Bantustans unless something happens fast. That’s all that I said in my essay.

But ok, since it looks as though Israel is determined to give itself this future, what will it look like? Hell. But what could it look like? Well, there could be a federal state of two autonomous communities — on the Swiss or Belgian model (don’t tell me the latter doesn’t work — it works very well but is opposed by Flemings led by people very much like [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman). This could have crossover privileges and rights for both communities, but each would be autonomous. I think this would work better than a mixed single-state, and it would allow each community to set certain sorts of religious and other regulations according to its taste.

If it could look so good, why would it be hell?

Because it would start from a very bad place. It would begin with Jews running the place in the name of a Jewish state, defined by Orthodox Rabbis and controlled by an army whose officer core is increasingly permeated by religious and settler communities. No Arab would feel remotely safe, much less equal or a citizen in such a “single state”. The Arabs’ lack of property, rights, status and prospects would either make them a sullen and potentially violent underclass or else the best of them would try to leave. This is no good basis for integration, though it is of course what some of Israel’s present leaders privately desire. And then there would be Gaza…

And if Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also recognize that Israel is on its way to a single state with an Arab majority, why do you think they aren’t doing what needs to be done?

Of Barak I will not speak. He is now a senior minister in what I regard as close to a neo-fascist government. If he has chosen that direction, then obviously he has no interesting or ethically defensible plans of his own. He is an object of contempt in my eyes.

Olmert, who seems to have reached my conclusions by his own path, suffers from being a typical tactician, and lacking strategic vision or political courage. He is not as bad as Shimon Peres in this and other respects — Peres seems to me the most disappointing and in some ways damaging politician in Israel’s history — but he will not stand up to the soldiers or the settlers or the rabbis and therefore he is not interesting as a candidate for real change.

In such a state, Jews would soon be a minority. Doesn’t that frighten you?

Not as much as it seems to frighten others. Why is it ok for a Jewish minority to dominate an Arab majority, its leaders to call for expulsions of majority members, etc., but not ok for a democracy to have a majority and minority both protected under law? At least Israel could then call itself a democracy with a clear conscience.

What you are really asking is whether I think the Palestinians would immediately set out to rape, pillage and murder the Jews? I don’t see why they would want to — there is no historical record suggesting that this is what Palestinians do for fun, whereas we have all too much evidence that Israelis persecute Palestinians for no good reason. If I were an Arab, I would be more afraid of living in a state with Jews just now.

Can you see or understand why Israelis are afraid?

Yes, but only in the sense that someone who has been brought up to fear and hate his neighbors will have good reason to be frightened at the thought of living in the same house with them. Israelis have created a generation of young Palestinians who hate them and will never forgive them and that does make a real problem for any future agreement, single- or two-state.

But Israel should be much, much more afraid of the Israel it’s creating for itself: a semi-democratic, demagogic, far-right warrior state dominated by racist Russians and crazed rabbis. In this perspective, an internationally policed and guaranteed federal state of Israel, with the same rights and resources for Jews and Arabs, looks a lot less frightening to me.

Can you see why American Jews are fearful as well of that?

No. This is the fear of the paranoid hysteric – like the man at the dinner table in the story I wrote in the New York Review who had never been to Israel but thought I should stop criticizing it because “We Jews might need it sometime.” American Jews — most of whom know nothing of Jewish history, Jewish languages or Jewish religion — feel “Jewish” by identifying unthinkingly with Auschwitz as the source of their special victim status and “Israel” as their insurance policy and macho other. I find this contemptible — they are quite happy to see Arabs killed in their name, so long as other Jews do it. That’s not fear, that is something between surrogate nationalism and moral indifference.

In your 2003 essay “Israel: the Alternative” you wrote that Israel was an anachronism. Writers in Israel were asking why you didn’t offer France and Germany to give up this anachronistic model first?

Oh, come on! I did not say that nation-states were past their use-by date. I said that ethnically driven versions were. There is nothing in the constitutions of France or Germany that creates second-class citizens defined by religion, ethnicity or parenthood. There is nothing there defining who can and who cannot have certain jobs, live in certain places or marry certain people. If Israel looked like France or Germany in these respects, it would be a better place. By the way, until Germany gave up its 1913 law regarding citizenship defined by descent, I wrote very critically about it. But Israeli commentators would not know that — they are fixated on their own obsessions.

In that essay, your portrayal of Europe seems somewhat idealized. Do you still think that “Christian Europe” is part of the past and that their evolving minority problem is indeed marginal?

I don’t think I said that the minority problem was “marginal”. Nor do I want to idealize Europe. I have written elsewhere that the failure of Europeans to welcome Turkey into the EU is a catastrophe — for Turkey, for democratic Muslims everywhere, and for integration back in Europe itself. But once again, my Israeli critics don’t read about anything else so they would not know my positions on this. If Europe fails to address the fact that most of its new members (excepting Poland) will be and are either secular, post-Christian, or Muslim in makeup, it will face a hard future.

And how do you see Europe’s future, will it accept Islam and Muslims as an organic part of it?

A complicated question. There is no one Europe on this issue — unlike institutions or regulations, religion varies hugely. Some parts of Europe, mostly Western but not only, are virtually de-Christianised. There — e.g. in England or parts of France or parts of Scandinavia — the problem is re-introducing religion and religious identification into secular societies. Thus in Holland the anti-immigration party emphasizes its own tolerance compared with the intolerance of Islam.

Elsewhere, e.g. in Poland or parts of Italy, people are still actively Catholic. Paradoxically, this makes them more sympathetic to Islamic institutions — priests and imams working together, etc. — but averse to excessive dilution of their historic dominance.

“I suspect that in decades to come America (the new Rome) will abandon Israel”

The other problem is that most young Muslims are not Muslim (the same is true for almost all Bosnian Muslims). That is, they are as secular in fact as their white schoolmates. But because it is convenient for governments and administrators to classify them as Muslim, they often become so out of resentment. Thus there are many more “Muslims” in Europe than actually belong to a Mosque or practice Islam. They would be better identified by their point of origin — Surinamese, Algerian, Senegalese, etc. — than by religion. But European censuses don’t allow for that.

The biggest impediment to integrating Muslims (real or imagined) to European societies is the loud rejection of Turkey. It says very clearly that European leaders think not in terms of democracy (else why allow Croatia to apply), nor corruption (otherwise Greece would not be a member) but religious tags: Turkey is mostly low practicing by Muslim standards, but it is unquestionably overwhelmingly Muslim. Its unacceptability to Germany or France is a big, big mistake — all across Europe it sends a message to the Muslim community: “you are not part of us”.

Conclusion: on this score I am very pessimistic about Europe’s prospects.

Do Jews still need a Jewish state, a haven from the world? Or is it a changed world in which it isn’t necessary any more?

Some think they do, some think they don’t. Israel would never have happened if it weren’t for Hitler and keeping the fear of Hitler alive is part of what fuels ultra-Zionism. But the whole thing is a complete mystery to most of the rest of the world. To be sure, there is anti-Semitism everywhere. But even if we ignore the unquestionable fact that some of it is driven by Israel’s behavior, it doesn’t diminish just because there is a Jewish state and we have no reason to believe that Israel is a barrier to prejudice anywhere else.

The world has changed since 1939. But Israel is a fact and there is no point debating whether it should exist. However, like many, many Jews outside of Israel, I feel a declining sense of identification with the place: its behavior, its culture, its politics, its insularity, its prejudices have nothing to do with being Jewish for me and I know that is especially true of younger Jews, excepting ultra-religious ones. So even if things went wrong for Jews today, I don’t think most of us would want to go and live in Israel.

You lived in Israel for about two years in all. Why did you choose to build your life elsewhere?

I found the place rather stifling. I think you have to be a very deep believer in the Zionist objective, or else a Jew for whom the presence of other Jews is absolutely crucial in your life. Otherwise the downsides of Israel — its parochialism, its self-obsession, its resort to violence as a first solution to everything: all of these are far too much to bear.

I think that perhaps I was there at an odd time. On the one hand everyone was quite optimistic and rather left-leaning in my world, and the treatment of Israel’s own Arabs was largely invisible to me; on the other hand it was a very small place in which people seemed concerned with very small things — or else they lived mentally in Europe and never really accepted the terms of life in a small Middle Eastern country that would sooner or later have to stop beating its neighbours and find a way to respect them as equals.

Finally I believe I got frustrated with my friends and colleagues who told me to abandon my academic plans (Cambridge, etc.) and help build Zion. Even in 1966 this seemed to me simply silly: reproducing a collective farm in Galicia, circa 1910, in the middle of the ’60s.

How do you see the Iranian nuclear threat to Israel today?

Why are we so obsessed by this? If Iran attacked Israel with a nuclear weapon, the U.S. and Israel would wipe out large sections of that country. Tehran is a sophisticated place that knows this perfectly well. Most Iranians I know think that their president’s obscene rhetoric is diversionary — a way to sell himself as the spokesman for the Muslim “street”. They don’t like it and they don’t back it. But they are proud and don’t like being told that they alone in the neighborhood can’t have nuclear autonomy: they are surrounded by nuclear powers (India, Pakistan, Russia and Israel, not to mention the American fleet). Why should they not feel paranoid? The nuclear threat to Tehran is far greater than the nuclear threat to Tel Aviv.

No one I know in Washington seriously believes that Iran is about to nuke Israel. They are far more worried that Israel is working up this implausible scenario as an excuse for another diversionary war.

There are good reasons to discourage Iran from a nuclear capacity – but the existential threat to Israel is not one of them.

Should Israel attack?

BenjaminNetanyahu

Only if it wants to destroy forever its credibility as a stable member of the community of legitimate states. We all know perfectly well that such an attack would have a limited impact on Iran’s long term plans, but would solidify support for it globally while forever alienating Israel from the world. That seems a pretty lousy deal for Israel.

Iran is a Shi’ite state, which hates the Taliban and is good friends with countries we need, like China and Turkey. Israel should be secretly and eventually publicly trying to get back on good terms with it. In the larger scheme of things, it is pretty incredible that Israel has deliberately set out to alienate those few Muslim lands which have a real interest in being friends with it.

 The worst consequence of an attack on Iran — an extreme form of Israel’s foolishness hitherto — would be the final alienation of American sympathy. Already major military figures like [David] Petraeus have gone on record as seeing Israel as a “strategic liability.” Attack Iran and Israel becomes an intolerable burden upon America’s increasingly fragile role in the world. This would be a very big mistake to make.

Why do you think Israel, as a state, still hasn’t gotten over its existential fears, over its self-concept as “victim?”

Obviously it has not. But it has gone from genuinely believing itself to be threatened to exploiting that “threat” to serve unworthy and foolish goals. As a result, no one outside Israel takes seriously the threat to its existence, which is bad for Israel should such a threat ever arise. The identification of Israel with Auschwitz (and of its enemies with Nazism) is not only obscene, but self-defeating. Until 1967 it was semi-plausible, despite running counter to the equally self-serving image of “macho Jews” who would never “go like sheep to the slaughter.” Since 1967 it is a ridiculous claim and looks it.

In your view, in the bigger picture, what is Israel’s role and place in the history of the Jewish people?

My first response is that of Zhou En Lai when he was asked what was the significance of the French Revolution and replied, “It’s too soon to tell.”

Another perspective, the long one, would be to say that Israel is behaving very much like the annoying little Judean state that the Romans finally dismantled in frustration. This classical analogy may be more relevant than we think. I suspect that in decades to come America (the new Rome) will abandon Israel as annoying, expensive, and a liability. This will leave Israel to its own resources or to making friends with anyone who will deal with it (as it once did with South Africa). That in turn will make it a very unpleasant place for Western liberals and democrats, who will loosen their ties with it. No doubt it will survive, but it will mean less and less to Jews elsewhere as people forget the original impulse and historical circumstances surrounding its founding.

As to the future of Jews in the diaspora, they (we) will once again be the predominant community (once again as in classical times). I think Israel will grow increasingly marginal for most Jews, though I don’t quite know what their Jewish life will look like either in a secularized world. In a way, we may be entering a new Middle Ages where the only way to preserve Jewish cultural and religious traditions will be to live in separate ghetto-like spaces (gated communities) closed off from the surrounding majority. That is already the case in parts of America.

We are now about a year into the Obama era. Is President Barack Obama “good for the Jews?” For Israel?

Barack Obama

Obama could have been good for Israel and Jews if he had followed through on his Cairo speech and original intentions. But despite expectations, he caved in to Netanyahu and is now bad for Israel in the sense that he does nothing to stop it behaving badly to its own detriment. By not following through on his appeal he let people down who had hoped for a new start. And by allowing Israel to continue with settlements, or protecting Israel at the UN, he has made more enemies in Arab lands. In that sense, the dynamic is not very different than it was before, except that the tone is more polite. And of course, his Afghanistan mess makes him look like Bush, albeit nicer. On the whole, I would say he has failed here.

After your binational state proposal, many felt the need to publicly denounce you, even famous liberals. How hard was this for you?

Not at all. Since people took to calling me “Belgian” as a synonym for “anti-Semitic European,” or “Self-Hating Jew,” I assumed that they had nothing very interesting to say. Since liberals would often say one thing to me in private but something different in public for fear of being thought “anti-Semitic”, I never much cared about their criticisms either.

On the whole I don’t mind taking a minority view: I’ve always done this. And many of the people who slapped me down for my criticisms of Israel were enthusiastic supporters of the Iraq war. So I suspect I was on the right side twice-over. The only criticisms I took seriously came from Israel, from reasonable people who had good grounds for disagreement. I suspect ground is starting to open up in America, as people gently put their heads above the parapet and risk criticizing Israel without getting shot.

In recent writing and interviews, you relate a lot to your unique sense of a limited future. How has this changed the way you see history and current politics?

I don’t think it’s changed it at all, though it may have shifted the balance of my writings and interests. I don’t think I have altered my views on history or politics, though of course given my circumstances I have to ration my contributions and try to focus on the things that either matter most or that I have the best chance of influencing.

After your binational state proposal, many felt the need to publicly denounce you, even famous liberals. How hard was this for you?

Not at all. Since people took to calling me “Belgian” as a synonym for “anti-Semitic European,” or “Self-Hating Jew,” I assumed that they had nothing very interesting to say. Since liberals would often say one thing to me in private but something different in public for fear of being thought “anti-Semitic”, I never much cared about their criticisms either.

On the whole I don’t mind taking a minority view: I’ve always done this. And many of the people who slapped me down for my criticisms of Israel were enthusiastic supporters of the Iraq war. So I suspect I was on the right side twice-over. The only criticisms I took seriously came from Israel, from reasonable people who had good grounds for disagreement. I suspect ground is starting to open up in America, as people gently put their heads above the parapet and risk criticizing Israel without getting shot.

In recent writing and interviews, you relate a lot to your unique sense of a limited future. How has this changed the way you see history and current politics?

I don’t think it’s changed it at all, though it may have shifted the balance of my writings and interests. I don’t think I have altered my views on history or politics, though of course given my circumstances I have to ration my contributions and try to focus on the things that either matter most or that I have the best chance of influencing.

Bandung 2015: A short walk but with giant steps


April 27, 2015

Bandung 2015: A short walk but with giant steps

by Martin Khor@www.thestar.com.my

Bandung 2015-2A short walk but with giant steps–Bandung 2015

(From L) Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan, China’s President Xi Jinping, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, his wife Iriana Widodo, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, his wife Rosmah Mansor, walk down the street with other Asian and African leaders during ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference in Bandung on western Java island on April 24, 2015. Bandung was the site of the landmark 1955 Asian African Conference, credited with galvanising momentum towards the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement. – AFP

Bandung 2015 is a chance to build on the cooperation among developing countries launched by Bandung 1955.

LAST Friday, I took a 10-minute walk from an old hotel to ano­­ther old building, a confe­rence hall. About 300 others were on the same walk on the warm and sunny day.

It didn’t seem anything remarkable or newsworthy. But this was no ordinary walk. Sixty years ago, on this same date, a small but powerful group of men and women took the same walk and then launched a movement that snowballed into a united anti-colonial and post–colonial battle.

We had come to commemorate and celebrate the anniversary of the Bandung conference of Asian and African leaders, all of whom had just won Independence or were on the verge of doing so.

The same grand Savoy Homann hotel was where the leaders had stayed, and they had taken the historic short walk on the Asia Africa Road to the Merdeka Building.

Leaders at Bandung 1955Leaders at Bandung, 1955

Bandung April 24, 1955, saw giants like Sukarno of Indonesia, the host, Zhou Enlai of China, Jawaharlal Nehru of India, President Gamal Ab­­del Nasser of Egypt, U Nu of Bur­ma and some leaders of Africa, coming together to discuss the need for newly independent countries to unite and fight for common interests.

They adopted the Bandung principles, that included respect for national sovereignty and self-determination, equality of all nations and abstention from use of force or exerting pressure on countries.

Bandung 1955 was the first ever meeting of the developing countries, who pledged to help other countries still under colonialism to complete their independence struggle, and to cooperate to develop their poor economies. That Bandung spirit led to the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961, and indirectly also led to the Group of 77 in 1964, the two major umbrella organisations of the developing countries.

Last Friday, political leaders from over 40 countries, led by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, and officials from international organisations walked from Savoy Hotel to Merdeka Building and took part in a brief but meaningful commemoration ceremony. Among the leaders present were the Presidents of China, Zimbabwe and Myanmar, and the Prime Ministers of Malaysia, Nepal and Egypt.

We were told the Merdeka Building had not changed, and the chairs were the same as the ones used 60 years ago. Widodo invoked the memory of the leadership and spirit of the giants of old, who had pioneered their nations’ independence and forged unity among the newly independent countries.

In a two-day Asian African summit conference in Jakarta preceding the Bandung ceremony, even more leaders were present to discuss the theme, South-South Cooperation for Peace and Prosperity.

Jokowi. IrPresident Widodo made a strong speech highlighting the continuing power inequalities and injustices in the world, in which developing countries were still struggling to get their rightful fair share in decision-making in world affairs.

Global injustice is obvious, when wealthy nations think they can change the world with their might, when the United Nations is powerless, when force is used without the mandate of the UN and powerful countries ignore the existence of the UN, he said.

Injustice exists when rich countries refuse to recognise the shifts in world economic power and only re­­­­­­­cognise the World Bank, In­ter­national Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank, he added.

“The fate of the global economy cannot be left to these three organisations, we need to build a new world order that is open to new countries. A new and fair global system is needed.”

Widodo also stressed that as the Bandung spirit demanded indepen­dence for countries, we are still indebted to the people of Palestine. “We have to struggle with them to give birth to an independent state of Palestine.”

The plight and struggle of Palesti­nians became a major issue at the Summit. It was obvious that the con­­tinuing occupation of Palestine lands and their unfulfilled fight for an independent state was a big piece of “unfinished business” of the Asian African Bandung conference.

A special declaration in support of Palestine was adopted by the conference. Two other documents adopted were the Bandung Message and the new Asia-Africa Strategic Partnership, which details the actions that are to be taken to promote more cooperation in economic, health, food security, education and other areas.

President Xi Jinping of China pledged to provide places for 100,000 students and officials in Asia and Africa for education and training in his country over five years.

He put forward several principles, including to seek common ground and be open to one another’s views, expand South-South cooperation, and the closing of the North-South gap. He also mentioned the new Chinese initiatives of setting up the Asian Infrastructure Investment bank as well as a new fund to finance the activities of the Economic Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road.

These initiatives by China were a reminder that with the growing wealth of China and some other emerging economies, there is now a real possibility for the developing countries to help one another in financing their own development.

A new trend in South-South ga­­therings is that criticism of the ways of the West in dominating the South is now combined with announcements of how the developing countries are organising various ways to rely more on one another, including creating new institutions.

In a speech representing the South Centre, I mentioned that we support the call by the Indonesian president to establish a new world order where the developing countries have an equal say and enjoy their fair share of the benefits.

In this new and more equitable world order, the developing countries will be able to contribute to the solutions to the multiple crises of global finance and economy, food security, unfulfilled social development, energy and climate change.

The developed countries will change their unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, and assist the developing countries through financial resources and technology transfer to embark on new sustainable development pathways.

South-South cooperation, based on solidarity and mutual benefits, will play an increasingly important role. There is much to be done politically and concretely in this area.

Bandung 1955 was a landmark event that launched many good developments for the newly independent countries.Bandung 2015 could also prove to be a landmark event that catalyses further breakthroughs in South-South cooperation which, together with our better performance in multilateral relations, will implement the building of the new world order that our first generation of leaders were dreaming of.

As the Jakarta and Bandung events came to a close, Indonesian officials indicated that they will be undertaking follow-up actions after the Summit. It is important that concrete programmes are formulated, so that the good-intentioned declarations do not remain only on paper but spark new shoots of South-South cooperation.

Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre, a research centre of 51 developing countries, based in Geneva. You can e-mail him at director@southcentre.org. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

The ASEAN Non-Alignment Option


April 25, 2015

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: The ASEAN Non-Alignment Option

by John Teo@www.nst.com.my

AS the annual ASEAN Summit opens in Kuala Lumpur this weekend, there is a certain sense ofASEAN Summit KL 2015 foreboding about where the world is headed and ASEAN — which is often described as the most successful regional grouping in the developing world — along with it. This comes on the heels of the commemorative Afro-Asian Summit that Indonesia just hosted. It is a throw-back to the era of Sukarno, when the country’s first President fancied his country (and himself) a leading light of the emerging “Third” World.

A newly democratising Indonesia must now look towards the future. And, that future surely means ASEAN retaining its centrality in the wider region, with Indonesia as its natural “first among equals”, propelling ASEAN’s economic dynamism to a higher plane, so it remains the fulcrum through which critical regional issues are coursed.

ASEAN must zealously safeguard its position as a critical region in an increasingly critical part of the world, where the interests of rising and existing global superpowers may soon intersect. Nobody now questions the rise of China, and while whether the United States is on a trajectory towards absolute decline is still debated on, there is also no question that China’s rise has already meant the relative decline of US global influence. It is absolutely crucial that ASEAN plays right this coming contest for regional and, indeed, global influence between China and the US.

Obama and XiThe two global giants seem determined to make everyone else choose, so there will likely be no easy middle path that traditionally is how ASEAN saves its own skin to live another day. It has been successful till now by taking this default position and it seems still a good position going forward, if ASEAN can negotiate the tricky tightrope. The eye-watering sums in the region of US$50 billion (RM181 billion) that China has just announced it will channel to strategic, but violence-wracked Pakistan are a foretaste of China’s increasingly unbeatable economic sway worldwide.

How much more will China be prepared to commit to an equally, if not more strategic, Southeast Asia right in its own backyard? But, if China is increasingly able and willing to buy its way into the hearts of countries the world over, will an increasingly wary and, perhaps, even insecure US — unable to match Chinese economic diplomacy — seek to throw a spanner in the works instead?

China is not gaining itself unalloyed favours with its newly expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea that overlap those of several ASEAN states, including Malaysia’s, and backing up those claims with building activities that create new facts in the disputed sea. In so doing, China may have already succeeded in driving a wedge into the very heart of ASEAN, making its maritime territorial contests a diplomatic minefield that every succeeding ASEAN chairman must delicately negotiate at each summit meeting.

ASEAN will do itself no favours either if it falls one way or the other for the equally delicate dance for influence that the US and China are performing and trying to get ASEAN, or bits of it, to join in lock-step. Ironically, diplomatic non-alignment — the by-product of Afro-Asian solidarity — may have fallen by the wayside with the end of the Cold War, but its spirit may yet prove rather useful now for ASEAN in the opposing offensives that both China and the US deploy to gain friends. Seeking cover under “international” rules and norms may be a safe default position for ASEAN under normal circumstances, but we cannot be under any illusion that global rules are written by powerful nations, usually after victories in wars. The US flouts such rules when it suited the country — even when those rules were largely written at its behest — so rules apply to lesser countries and not necessarily the powerful ones, such as China.

Huge White, the Australian strategic thinker, arguing for the US to “share power” in the region with China in his book, The China Choice, writes that China has willingly accepted US primacy in this region “for as long as Beijing believes that it works for China, and no longer”. He further argues that as China’s rise reaches a tipping point, preserving US regional primacy becomes increasingly untenable. Until and unless such Sino-American strategic “rebalancing” happens, ASEAN’s best policy should remain with its time-tested hedging. Thus, while high-principled clarity out of this latest ASEAN Summit on dealings with the major powers may make its unsurprising appearance, the muddied waters of the South China Sea may not become clearer soon.

The writer is a Kuching-based journalist

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The Trial of Henry Kissinger–by Christopher Hitchens


April 23, 2015

The Trial of Henry Kissinger–by Christopher Hitchens

I have just finished re-reading the late Christopher Hitchens’ book, The Trial of Henry Kissinger and have come to conclusion that it is time for Americans to call for an investigation of Mr. Kissinger’s activities when he was National Security Adviser and US Secretary of State. He is the last of the quartet (Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew and Attorney-General John Mitchell and Kissinger himself) who remains free. Mr. Kissinger must be held to account.  Listen this debate on the subject.–Din Merican

26th ASEAN Summit hosted by Malaysia is a logistical nightmare


April 22, 2015

Published: Wednesday April 22, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday April 22, 2015 MYT 7:20:00 AM

26th ASEAN Summit hosted by Malaysia is a logistical nightmare

by S Paul

ASEAN SUMMIT KE-26I READ with concern the report “Tale of two locations at this ASEAN Summit” (The Star, April 21). [Read http://www.thestar.com.my/Opinion/Columnists/Mergawati/Profile/Articles/2015/04/21/Tale-of-two-locations-at-this-Asean-summit/ ]

Malaysia is playing host to the 26th ASEAN Summit this weekend. All the previous 25 ASEAN AnifahAman2summits were held in one location but Malaysia has chosen to be different. The said meeting will be held both in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi, which is giving everyone a massive headache.

In these trying times, the Government has time and again pleaded with the rakyat to be frugal and advised us to spend prudently. At the same time, the Government should “walk the talk”. Hence, I cannot understand why the Foreign Affairs Ministry has chosen to incur unnecessary expenditure not only for its officials but also the members of the other ASEAN delegations, media personnel and the ASEAN Secretariat personnel.

 Mind you, some 3,000 officials and secretariat staff will be involved in the summit so one can imagine the cost, as well as the inconvenience, in moving from one location to another. The Foreign Ministry owes the rakyat an explanation.
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