January 28, 2019
Malaysia is in no position to lecture Israel
Published: | Modified:
“The anti-Semites who called themselves patriots introduced that new species of national feeling which consists primarily in a complete whitewash of one’s own people and a sweeping condemnation of all others.”
– Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
COMMENT | Let me get this out of the way. When people say they are not anti-Semitic but rather anti-Zionist, most of the time this is complete horse manure. The people who most often say this apply the Zionist label to all Jews, thus making the distinction irrelevant.
This is like claiming there is a difference between ketuanan Melayu and the Malay ‘race’, but ignoring the distinction and claiming that all Malays are racial and religious supremacists. Are all Malays racist? Are all Malays religious bigots just because they support politicians who pander to the lowest common denominator? Or is the situation a little more complex than that?
However, this is not the article for that conversation. This is another article – my second, I think – on mainstream anti-Semitism in our politics.
PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang back in 2012 proclaimed that his party would cooperate with the Jews, especially in the realm of trade, but rejected Zionism. He said: “Nevertheless, PAS rejects Zionism because it is a fanatical ideology of the Jew race.”
See what Hadi did there? He made a distinction, but then negated it with his insistence that race and ideology were not mutually exclusive.
I will give you another example. The organisation Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Malaysia chairperson Nazari Ismail speaks for had a huge victory – at least the Palestine Chronicle thinks it is a huge victory – last year because it got Giant to withdraw jeans that were supposedly a product of Israel, but which the hypermarket chain claimed was made in China.
Two points from the Palestine Chronicle article are worth mulling over.
The first: “BDS Malaysia stated that an officer from the Giant branch in question reported that they had returned all the stock nationwide to the supplier. Following which a manager from Giant called Nazari and stated that the supplier of the product was from China and asking BDS to end its campaign against Giant.
“The professor refused, unless Giant could prove that the original company was not of Israeli origin. Upon checking various Giant supermarkets, BDS Malaysia members found that the product was still stocked.”
And the second: “A statement was received by BDS Malaysia from a Ms Roseta, corporate affairs, GCH Retail Sdn Bhd stating that thought the product was made and imported from China, and the management was willing to remove the product from all its outlets due to its sensitive nature. She also said that she would seek further clarification from the supplier.”
Both these examples demonstrate how the Malay ruling elite and intelligentsia manipulate the discourse, claiming victimhood while propagating racist or bigoted agendas.
Boycotting products because companies are enabling or propagating certain ideas is acceptable, but boycotting all products from a country and linking all companies, products and services to a Zionist agenda is not.
Why do we even have to have this conversation? The Prime Minister of this country, on the campaign trail in Cameron Highlands, claimed that people from Israel were “crooks,” and mainstream religious dogma have claimed that the Jews are the “enemies of Islam.”
Never mind that political operatives from the Malay right have invested in companies and have had dealings with the Jewish people for decades.
Who are the crooks?
What is needed is for the average Malay – who have not even met a Jew – to feel a sense of hatred towards Jews for a conflict in the Middle East, which has been used for decades to justify all sorts of malfeasance from Islamic regimes and extremists all over the world.
Does anyone actually believe that the Malay political elite and their mouthpieces make a distinction between Zionism and Jews? I have attended many rallies by the Malay right – and let me tell you something, there is only the Malay right and far right – and none of these people has made this distinction. All of them talk about how “evil” the Jews are and how they are not to be trusted. Some have gone so far as to cite religious texts and authority.
The Malay right hates liberals, but they make an exception for Jewish liberals who criticise Israel. A couple of years ago, I was talking to a scholar who opposes the Occupation, but who also said that there were similarities (“frighteningly so, Thaya”) between the ketuanan Melayu ideology and Zionism.
Both she argued centralised race as the determining factor for political and social action. Both relied on indoctrination to marginalise the other and both perpetrated injustice through a bureaucracy riddled with dubious personalities who were content to wallow in their petty power. Of course, this is not the kind of Jewish liberal who is embraced by the Malay right.
The Pakatan Harapan grand poobah, while campaigning, served up a large spoonful from the bigoted Kool-Aid that is served up to the Malays on a daily basis. He claimed that the Najib Abdul Razak regime had allowed crooks into this country and his administration, which was the principle behind not allowing these crooks into this country.
Who were these crooks? It was David Roet (photo) who was leading the Israeli delegation for a UN event. What did the progressives fighting against the “evil” BN say at the time? They accused the Najib regime of having an “affair” with Israel.
They claimed that the Najib regime was following in the footsteps of the Saudi regime which had close ties with Israel. They mocked Najib when he said this in 2015: “This dictum, known universally in all religions as the Golden Rule, could herald the dawn of a much-needed revised relationship between Muslims and Jews.”
Of the visit and its anti-Semitic reception by the then opposition, I wrote this: “This would have been a perfect opportunity for so-called moderate Islamic parties to change the discourse even a little by highlighting the fact that Islam from the Middle East, or at least that which was perverted by petrodollars, is changing.
“They could have taken the opportunity to learn from the Israeli experience of holding their leadership accountable like how Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu is facing possible criminal charges for corruption, by highlighting the fact that a supposed enemy of Islam holds their leaders accountable to graft allegations submitted by (mostly) independent institutions.”
Instead, then, like now, what the Malay right is doing is merely reinforcing anti-Semitic narratives in an effort to maintain hegemony, while ignoring the very real consequences of such actions.
Remember, blaming the Jews for the problems of Muslims is exactly like blaming the Chinese for the social, economic and political problems of the Malay community.
Which brings us to the non-Malay component of Harapan’s anti-Semitic discourse. You will never see a non-Malay political operative speaking out against the anti-Semitism which is part of mainstream Malay politics. Why? Because to do so would expose the truth in the Hannah Arendt quote which opens this piece.
I know I am going to get into trouble for saying this, but Malaysia has not earned the right to condemn Israel. Maybe if Harapan actually delivered on its promises and slowly did away with this corrupt, bigoted system, we could be on the road to being a credible voice in the Palestinian discourse.
S. THAYAPARAN is a commander (rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.