MALAYSIA: Mr. Prime Minister, At 93, you have made history. So, it is time to rise above politics. Be a Statesman


February 17,2019

MALAYSIA: Mr. Prime Minister, At 93, you have made history. So, it is time to rise above politics. Be a Statesman

Opinion  |by  Francis Paul Siah

 

COMMENT | At least, two English dailies have carried editorials on the ills plaguing Pakatan Harapan in recent days. This is not surprising at all. It is a given that all is not well in the nine-month-old Harapan government.

Some of my fellow Malaysiakini columnists have also waded into the issue and with good reasons too. I can agree with some of their pointers.

The parties at the centre of the storm are none other than Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his fledging Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).

I am also guilty of criticising Mahathir over the past month. There were two issues I took exception to. The first was his decision to bar Israeli athletes from entering the country which ended their participation in the World Para-Swimming Championships originally scheduled to be held in Kuching this coming July.

The second was Bersatu’s intention to set up a chapter in Sabah, reneging on its pact before GE14 with Parti Warisan to not do so.

Yes, I am really disappointed with Tun Mahathir on these two fronts and I stand in total disagreement with him on these issues.

If public feedback on the social media can be taken as a yardstick, there is one which I would feedback to our Prime Minister, to inform him sincerely that his decision to bar the Israeli swimmers has triggered an international outcry. That decision has given Mahathir and Malaysia a bad Image.

My posting entitled ‘Sorry, Dr M, you don’t speak for Sarawak this time’ in the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) blog attracted a total of 31,755 unique visitors in a single day last January 28.

That was the highest number of visitors to our little NGO blog over the past eight months. Visitors were not only Malaysians but came from the US, Australia, other Asian nations, the UK and other European countries.

This is honest feedback to our Prime Minister. Many do not understand his strong anti-Semitic stand nor his inability to separate race,religion, politics from sports.

To speak from the heart, I feel bad for having to critique our Prime Minister at times and actually feel sorry for him. It’s not nice to speak unkindly of a man his age, no matter his wrongs, and especially so when I’m much younger than him. Guess we are only fallible humans.

This week, I sent this message to my WhatsApp list of friends: “I have been criticising Dr M in recent days so much so that I feel malu having to keep on hammering the grand old man. I am thinking of penning another piece to be titled ‘If I were Dr Mahathir today at 94 …’. Tell me what would you do if you were in his shoes at 94 today?”

Here are some of their responses. Let them be feedback to our Prime Minister for what they are worth.

Be a statesman

  • Tun Mahathir should forget politics. He is not seeking re-election. Concentrate on running the country and turn the economy around. At 94, time is not on his side. So, better hurry. When he is gone, nobody will remember him or his legacy. But the country must be in good hands. Be a statesman, not a politician. Act on a bold vision that the nation will rise to eschew narrow racial politics.
  • Malaysia will be in trouble if Mahathir harbours these three myths:
  • 1. I set the direction, my son will carry on; 2 The Malays are incorrigible ; but I must save them at whatever cost; and  3. Islam  and Muslims/Malays mustremain dominant in Malaysia forever.
  • First of all, I sympathise with Mahathir that he is running a Harapan government that is weak and saddled with a huge debt from the previous regime.
  • These cannot be resolved in three years. Meantime, the people, rural folk, in particular, are suffering from the high cost of living. Unemployment is a serious threat from belt-tightening. During the three years of rough journey to reform the sociopolitical imbroglio, whoever is the PM has to persuade the people to swallow their bitter medicine that will do good later. So you need to wish that Dr M is blessed with good health to continue what he set out to do for the sake of the nation.
  • Mahathir has to concede that Malaysia is in a dire state of decline in living standards. He has to move quickly to arrest that. This is a monumental challenge for any leader and it is incumbent upon Mahathir, as the Pprime minister, to do the job.
  • Put Najib behind bars first. Then bring in the rule of law […] if I were him.
  • Tun Mahathir is an extraordinary man. Not many will live up to 94. If I were him, I would take a break and relax.. I bet he is not aware there is a more beautiful and wholesome life out there, away from power and politics.
  • You should be awarded the “Nobel P***k Prize” for badgering Dr Mahathir. I like him. He is doing his best for the country. Please accord him more respect.

No more pussyfooting

So what is my own take “if I were Dr Mahathir today”? The first thing I would do is to stay far, far away from politics, resign as Bersatu chairperson and allow Muhyiddin Yassin and Mukhriz Mahathir to run the show.

I would not worry about my son’s ascension on the political hierarchy. I should know that the Mahathir name alone would carry my next few generations very well and ensure a bright future for them.

I would also stop meeting former UMNO lawmakers, including those from PAS. I would avoid them like the plague. I should know that when they want to meet me, they expect something. There is nothing such “parasites” could bring to the table to help Harapan improve anything in the country.

I would reshuffle my cabinet. The under-performing ministers should go. Nine months is enough time for them to prove themselves. By now, I should know that some are just not minister-material. A spring cleaning is in order.

I would stop antagonising my Harapan colleagues and start listening to their concerns about accepting ex-UMNO parasites. Saying that they have changed sounds so shallow and feeble. So is telling Shafie Apdal that Bersatu is going to Sabah to help him and Warisan. I should be aware that those statements sounded hollow, childish even.

I would make sure that my promise to Anwar Ibrahim to pass the baton to him two years after Harapan’s victory is fulfilled. No more pussyfooting around on this.My friend is right. Mahathir must stop being a politician. He has to be a statesman.

That is what many would want our current paramount leader to be. Even those of us who have criticised him would badly want him to succeed for the sake of the nation and the people as he enters the final lap of his illustrious political career.

May the One Above continue to bless our dear Dr Mahathir with good health and we all wish him many, many happy years ahead!


FRANCIS PAUL SIAH head the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

7, 2019

 

Mahathir’s way vs Mandela’s


January 31, 2019

Mahathir’s way vs Mandela’s

www,freemalaysiatoday.com
Image result for Mahathir and Mandela
Sport, Foreign Policy and Politics
Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in ways little else does. It speaks to youths in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”–Nelson’ Madiba’ Mandela

 

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has been Malaysia’s most inspiring politician since he led an unlikely coalition of opposition parties to defeat the previously all-powerful Barisan Nasional coalition in the country’s 14th general election.

Image result for mahathir and mandela

 

It was a triumphant return for the 93-year-old ex-Prime Minister with a reputation of having his own way, more so with revelations he croons to the Frank Sinatra classic “My Way”.

Five years after his death, Nelson Mandela remains South Africa’s most inspiring politician. It had been so from the moment he was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment as a 44-year-old freedom fighter in 1962. On May 10, 1994, four years after his release, the 78-year-old anti-apartheid icon became the first black to be elected president in South Africa’s first  democratic election.

One issue the hard-hitting Mahathir has revived since becoming Prime Minister again is Israel and the Jews. In a BBC interview last October, he was unsurprisingly unapologetic in calling the Jews “hook-nosed”, among other criticisms of the Jewish state and people. Various foreign governments and international human rights groups have condemned his “decades-long record of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories”.

In recent weeks, the issue re-surfaced with Mahathir behind Malaysia’s decision to bar Israel and its athletes from participating in the 9th World Para Swimming Championships, which Sarawak successfully won the bid to host in July. This week, the International Paralympic Committee stripped Malaysia of the right to host the world event due to Putrajaya’s decision to bar Israel’s participation.

Nearly 25 years ago, Mandela faced quite a similar dilemma, albeit of a much bigger scale. Before he came to power, the all-white South African government had already won the bid to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup. The new President had less than 12 months to act before the event started. The whites in South Africa loved rugby as much as the blacks hated it. The green jersey of the Springboks – the national team – was a hated symbol of apartheid repression to the blacks. They cheered when the international sports community boycotted South Africa. Every foreign team received their undivided support when it played against the Springboks.

In that environment, Mandela, the man incarcerated for 27 years for his stubborn resistance to Apartheid, made the startling decision to embrace the Springboks. He was booed when he first tried to persuade the majority blacks to join him. The minority whites and most of the players were uncomfortable. But Mandela persisted in his campaign to get the divided nation to rally behind their national team which traveled around the country to introduce the game to children in poverty-stricken black townships.

In the month-long tournament, the unfancied but inspired Springboks went all the way to qualify for the final against rugby powerhouse New Zealand. The whole country was in a frenzy. Before the match started, Mandela walked down to the field wearing the green team jersey and cap to greet the players. The 65,000-crowd of mostly white South Africans was stunned in disbelief but moments later erupted into chants of “Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!”

The underdogs won 15-12. One anti-apartheid veteran described the scene when Mandela finally handed the World Cup to white Springboks captain Francois Pienaar: “There wasn’t a dry eye in the stadium. There wasn’t a dry eye in the country. Everybody celebrated. Every black township, every white suburb: One country at last!”

The historic episode also inspired the critically acclaimed movie “Invictus”.

A year after his retirement from politics, Mandela himself gave an explanation which is worth quoting in full:

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in ways little else does. It speaks to youths in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”

Peter Raja is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

Malaysia and Israel


January 29, 2019

Malaysia and Israel

by Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad

Image result for malaysia and israel

 

1. Malaysia does not recognise Israel; has no diplomatic relation with it, does not allow Malaysians to visit Israel and does not allow Israelis to visit Malaysia.

2. This is the only country in the world that Malaysia treats in this manner.

3. In the first place Israel was created from a slice of Palestinian land, without a referendum or a plebiscite being held.  The Palestinians were expelled from Palestine without any compensation for the land and homes seized by the Israelis.

4. Then Israel seized more Palestinian land so that Israel became bigger. The Israelis then built numerous settlements on Palestinian land without the consent of the Palestinian nation. Palestinians are barred from these settlements.

5. When the Palestinians resisted and threw stones at Israeli tanks and armoured cars, the Israeli soldiers fired live bullets at the Palestinian children and arrested many of them.  The arrested people were detained for years without trial.

6. The detainees were used to exchange with Israeli soldiers captured by the Palestinians.

7. The Gaza strip is blockaded by Israeli forces.  Relief ships carrying food, medicine and building materials were siezed in international waters and forced to go to Israel. In one incident 10 activists were killed.  These acts by the Israelis is blatantly against international laws.

8. When the Palestinians fired futile rockets at Israel, the Israelis dropped bombs and fired missiles at Palestinian towns and villages.  Schools and hospitals were destroyed, patients and children killed or maimed.

9. The blockade of Gaza is illegal but no country has condemned Israel for breaking international laws and moral codes.

10. Today Israel declares that Jerusalem is its capital.  When Palestinian slapped Israelis soldiers, they were shot and killed and many were detained.

11. A high wall has been built to divide Palestinian villages and towns. Palestinians cannot visit relatives without being subjected to humiliating checks at many check-points created by the Israelis.  The Palestinians are not allowed to travel on roads built by the Israelis on Palestinian land.

12. Thousands of Palestinian have been killed or wounded through Israeli military actions.

13. The whole world can see the injustice and the oppression of the Palestinian by the Israelis.  But Israel is not even criticised by the people who talk so much about freedom from oppression and the rule of law.   Israel seems to be privileged.

14. If anyone criticises Israel or the holocaust he is immediately labelled “anti-Semitic”.  The implication is that he is inhuman or immoral.  But the blatant inhumanity of Israel is not condemned.

Image result for malaysia and myanmar

15. Malaysia is not anti-Jew or anti-Semitic. The Arabs are also Semitic people.  But we reserve the right to condemn inhuman and oppressive behaviour anywhere, by anyone.  We have condemned the Myanmar people for their treatment of the Rohingyas.  We have criticised many countries and people for inhuman acts.

16. Many people and many countries have condemned us.  But we have not been labelled nor have we labelled people who speak as a matter of right in a free world.

17. Malaysia bans two Israeli athletes – the US bans citizens of five Islamic nations and plans to build a wall against South Americans. Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic ban refugees. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban referred to Syrian refugees as “Muslim invaders.”

18. Israel is a criminal state and deserves to be condemned.  We know the strong backing for Israel.  We cannot act against Israel beyond refusing to recognise it.  We maintain we have a right to bar Israelis from our country.  When the world condemns us for this we have a right to say that the world is being hypocritical. Their talk of human rights and the rule of law is so much empty words.

19. I appeal to those who sympathise with the Palestinian cause to voice their condemnation.  Terrorism is not the answer.  A proper strategy is needed to bring justice to the Palestinians.

Know the Difference– Being Jewish and Being Zionist


January 28, 2019

Know the Difference– Being Jewish and Being Zionist

by Dr. Kua Kia Soong

www,freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for kua kia soong

At the outset, let me make it clear that as far as the Palestinian cause is concerned, I am on the same page as Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, although I cannot vouch for his consistency on all the other non-Muslim liberation causes in the rest of the world.

What is disturbing is that through the years, we have witnessed Mahathir’s deliberate refusal to make any distinction between the Jewish people and the ideology of Zionism.

This has huge consequences for how our prime minister stands on racism and racial discrimination in our own country. Those who have followed his political career will note the continuity in his ethos and it was not unexpected that he should once again create a similar rumpus recently on the international stage by conflating Jews with Zionism.

Unashamedly racist paradigm

Mahathir’s first claim to fame (or rather, notoriety) was the publication of his “Malay Dilemma” after the May 13th 1969 racial riots in Kuala Lumpur.

It was banned by the then Tunku–led government when it first appeared and Mahathir was expelled from the ruling UMNO. Apart from being an academic embarrassment because of its unashamedly racist paradigm, it was clearly “seditious” by the definition of the government-of-the-day in its undermining of sacred constitutional provisions:

…the Malays are the rightful owners of Malaya…immigrants (read non-Malay Malaysians) are guests until properly absorbed…immigrants are not truly absorbed until they have abandoned the language and culture of their past.”–Dr.Mahathir Mohamad

Mahathir’s ‘Malay Dilemma’ was an instant hit among the emergent state capitalists in UMNO who were hungry for power since it provided the instant recipe for them to rally populist support for their bid for power just before May 13, 1969. It was the time-tested recipe for opportunistic politicians to use ‘race’ as the rallying cry for political support just as Hitler’s racist polemic, “Mein Kampf” had provided the model for such a political route.

Since the demise of Hitler and his race-steeped ideology and the price paid in blood by the freedom-loving peoples of the world, racism, racial discrimination and other forms of intolerance have been outlawed in the world community by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights 1948, the International Convention on the Eradication of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) 1965 and the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) in 2001.

Although Malaysia has yet to ratify I-CERD, we are signatories to all these UN treaties.

Glad to be labelled anti-Semitic!

But why is Mahathir so recalcitrant about his blatantly racist attitude towards Jewish people as an ethnic community?

“I am glad to be labelled anti-Semitic,” Mahathir wrote in 2012 on his personal blog. “How can I be otherwise when the Jews who so often talk of the horrors they suffered during the Holocaust show the same Nazi cruelty and hard-heartedness.”

He wrote in his 1970 book “The Malay Dilemma” that “the Jews are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively.” He was not embarrassed about repeating this recently on international cable TV.

Not all Jews support Zionism

Much of Malaysians’ antipathy towards Israel can be attributed to our government’s longstanding support for the Palestinian cause. But Mahathir’s rancour extends far beyond geopolitics, spanning anti-Semitism of yesteryears including alleging international Jewish conspiracies to blaming the 1997 Asian financial crisis on a Jew, George Soros:

“The Jews rule this world by proxy,” he told the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit in 2003.

If Mahathir had studied abroad as I have, he would have come across many Jewish academics, students and politicians who are anti-Zionist activists.

 

Image result for noam chomsky

One of the most notable anti-Zionists and pro-Palestinian activists is, of course, Noam Chomsky.

One of the most notable anti-Zionists and pro-Palestinian activists is, of course, Noam Chomsky. There is even a Palestinian solidarity group called ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) based in Britain that advocates for human and civil rights, and economic and political freedom, for the Palestinian people. It opposes the current policy of Israel towards the Palestinian territories, particularly the territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and seeks a change in their political status. The membership of JfJfP is primarily made up of British Jews.

“Zionism is itself a racist nationalist movement that has had as its goal the creation and support of a Jewish national state in Palestine. Certainly, not all Jews support Zionism nor do they support Israel’s discriminatory and repressive actions against Palestinians. “–Dr.Kua Kia Soong.

More Jews live outside of Israel and not every inhabitant of Israel is Jewish; there are also many non-Jews living in Israel. Many Jews, both living in Israel and elsewhere support a Palestinian state alongside Israel as a possible solution to the conflict. In other words, not all Jews identify with Zionism and it is mischievous to conflate ‘Jews’ with ‘Israelis’ and ‘Zionists’ just as it is wrong to say that “all ethnic Chinese in Malaysia are rich” or that “all Chinese must be held responsible for the persecution of the Uighurs in Xinjiang, China”.

Likewise, Mahathir’s stereotyping of ethnic Chinese

Image result for the malay dilemma 1970

Much of Mahathir’s portrayal of Chinese Malaysians echoes his stereotypical anti-Semitic slurs. In his ‘Malay Dilemma’, Mahathir describes Malaysia’s Chinese as “predatory immigrants” who exhibit an “unlimited acquisitiveness” that threatens the “complete Sinicization of the economy.” They are mistrusted as disloyal and mercenary, enriching themselves at the expense of the country’s other communities. Has he ever shown remorse and rectified his racist thesis in the “Malay Dilemma”?

Ostensibly to “correct the racial imbalance”, the New Economic Policy has provided a carte blanche for the new Malay ruling class to amass wealth in the name of their “race”. Mahathir has justified this blatantly racist policy thus:

“The best way to keep the shares in bumiputera hands is to hand them over to the bumiputeras most capable of retaining them, which means the well-to-do.”

Today, race has been so deeply institutionalised that it is a key factor determining benefits from government development policies, bids for business contracts, education policy, social policy, cultural policy, entry into educational institutions, discounts for purchasing houses and other official policies. Practically every aspect of Malaysian life is permeated by the so-called “Bumiputera policy” based on Malay-centrism.

No wonder the time is not ripe to ratify I-CERD

In the decades since, Mahathir has continued to resort to racial chauvinism whenever popular support has ebbed, stirring anxiety about Chinese investment and immigration following disappointing electoral showings in 2008 and 2013. He castigated Najib for “giving too much to the Chinese” after the disastrous GE13 results.

The recent anti-ICERD rallies organised by UMNO and PAS have now given the prime minister the excuse to say the country is not yet ready to ratify ICERD. The real question is: Is Mahathir ready to eradicate racism, racial discrimination and related intolerances from his own mental paradigm?

As someone has said, “Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up all by itself!”

Kua Kia Soong is the adviser to Suaram.

The views of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of FMT

 
 

Malaysia is in no position to lecture Israel


January 28, 2019

 

Malaysia is in no position to lecture Israel

Opinion  |
by S Thayaparan@ www. malaysiakini.com

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.

 

An Appraisal : Amos Oz, a Writer Who Loved the Dream of Israel and Charted Its Imperfect Reality


December 28, 2018

By Gal Beckerman

 

Israel, born out of a dream, a yearning, and then forced to face, for better or worse, what reality brings, found in Amos Oz a writer who combined both the country’s essential idealism and the ability to see the cracked nature of what had been wrought.

Mr. Oz, who died on Friday at the age of 79, was Israel’s most significant cultural ambassador for nearly 50 years, perennially mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. But what he most proudly championed was modern Hebrew itself, the form of the language that Zionism revived. Mr. Oz never stopped professing an enduring love for its mongrel qualities. He thrilled at the chance to work in a tongue that had deep biblical references embedded in the root of nearly every word, but that also borrowed heavily from Yiddish, Russian, English and Arabic.

This new-old language was the perfect vehicle for the role Mr. Oz came to embody, a sort of sociologist and psychologist of the Israeli soul. “I bring up the evil spirits and record the traumas, the fantasies, the lunacies of Israeli Jews, natives and those from Central Europe,” Mr. Oz said in a 1978 interview with The Times. “I deal with their ambitions and the powderbox of self-denial and self-hatred.”

His biography suited him well for this job — he was in many ways the quintessential new Jew that Zionism had hoped to create. As a teenager, he left Jerusalem on his own, changed his last name from Klausner to Oz, which means courage in Hebrew, and moved to a kibbutz, one of the socialist farming communities where Israelis lived out their truest fantasies of cultivating themselves and the land to become robust and hearty.

Inspired by “Winesburg, Ohio,” Sherwood Anderson’s collection of realist stories about small-town life, Mr. Oz began writing in his twenties about the characters he saw around him in his kibbutz. Those stories eventually made up his first collection, “Where the Jackals Howl,” published in 1965. Anderson, he would later say, “showed me that the real world is everywhere, even in a small kibbutz. I discovered that all the secrets are the same — love, hatred, fear, loneliness — all the great and simple things of life and literature.”

As a writer, Mr. Oz kept returning to the rural, communal life of the kibbutz in a spare, modernist style that focused on the complexities of interpersonal relations, from his 1973 novel, “Elsewhere, Perhaps,” to his 2013 story collection, “Between Friends.”

But his breakthrough, both in Israel and internationally, was a far more psychological work, “My Michael,” a 1972 novel, his first book to be translated into English. It is told from the perspective of Hannah Gonen, a young woman misunderstood by, and alienated from, her husband. Mr. Oz follows her sexual obsessions, which seem to emerge from a need to be seen — creating a sort of “Madame Bovary” set against the backdrop of white Jerusalem stone. Hannah describes one moment early in her relationship with Michael, her then-boyfriend, when he unbuttoned his coat and drew her inside it to the warmth of his body: “He felt very real. So did I. I was not a figment of his thoughts, he was not a fear inside me.”

Mr. Oz’s masterpiece is his 2004 memoir, “A Tale of Love and Darkness.” It was unlike anything he had ever written, telling the story of his own coming of age in Jerusalem with precision and brutal honesty. He captured the mystical air of the city, how it was transformed with the birth of the state, his own bookish youth and his mother’s depression, which led to her suicide when Mr. Oz was 12. In the memoir, he remembers his mother telling him: “I think you will grow up to be a sort of prattling puppy dog like your father, and you’ll also be a man who is quiet and full and closed like a well in a village that has been abandoned by all its inhabitants. Like me.”

It’s an extraordinary book that will endure as one of the greatest works in modern Hebrew. In many ways, through this memoir, Mr. Oz perfected what he had tried to do again and again in his fiction — to capture the coming together of the personal and the political, with neither of the two elements suffering from the collision.

Mr. Oz’s politics defined him to the international audience he often dazzled with his metaphors to explain the conflict (“the only solution is turning the house into two smaller apartments”; “I would say that the patient, Israeli and Palestinian, is unhappily ready for surgery, while the doctors are cowards”). He became a critic of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza following the Six-Day War, and was a mainstay of the left who insistently argued, in essays and opinion pieces and speeches, that the only solution to the conflict with the Palestinians was to create two states for two peoples.

Given how he envisioned the future of his country, his voice became an increasingly marginalized one in Israel in recent years, even as his stature continued to grow around the world. The native-born, kibbutz-influenced, adamantly secular, left-leaning Israelis of European descent who dominated Israel throughout much of Mr. Oz’s life have had to make way for Sephardic and Russian Jews, and the Orthodox, putting Mr. Oz increasingly in the position of an aging lefty, a prophet with fewer people willing to listen to him in his own country.

In his last novel, “Judas,” shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, he explored, by revisiting the story of the New Testament traitor, what exactly it means to be out of step with your own society. “Anyone willing to change will always be considered a traitor by those who cannot change and are scared to death of change and don’t understand it and loathe change,” he told me when I interviewed him in 2016. He felt himself a man possessed of moral clarity but denigrated for it in a country that could not make the difficult decisions he thought were necessary.

For all his frustrations with Israeli society and its direction, he was always an optimist, a man who had gone all in on the Zionist experiment and saw no reason to believe that perfection was ever on offer.

In his final essay collection, “Dear Zealots,” published at the end of last year, he wrote that he was, “afraid of the fanaticism and the violence, which are becoming increasingly prevalent in Israel, and I am also ashamed of them.” But this didn’t get in the way of his love of Israel. “I like being Israeli. I like being a citizen of a country where there are eight and a half million prime ministers, eight and a half million prophets, eight and a half million messiahs. Each of us has our own personal formula for redemption, or at least for a solution. Everyone shouts, and few listen. It’s never boring here.”

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