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The rise of Asian countries and Israel

By Jonathan Kent
January 17 2013




Ten years ago I watched Malaysia’s then Prime Minister deliver a speech to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference that was intended to be his swansong but ended up sending him off in a storm of controversy.

Mahathir Mohammad observed that fifty years of fighting had won the Palestinians nothing, whereas the pro-Israel lobby had won the country powerful friends and invaluable backing.

But then he went on: “The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.”

As soon as Western reporters heard blanket references to ‘The Jews’ ruling the world it was game over in the international media. The echoes of thirties fascist rhetoric were too strong. Yet, in the hall, there was almost universal acceptance of Mahathir’s characterisation of the influence of ‘The Jews’.

I was reminded of the speech because with Israel poised to elect a government even more right wing than the last it’s clear it has an emerging dilemma.

For the last sixty five years Europe’s collective guilt, not just over the holocaust but over 800 years of often virulent anti-Semitism, has bolstered support for the state of Israel.

Sections of the pro-Israel lobby have become quite adept at conflating criticism of the Israeli authorities with anti-Semitism, often enraging those on the European left who want to see Israel thrive but who also want redress for the Palestinians.

But as the world’s power centre shifts Eastwards during the 21st Century it simply won’t be possible to play that card to any great effect. There is simply an almost complete absence of sensitivity in Asia, and not just amongst Muslims, to Jewish history. As Mahathir observed, the holocaust wasn’t an Asian problem, it was a European problem.

The unquestioning anti-Semitism that I found infecting Malaysia (the main ruling UMNO party sold copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in its bookshop) developed in a cultural and historical vacuum; there is, to all intents and purposes, no Jewish community in Malaysia. With no one to challenge the craziness the craziness gets accepted unthinkingly. It wasn’t just Muslims who bought into the ‘Jews ruling the world’ line – it was parroted by ethnic Chinese Buddhists, ethnic Tamil Hindus and Christians of all backgrounds just as readily.

When, in the decades to come, decisions are taken in Beijing and Delhi on Middle East policy they’ll be taken for purely pragmatic reasons. There will be none of the sense of history and responsibility felt in Europe or America.

China and India may well take Israel’s side, but if they do so it’ll be because it suits their national interests. And if their political leaders find themselves having to take sides in an intractable stand-off between Israel and the Palestinians they may see a choice between being friends with 8 million Israelis or with 1.5 Billion Muslims because it may not be possible to be friends with both.

And, should either of those rising superpowers decide that Israel’s interests conflict with their own, charges of anti-Semitism will neither register, nor influence matters one iota. Nor will protestations that Israel is a democratic island in an autocratic sea.

The pro-Israel lobby is going to have rethink and seek a solution to its current situation that will withstand the shifting sands of global power.

Originally published by Liberal Conspiracy 

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