Malaysiakini
OPINIONS

Anti-Semitism and mainstream Malay politics

S Thayaparan

Published
Modified 17 Feb 2018, 6:29 am

“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 | David Roet who led the Israeli delegation to a United Nations event in Kuala Lumpur – the first in 50-something odd years – had this to say about Malaysia - “I have great hopes for good relations between our two countries in the future”, adding that he had found “many similarities between Israelis and Malaysians. A multifaceted society of people from different backgrounds working together for a better future.”

Even though Malaysia was a “tough nut to crack”, I give credit to the Najib administration for sensibly following international norms - not to mention, UN obligations - by allowing Israel to participate in this forum even though the Foreign Ministry in a cowardly manner attempted to deflect from this obligation when confronted with the predictable bigoted rhetoric from Amanah and PKR.

Meanwhile, what does the so-called “moderate” Islamic party, Amanah, think of all of this? They want to know if Malaysia is having an “affair” with Israel. The cherry on the horse manure cake is when Amanah’s Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah said, "Or is (Prime Minister) Najib (Abdul Razak) so eager to follow in the footsteps of the Saudi Arabian government which reportedly has close ties to Israel?”

Really, Saudi Arabia? The country which has since conceded that it has intentionally supported radical Muslim groups all around the world is now the whipping boy for Islamists wanting to outdo each in domestic politics? Isn't it strange how Amanah and PAS sound so much alike?

I contend that the only challenge to the country’s dignity is having people who make stupid anti-Semitic remarks like what Amanah and PKR have done with this issue.

Anti-Semitism is mainstream in Malay politics. Anything wrong with the Muslim world is blamed on the Jews. We have hosted despotic theocratic regimes. We have welcomed religious tyrants. We have courted religious fanatics. We have embraced religious extremists who mock the religions of the non-Muslims in this country.

Yet when the only real democracy in the Middle East comes a calling, the Islamists use it as a weapon against Malay power structures in an attempt to appear “more Islamic” than their brethren.

While axiomatic, I will nonetheless draw a distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Muslims and Jews, depending on their ideological perspectives, love to conflate the two. While most "pro-Palestinian" advocates fall in the latter category, there is enough empirical evidence to suggest that when it comes to the Islamic dialectic on the Palestinian issue, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are not mutually exclusive and, of course, it gets muddier when you consider the wider geopolitical context of this issue...

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