Malaysia Employs the Jewish Bogey to Explain Demonstrations

Malaysia's ugly propensity to employ anti-antisemitism to explain away difficulties is again on display.

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Amiel Ungar, | updated: 22:18

Mahathir Mohamad
Mahathir Mohamad

It used to be that the phrase anti-Semitism without Jews was most appropriate to Eastern Europe whose Jewish communities had been decimated during the Holocaust. However, these countries have a Jewish history and retain a minute Jewish population.

Countries such as Malaysia have a better claim to the title as they have no Jewish communities . Yet Malaysia has an unfortunate history  of blaming its difficulties on Jewish influence.

Malaysia's government is still reeling from the July 9 march of 20,000 people in the capital of Kuala Lumpur and the police overreaction. The opposition march was in favor of greater transparency and the reduction of fraud in the electoral process.

Now the culprit behind the demonstration has been found. Utusan Malaysia, a journal of the ruling party in the Malay language aimed at the rural population, editorialized that Malaysians "cannot allow anyone, especially the Jews, to interfere secretly in this country's business," AP's correspondent reported.

The paper went on and claimed that "When the drums are pounded hard in the name of human rights, the pro-Jewish people will have their best opportunity to interfere in any Islamic country." Opposition spokespersons termed the charges "nonsense and in bad taste."

The attacks on the Jews, come at a time when the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, and his Foreign Minister are meeting with the Pope and the Vatican in an effort to smooth over relations.  A dispute in 2009 over the use of the word Allah, that means the deity in Malay, led to the burning of churches and retaliation by non-Moslems who laid pigs at the entrance to mosques.

The Muslims claim that the use of the word by Christians is an attempt to deceive the believers and therefore the word should only be employed by Moslems. Although a supreme court decision allowed the use of the term by other religions, intimidation tactics forced the court to recant its decision.

The political use of anti-Semitism goes back to the time of former Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. In 1997 when the Malaysian currency the ringgit was under pressure, Mohamad accused Jews of trying to block the development of his predominantly Muslim nation by sabotaging its currency.It was the "Jews who determine our currency levels, and bring about the collapse of our economy." 

 In 2003 shortly before leaving office Mahathir told the Islamic Conference meeting in Malaysia.

"The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them."

It would offer some consolation if the anti-Semitism was limited to the ruling government. Anwar Ibrahim, an opposition leader, once lauded in the West, and himself the victim of trumped up charges, has used anti-Semitism to attack the government.

Prior to the 2008 elections he accused the Malaysian government of backing the Jewish lobby in the United States and certain parties inside Israel. When Mr. Razak hired an American PR firm that also represents an Israeli company, this was proof enough for Mister Abraham that Israel had penetrated Malaysia's government and security services.