Your resolution must never falter. No argument must lead you astray. Never listen when they tell you that Man and the animals have a common interest…we must not come to resemble him…No animal must ever live in a house or sleep in a bed, or wear clothes, or drink alcohol, or smoke tobacco, or touch money, or engage in trade.W
–Old Major to his fellow pigs in Animal Farm, by George Orwell
hat a shot in the arm. The Malaysian premier tells us that we not only control the world, but that Jews invented socialism, Communism, human rights, and democracy, “so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so they may enjoy equal rights with others.” Flattery will get you everywhere.
Dennis Prager has pointed out that anti-Semitism is the only hatred that tends to build up its target, portraying it as infinitely smart, talented, and powerful. This very public scapegoating by a national leader is serious in its own right, more so because, as Le Monde
pointed out, the audience of Islamic leaders not only refused to walk out, but wildly approved. The West can’t quite decide what to think of Mahathir Mohamad.
“Despite his anti-Semitic and anti-Western diatribes,” as International Herald Tribune reporter Thomas Fuller expressed the conventional wisdom, Mahathir is “a voice of moderation in the Muslim world [who has] spent his political career fighting religious fundamentalism and preaching tolerance and multiculturalism.”
Indeed, in the same speech Mahathir berated his fellow Muslims for letting the Industrial Revolution pass them by, while their forebears studied the Greeks and “excelled in all the fields of knowledge of their times.”
Mahathir also, significantly, questioned the widespread Muslim support for its latest weapon: “Is there no other way than to ask our young people to blow themselves up and kill people and invite the massacre of more of our own people?”
But the significance of Mahathir’s speech lies neither in its anti-Semitism, nor in the moderation that sophisticates argue was hidden behind it. In essence, the speech was a pep talk for jihad.
Look at the tension between Mahathir’s two key realizations: “Over the past 50 years of fighting in Palestine we have not achieved any result. We have in fact worsened our situation.” “It cannot be that there is no other way. 1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews.”
Mahathir correctly concludes that the Muslim war to eradicate Israel has been a dismal failure. But his solution is to use more modern tools to find a better way to accomplish the same end.
It is encouraging that Mahathir, perhaps reflecting an emerging Muslim consensus, is realizing that, after 9/11, Israel cannot be defeated by suicide bombings. This is similar to the realization after the 1948, 1967, and 1973 wars that Israel could not simply be crushed by tanks. Such realizations on the Muslim side are a sign that the war against terrorism is making progress.
What is disturbing is that it would not dawn on Mahathir or any other Muslim leader to suggest a simple alternative to the history of humiliation and defeat that he so cogently identified: stop trying to destroy Israel.
Mahathir is no modern because he assumes that it is intolerable to have five million Jews sitting on a fraction of a percent of what is claimed as part of the vast Arab and Muslim lands. It would not occur to him that 1.3 billion Muslims could live in peaceful coexistence with a handful of sovereign Jews. Instead of asking how so few Jews can best so many Muslims, why is he not asking why so few Jews bother so many Muslims?
Mahathir repeatedly bemoans the oppression and humiliation of Muslims by the West. Yet the gathering of dictators he spoke to and the ovation he received recalls, if nothing else, a meeting of the four-legged potentates portrayed in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Like the satisfied porcines in that novel, the summiteers in Malaysia blithely adopt the language of freedom and human rights. But when they talk about oppression, they mean being deprived of the right to dictate.
Those who see Mahathir as a moderate are confusing the trappings of modernization with the modernization of the mind. Muslims, including the most fundamentalist variety, would be happy to embrace a very modern device, the nuclear bomb, in the service of an aim as primitive as the caveman’s club.
Mahathir’s speech shows that the West has made progress in convincing the Muslim world that the means it employs are futile. But the speech was also a step backward in that it challenged Muslims to wage jihad with brains, not to snap out of it altogether.
The goal of the war against terrorism should be to cure the Muslim world of a form of jihad that kills us and enslaves them. The first sign that a real corner has been turned will be when Muslims start talking about living with, rather than destroying, the State of Israel.
–Editorial Page Editor Saul Singer is author of the book, Confronting Jihad: Israel’s Struggle & the World After 9/11. This piece was first published in the Jerusalem Post and is reprinted with permission.