- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2003

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan. — Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is sometimes called Asia’s Robert Mugabe. But that doesn’t do him justice. Mr. Mugabe drove his country to ruin. In 22 years at the helm, Mr. Mahathir led his southeast Asian nation to No. 17 in the world trading stakes. As the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) met for the 10th time last week in Mr. Mahathir’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur, he decided the time had come to dramatize the sad plight of backward Muslim countries. For his valedictorian speech — he retires next month — he made a shameless grab for world headlines in front of the representatives of 57 countries, including 37 heads of state and government, by denouncing world Jewry. The Jews rule the world by proxy by getting others to do their fighting, he declared. But the crux of the speech was to persuade fellow Muslims to abandon violence in pursuit of their goals. He reminded his audience Muslims had achieved squat in 50 years of fighting Israel. The time had come for Muslims and Arabs in particular to use brains, not brawn. But that got lost in the world brouhaha about his crass anti-Semitism. The mercurial Malaysian got his licks in with Christians too. Especially the European variety. They are “a cultural menace for mankind. They are determined to impose a global culture that includes the practice of free sex and sodomy. They no longer regard incest as a sin.” In fact, he was insulting Muslims and Christians more than Jews. Next to Jews, Muslims are too dumb to use their brains. Jews are people who think. Muslims, he added, hold assets worth $3 trillion. But they play no role in global decisionmaking because, he implied their brains have atrophied. Mr. Mahathir got a standing ovation. But no one knows whether they were applauding his cheap shots against Jews, or his aspersions against his fellow Muslims. Last June, he triggered the opprobrium of Americans, Brits and Australians when he said they were proponents of “war, sodomy and genocide.” And eight years ago, when the time came to dump his ambitious heir apparent, the hapless Anwar Ibrahim, he accused him of homosexuality — and a mattress was produced in court as evidence. Last we heard, the once happily married Mr. Ibrahim is still in jail. The Palestinian crisis is not a religious conflict between Muslims and Jews. The overwhelming majority of Jews in the Diaspora and more than half of Israelis recognize the need, indeed the inevitability, for an independent Palestinian state. But the Palestinian cause was betrayed time and again by a majority of Arab and Muslim leaders. They opted instead for better ties with Washington. There is no denying the Israeli lobby in Washington wields influence on U.S. foreign policy the Arabs can’t match. But lobbyists for Israel are consistently effective at pointing out where mutual interests converge and convincing Congress they actually overlap. Shortly after September 11, 2001, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon persuaded President Bush — they have met nine times so far — that his own global struggle against al Qaeda and Israel’s war on terror were one and the same. The liberation of Iraq was another overlap between the Bush Doctrine and Mr. Sharon’s grand design. They both aim to surround Israel with democracies. On the assumption democracies do not go to war against each other, Israel, still the only democracy in the Middle East, would be guaranteed a generation of peace and stability. There are many more such overlaps on the geopolitical horizon, as there have been since the creation of the state of Israel a half-century ago. Throughout the Cold War, Israel was a U.S. strategic asset as most Arab countries placed their bets on the Kremlin — and lost. On the Soviet team were Iraq, Syria, Egypt (under Abdel Gamal Nasser), Libya, Algeria, Sudan, and South Yemen. The Arabs have long been their own worst enemies. Cutting off their noses to spite their faces is frequently a substitute for policy. All their defeats on the battlefield are still celebrated as glorious victories. Enlightened statesmanship in the 21st century would dictate final peace between Israel and all Arab countries — as suggested at the last Arab summit in Beirut in March 2002 — and a long-term marriage of Israeli technology and Arab labor, both skilled and unskilled. Egyptian Ph.D.s would no longer have to drive cabs in Cairo’s horrendous traffic. This would allow the Arab world to use brain instead of rhetorical brawn to close a gap that has generated a massive inferiority complex throughout the Muslim Ummah (global community). Unless the current crop of leaders on both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli divide moves decisively in that direction, the majority of Arab populations — average age is now less than 21 — will increasingly be prey to al Qaeda’s deadly message. Osama bin Laden’s message of brawn over brains may soon hold the most appeal for poverty-stricken, jobless youth. For them, good and evil are the reverse of what they mean in the west. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, urged the U.S. to recognize that terrorists “can have serious moral goals.” He is concerned that in ignoring this reality, the U.S. has lost “the power of self-criticism” and become trapped “in a self-referential morality Sadly, it would seem a lot more Israeli and Palestinian blood will be shed before exhaustion produces a light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully, it won’t be the search party looking for survivors. Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and editor in chief of United Press International.

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