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Almost Impossible to Talk About Israel

Prime Minister Mahathir's OIC Speech

Incorrectly Labeled Anti-Semitic


Thomas R. Daly, Former Editor and Publisher Georgetown Gazette

Throughout the Western World online news reports are filled with condemnations of the recent speech given by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, during the opening of the Tenth Session of the Islamic Summit Conference of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in Putrajaya, Malaysia on October 16, 2003.

Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad's speech contains 58 paragraphs and 4,269 words. His words have been taken completely out of context. Because he is Muslim and because he has a reputation of speaking harshly, his speech has been unfairly condemned.

Here are Mahathir's offending words from paragraph 39: “We are actually very strong. 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.”
Leading up to his controversial words Mahathir pointed out that Muslim countries have many problems.  Over the last 1400 years the Muslim community has divided, and divided again and again. So much so that they “... now have a thousand different religions which are often so much at odds with one another that they often fight and kill each other" (Paragraph 10). He urged the governments of all Muslim countries to close ranks and have a common stand if not on all issues, at least on some major ones, such as on Palestine (Paragraph 9).

Speaking of the many sects of Islam, Mahathir declares, "We fail to notice that our detractors and enemies do not care whether we are true Muslims or not. To them we are all Muslims, followers of a religion and a Prophet whom they declare promotes terrorism, and we are all their sworn enemies. They will attack and kill us, invade our lands, bring down our Governments whether we are Sunnis or Syiahs, Alawait or Druze or whatever. And we aid and abet them by attacking and weakening each other, and sometimes by doing their bidding, acting as their proxies to attack fellow Muslims. We try to bring down our Governments through violence, succeeding to weaken and impoverish our countries” (Paragraph 11).

Mahathir goes on to discuss some of the problems that have brought Islamic countries so much despair. He says, “And times have changed. Whether we like it or not we have to change, not by changing our religion but by applying its teachings in the context of a world that is radically different from that of the first century of the Hijrah. Islam is not wrong but the interpretations by our scholars, who are not prophets even though they may be very learned can be wrong. We have a need to go back to the fundamental teachings of Islam to find out whether we are indeed believing in and practicing the Islam that the Prophet preached. It cannot be that we are all practicing the correct and true Islam when our beliefs are so different from one another" (Paragraph 26).

It is at this point that Mahathir begins to anger his detractors when he says, “There is a feeling of hopelessness among the Muslim countries and their people. They feel that they can do nothing right. They believe that things can only get worse. The Muslims will forever be oppressed and dominated by the Europeans and the Jews. They will forever be poor, backward and weak. Some believe, as I have said, this is the Will of Allah, that the proper state of the Muslims is to be poor and oppressed in this world" (Paragraph 32). He then mentions the failure of the suicide bombers when he says, “But is it true that we should do and can do nothing for ourselves? Is it true that 1.3 billion people can exert no power to save themselves from the humiliation and oppression inflicted upon them by a much smaller enemy? Can they only lash back blindly in anger? 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?” (Paragraph 33)

Rather than being anti-Semitic, Mahathir makes the point that the Jews have been able to reach their high position in the world by using their brains and he urges the Islamic countries that it is time to think, to use their brains. He says, “If we use the faculty to think that Allah has given us then we should know that we are acting irrationally. We fight without any objective, without any goal other than to hurt the enemy because they hurt us. Naively we expect them to surrender. We sacrifice lives unnecessarily, achieving nothing other than to attract more massive retaliation and humiliation” (Paragraph 37). He continues this train of thought by saying, “It is surely time that we pause to think. But will this be wasting time? For well over half a century we have fought over Palestine. What have we achieved? Nothing. We are worse off than before. If we had paused to think then we could have devised a plan, a strategy that can win us final victory. Pausing and thinking calmly is not a waste of time. We have a need to make a strategic retreat and to calmly assess our situation” (Paragraph 38).

He clarifies what should be the Islamic position by saying, “I have already mentioned our numbers and our oil wealth. In today's world we wield a lot of political, economic and financial clout, enough to make up for our weakness in military terms” (Paragraph 41).

“We also know that not all non-Muslims are against us. Some are well disposed towards us. Some even see our enemies as their enemies. Even among the Jews there are many who do not approve of what the Israelis are doing” (Paragraph 42).

He sums up the needs of Islamic peoples by saying, “We must not antagonize everyone. We must win their hearts and minds. We must win them to our side not by begging for help from them but by the honourable way that we struggle to help ourselves. We must not strengthen the enemy by pushing everyone into their camps through irresponsible and unIslamic acts. Remember Salah El Din and the way he fought against the so called Crusaders, King Richard of England in particular. Remember the considerateness of the Prophet to the enemies of Islam. We must do the same. It is winning the struggle that is important, not angry retaliation, not revenge” (Paragraph 43).

About Palestine he says, “Over the past 50 years of fighting in Palestine we have not achieved any result. We have in fact worsened our situation” (Paragraph 50). And, most importantly, he clarifies his words from paragraph 39, which have so angered the media, when he says, “The enemy will probably welcome these proposals and we will conclude that the promoters are working for the enemy. But think. We are up against a people who think. They survived 2000 years of pogroms not by hitting back, but by thinking. They invented and successfully promoted Socialism, Communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so they may enjoy equal rights with others. With these they have now gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power. We cannot fight them through brawn alone. We must use our brains also” (Paragraph 51).

For whatever reason it has become almost impossible to talk about Israel without being labeled anti-Semitic. Many people are currently having great difficulties accepting the maneuvers of the U.S. Government as they attempt to police the world, but to be anti-American carries none of the connotations attributed to being anti-Semitic. Somehow, to be against anything the Israelis are doing, has taken on religious meanings.

The reality is that the people of Israel are locked in a religious war with their Arab neighbors whom they (and the western media) label terrorists. The Israelis are cast as the good guys in the white hats. Both sides are wrong. Both sides have made mistakes. Rather than being anti-Semitic, Mahathir is being realistic. Rather than casting his entire speech aside for one paragraph, the world and the media should be sitting up and taking notice. Mahathir received a standing ovation from the leaders of the 57 Muslim nations gathered for this important conference. For Israel and the western world to ignore this important speech is a step in the wrong direction if the goal is to bring about a lasting peace in the Middle East.

Below are links to articles about Dr. Mahathir's speech:
This is the link to the complete text of Dr. Mahathir's speech:

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