Combating the Jewish "threat" has been firm policy in Malaysia since 1981. Therefore, Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad's remark blaming Malaysia's economic problems on American Jewish financier George Soros and on other Jews was consistent with this policy. Anti-Semitism in Indonesia seems to exist only at the popular level.
Before 1945 there was very little awareness of the Jews in this area with its large
Muslim majority. This was in stark contrast to the Muslim heartland in the Middle East,
where European anti-Semitism had made significant inroads since the nineteenth century,
and The Protocols had become widely available after World War I.
During the Pacific War (World War II), the Japanese government did not enact anti-Jewish
measures on its own territory or in the lands it occupied around the Pacific Ocean.
However, in the last two years of the war, the Japanese occupation forces in the former
Dutch West Indies (today, Indonesia) were instrumental in the introduction of anti-Semitic
ideas as part of an autonomous propaganda campaign among the local population. The
objective of the campaign was to remind the Indonesians of their past when "they groaned
for ages in misery under Jewish oppression ... by tracing back the atrocities of the
USA, Britain and Holland" (quoted in The Blue-Eyed Enemy, by Theodore Friend).
As Harry J. Benda has shown in The Crescent and the Rising Sun, at propaganda
gatherings sponsored by the Japanese forces, the Jews were accused of responsibility
for alleged Allied resentment of Islam. The Japanese military provided a vehicle for
the wider expression of anti-Semitic ideas by locals in the form of the monthly Asia Raya.
Prominent Indonesian intellectuals like Sukardjo Wirjopranoto, Harsono Tjokroaminoto, Umar Said, and others, obliged by producing anti-Semitic writings for the magazine. Particularly influential in its long-lasting impact was a virulent piece titled "Judaisme" by the nationalist Christian, Swiss-educated G.S.S.J. Ratulangie, who blamed the Jews for Britain's anti-Islamic policies. The article also included familiar references to the existence of a Jewish plot to control the world, with the British and the Dutch as the capitalist front and the Soviet Union as the communist one for Jewish domination.
The revival of anti-Semitic propaganda in the postwar era, as Australian National
University Professor Anthony Reid has established, began in the 1970s in connection
with increased contacts between Indonesia and Malaysia, and Middle Eastern Arab nations,
and, to some extent, Singapore's short-lived identification with Israel immediately
after independence in 1965. According to Reid, the rise of Malaysia and Indonesia to
the status of "newly industrialized economies" in the 1970s was accompanied internally
by the appearance of Islamic utopianism. This, and political expediency, have caused
Malaysian nationalists in particular, to identify unpalatable aspects of the social
dislocations triggered by economic growth with Western cultural domination, which is
referred to as "Jewish" rather than Christian. Since then, Malaysian politicians have
constantly employed anti-Semitic rhetoric. Moreover, contacts between the Malaysian
Islamic Youth Movement (ABIM) and Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and the impact of the 1979
Iranian revolution, have shaped Malaysian opinion which relates Muslim weakness in
the confrontation with Israel to Protocols-inspired "Jewish conspiracies." It was thus
no surprise that in 1991 a Malaysian edition of A History of Jewish Crimes, by the Pakistani Shakil Ahmed Zia (1965), appeared. In 1994. Reid concluded: "In much of Southeast Asia today the crudest verbal expressions of racist caricature are directed not against the large Chinese minority but the non-existent Jewish one." In Southeast Asia, unlike Japan, state censorship is strictly imposed; therefore, the dissemination of anti-Semitic ideas at all levels takes place only with the approval of the authorities.
Datuk Sri Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, the prime minister of Malaysia, deserves much credit for the impressive economic progress his country has made since he came to office in 1981. Furthermore, the Malaysian leader has made assiduous efforts to create a common Malaysian identity as a constructive solution for the delicate racial situation involving the Malay and the Chinese: although almost equal in size, the latter dominate the economy. In the process of nation building, however, Mahathir has given Malaysia the dubious distinction of being the one nation in Southeast Asia with an anti-Semite at the helm.
The Malaysian leader's anti-Jewish sentiments and expressions are probably due to a combination of his background, personality, life experiences and political expediency. If observed only over the last few months, Mahathir's anti-Semitic statements could be construed as a classic case of an unscrupulous politician using conspiracy scapegoating anti-Semitism momentarily, in order to explain away inconvenient situations resulting from failed policies and the endemic corruption of his nation's political and economic system. However, a closer look at his history leaves one with the impression that the Malaysian politician has consistently displayed racist and anti-Semitic convictions.
The Mahathirs have been in what is today Malaysia for two generations. Earlier this century the family migrated to the then British colony of Malaya from southern India, where the future leader was born in 1925. Though trained as a physician under the British, the personal affronts he suffered at their hands during the colonial era, are said to have generated in him a visceral lifelong hatred for everything British. Mahathir's anti-British hatred extends to whites in general. Thus after the founding of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum) in 1989, he insisted on the establishment of an East Asian Economic Group that would exclude Australia and New Zealand as being "too European," and which was to be led by Japan.
Mahathir's support for the Arab side in the Middle East conflict is no less than absolute.
In his book The Malay Dilemma (1970) he is very explicit, as well as habitually
wrong about the facts, when he asserts: "In Palestine , the whole country was taken
away from the Arabs [by the British] and handed over to the Jews." As Reid has shown,
in Mahathir's vocabulary, the word "Jew" [Jahoed/Yahoudi], especially in his Malay speeches, has always been used pejoratively. In a speech at the official opening of a branch of his party in 1981, he stated that "whoever tends to divide the Muslim community of this country is an agent of the Jews." Combating the Jewish "threat" has been firm policy in Malaysia since 1981.
In 1984, Information Minister Datuk Rais Hitam stated to the New Straits Times
-- a newspaper owned by the dominant Malay party in the ruling coalition -- that the
policy of the Mahathir administration is one of "discouragement of the screening, portrayal,
or musical presentation of works of Jewish origin." It was this policy that caused the
New York Philharmonic to cancel a concert in Kuala Lumpur in 1986 after the Malaysian
government wanted to drop from the program Ernest Bloch's rhapsody Schlomo.
It is well known that the Malaysian National Censor Board in March 1994 banned Schindler's
List from the country's cinemas, in accordance with the country's long-standing anti-Semitic cultural policies. Therefore, blaming Malaysia's sudden economic woes in late 1997 on American financier George Soros because of his Jewish descent, and on "the Jews [who] don't like to see Muslims prosper," is consistent with the anti-Semitism of Malaysia's prime minister.
Indonesia is relatively more confident in its national identity than its Muslim neighbor
to the west. Nonetheless, it is so suspicious of the prosperous Chinese minority in
its midst, that the Chinese New Year cannot be celebrated in public. Moreover, the
economic crisis that began in late 1997 actually resulted in a spate of anti-Chinese
outbursts throughout the country. Unlike Malaysia, anti-Semitism in independent Indonesia
seems to exist only at the popular level. Anti-Semitic publications including
The Protocols are widely available.
"Jewish conspiracy" theories have acquired a following, the actual size of which is
difficult to evaluate. According to Anthony Reid, the Muslim monthly Media Dakwah
is the most important vehicle for the dissemination of anti-Semitism. Originally edited
by Mohammad Natsir, a former prime minister, it was taken over by young Muslim intellectuals
who injected a virulently anti-Semitic tone, warning, inter alia, of the dangers
of "Jewish plots." Four years after he had criticized the magazine's anti-Semitism
in a liberal Muslim journal, William Liddle, the leading US specialist on Indonesia,
was attacked in an entire issue of Media Dakwah (August 1997). The aim was to
discredit him as "a ...participant in the international Jewish conspiracy ... As a
Jewish [which he is not] scholar William Liddle clearly has a particular mission ...
to deliberately spread his divisive and destructive poison through his writings."
Media Dakwah then proceeded to cite prominent Western thinkers, from Franklin to Martin Luther King, to "prove" that all the world's problems were the fault of the Jews.
Inevitably, anti-Semitic chat has found its place on Southeast Asian -- particularly
Malaysian -- Internet news and discussion groups. The Muslimedia website (which is
probably connected to the Canadian magazine Crescent) is managed by a student
who calls himself Aduru. Newsgroups with innocent addresses like soc.culture.malaysia.jaring.general are major sites for anti-Semitic debate, as are e-mail addresses like email@example.com.
Malaysian "Hanculturalist" (probably referring to his affiliation with the majority
ethnic group in China) Chiew Lee Yih, who normally uses his homepage (http://www.angelfire.com/ma/hanculturalist)
to teach Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese, may have found inspiration in his prime minister's
anti-Semitic explanation for the country's problems. In late November 1997, Chiew
launched a "desperate" appeal to Americans and Westerners visiting his homepage, to
be aware of the nefarious plans of the Jews to prepare the American people for war
with China through the movie Red Corner:
The Jews in Hollywood are training the American people for the coming war with China.
You better get ready and pray you don't end up in the internment camps when the war
comes ... the Jewish hollywood is the beginning. You know you mentally prepare
your people before you send them to war. Check out the names of the producers and
writers [of Red Corner] and you'll realized it'l all JEWS!!! Wake up Asian
and WASP! Jews are building anti-Asian movement in USA. [sic]
Chiew then proceeds to an anthropologic-historical analysis: "How can Jews manage
to survive for thousands of years while most other nation [sic] and people in the world had gone dead (90%+) ..." His explanation:
While Chinese always try to minimize the number of their enemy (Great Wall is a good
example) Jews love to make enemy. (USA and Jordan is the only 2 nation on earth that
Jews avoid to anger.) In their eyes nobody qualify to be their friend, they are god
choosen people, they are smart, and above all they are invincible ... Making enemy
is their hobby and they plan to make China the enemy of the western world. Watch out