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The disturbing world reaction to Mahathir's remarks

By Ed Koch
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Following is an advance release of Ed Koch's Bloomberg Radio Commentary for Oct. 25

An editorial in the October 18 New York Times, captioned “Islamic Anti-Semitism,” got it right. The Times said, "It is hard to know what is more alarming — a toxic statement of hatred of Jews by the Malaysian prime minister at an Islamic summit meeting this week or the unanimous applause it engendered from the kings, presidents and emirs in the audience. The words uttered by the prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, in a speech to the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference on Thursday were sadly familiar: Jews, he asserted, may be few in number but they control the world.

"The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy," the prime minister said. "They get others to fight and die for them." Muslims are "up against a people who think," he said, adding that the Jews "invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so that they can enjoy equal rights with others."

The false and evil words of Mahathir Mohamad and their enthusiastic acceptance by Moslem leaders the world over will, without doubt, be responsible for the persecution if not the deaths of innocent Jews living in Muslim nations and elsewhere. Just as troubling is the muted response from Europe and the U.S.

According to The Times editorial, “The European Union was asked to include a condemnation of Mr. Mahathir's speech in its statement yesterday ending its own summit. It chose not to, adding a worry that displays of anti-Semitism are being met with inexcusable nonchalance.” At the European Union, the Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, sought to have the E.U. deplore the Malaysian Prime Minister’s call to arms against Jews everywhere. Frattini’s effort was rejected by French President Jacques Chirac. According to the New York Post, Chirac “convinced members [of the E.U.] to leave any criticizing of Mahathir to Italy.” Why? “It would not have been appropriate for the European Union, a French official said.” Subsequently, Chirac issued his own letter, which is worthless, given that he conveyed his true feelings with his earlier action.

President Bush rebuked Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad directly, stating that his comments were “wrong and divisive,” and that they stand “squarely against what I believe in.” Our president’s response, while appreciated, is not what is required. A clarion call equivalent to Emile Zola’s J’Accuse directed to the world community is what is needed.

Where are other respected leaders of the world who surely would be speaking out if Mahathir Mohamad had denounced Christians or blacks or other minorities? Where are the voices of Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, Tony Blair? Where are the leaders of the Eastern Orthodox churches? Where is Rev. Billy Graham?

Is it any wonder that 60 years after World War II, Jews and righteous gentiles are thinking here we go again. Most occupied European nations collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II, delivering their own Jewish citizens to the Nazis for transport to the death camps. This was especially true of France, which offered up its Jews even before being asked to do so.

I will not forget that Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was one of our greatest presidents and who saved the world from being conquered by the Nazis, nevertheless failed to grant U.S. visas to European Jews before World War II began, a humanitarian act that could have saved many Jews who were later murdered in Nazi extermination camps.

Besides focusing on “Islamic Anti-Semitism” in its editorial, The Times should have included a ringing denunciation of the virulent anti-Semitism that can now be found in nearly every country at levels not reached since shortly before the outbreak of World War II. So-called “Islamic Anti-Semitism” is no different than the Jew-hatred that now pervades Britain and France, much of it disguised as "anti-Israeli" or "anti-Zionist" statements. Even France’s ambassador to Great Britain, Daniel Bernard, referred to Israel as “that shitty little country.”

We Jews are no better than any other people, but we are as good as any, and we deserve dignity, security and respect as individuals and for the Jewish State of Israel. We can match our accomplishments with any other group. From our loins came Moses, who gave the world the Ten Commandments; Jesus, who gave the world Christianity; Freud, who gave the world psychotherapy; and Einstein, who gave the world unmatched insights into mathematics, science and physics, and so many other intellectual giants. From our people came more than 16 percent of the Nobel Prize winners, even though we have never been more than one-third of one percent of the world’s population. We are, as Pope John Paul II described us, Christianity’s “elder brother.”

Today, that brother needs support and embrace. The world should remember at its peril the lament of Pastor Martin Neimoller after WWII, “In Germany, the Nazis first came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak up because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I was a Protestant, so I didn't speak up. Then they came for ME… By that time there was no one to speak up for anyone.”

Recently, a friend sent me the remarks of former CIA director James Woolsey, who said, “I sometimes get asked these days if I’m Jewish. It’s my neoconish views on defense and foreign affairs, I suppose.

For a while I would just say, “No, Presbyterian,” but I’ve started saying instead, “Well, I anchor the Presbyterian wing of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. What with anti-Semitism growing in Europe and a hideous variety thereof metastasizing in the Middle East not to speak of the American Left’s (and a small part of the Right’s) hostility to Israel which sometimes veers off into anti-Semitism it seems to me our Jewish friends could use a bit of solidarity these days. Today, the first day of Rosh Hashanah, celebration of the Jewish New Year, is as good a time as any to explain why.” My heartfelt thanks, Mr. Woolsey.

“Never Again” is the lesson of the Holocaust. Today, those words ring hollow. Once again they're getting ready to come for the Jews. It’s time to sound the alarm.


Ed Koch is the former mayor of New York City.

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