When it comes to Israel, my PM does not speak for me

By Francis Siah

If former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir was alive today, she would probably receive a ticking-off from Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Why? Because Meir smokes and Mahathir is known to have very little tolerance for smokers. (Ask our ministers and MPs who smoke how their doctor boss gave them a tongue-lashing whenever he caught them stealing a puff.)

It’s well and good that Meir and Mahathir never met as prime ministers for such an encounter would inevitably see fierce verbal combat and disagreements rather than just a ticking-off about an unhealthy habit.

Meir was Israel’s first woman premier and served from 1969 to 1974. Mahathir assumed his first tenure as prime minister only in 1981, three years after Meir’s death in 1978 at the age of 80.

To the anti-Semitic, like Mahathir, Israel’s first woman prime minister would be likened to a monster and a warmonger. To the Jews, she is their heroine, probably more deserving of the title “Iron Lady” than Margaret Thatcher.

Among Meir’s notable heroic acts, to Israelis, must surely be her order to the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad to begin assassinating PLO figures following the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The story of the Israelis’ revenge is recounted in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film Munich. It was also a portrayal of the toughness and decisiveness of the woman in Meir to protect her nation and people. Her message to Israel’s enemies was clear: No one messes with Israel and gets away with it.

To all those who hate the Jews for whatever reasons, all the prime ministers after Meir must also be warmongers, current premier Benjamin Netanyahu included. Similarly, to those on the side of Israel, the Palestinians are all terrorists and killers.

I am a Malaysian. I don’t love the Jews or Palestinians. Neither do I hate them.

The honest truth is I don’t care what they do. I am too far away to worry about them. If they are bent on killing each other after so many decades of war and make no effort for peace, what can I do? That is their problem to resolve. I have mine to take care of too.

If I am unable to help the Jews or Palestinians, does it not make sense for me to keep my mouth shut and mind my own business? Now, why should my country, Malaysia, worry about what they do?

We are in no position to stop their wars, are we? As long as the Israelis and Palestinians do not bother us and are not at war with us, why should any Malaysian take sides in what is happening so far away in another part of the world?

If it is only because we share the same religion and believe in the same God as one of the warring parties, that reason sounds pretty shallow to me. That being the case, we also need to worry about the wars in Syria and Iraq too, and take sides. They share the same religion with us too, do they not?

For this reason, I wish to proclaim here that my prime minister, Mahathir, does not speak for me, a Malaysian, in his never-ending tirades against Israel. I want no part of all his anti-Israel outbursts – what he had said, is saying now or will say in the future against Israel and the Jews.

When others say that Mahathir has a personal vendetta against the Jews, I believe they were not wrong. How can I forget how Mahathir forced the cancellation of the International Para-Olympics Swimming Championships in Kuching early last year just because a few Israeli athletes were taking part?

If Najib Abdul Razak was still in power, the event would have proceeded. This is a clear indication that Malaysia is open in our relationship with Israel. Only Mahathir, and he alone, has a serious problem with the Jews.

We, Malaysians, must surely be aware that there is nothing in our Rukun Negara or constitution, declaring that all Malaysians must consider Israel as their common enemy.

I am still at a loss today as to why Malaysians are barred from visiting Israel, the holy land of many great religions.

This may sound awkward but I must ask today that when our Sarawak and Sabah leaders brought the two territories to form Malaysia, were they ever told that Israel was to be considered their common enemy. I bet that was never even an issue at that time. If not, why is it a problem today?

Again, I find Mahathir’s statement on Saturday, lambasting the Palestinian peace deal as a one-sided affair hatched by the US and Israel without any consultation with the Palestinians as another unnecessary tirade.

What is worse is that Mahathir also has the cheek to tell President Donald Trump to resign in light of the US-backed peace plan which he (Mahathir) claimed has been largely rejected by Palestine and its allies.

In this instance, I am in support of the US Embassy’s expression of disappointment with Mahathir’s comments on Trump, saying it wasn’t in the “spirit of constructive dialogue” which has underscored the ties between the two nations. Mahathir was rightly ticked off.

But don’t expect the prime minister, a known disaster in foreign relations, to pay much attention to the US ambassador. Indeed, Malaysians have cause to worry with him leading the nation today. It is getting more serious than we think.

For the uninitiated, anti-Semitism, according to Wikipedia, is hostility to, prejudice, or discrimination against Jews. Antisemitism is generally considered to be a form of racism. Antisemitism may be manifested in many ways, ranging from expressions of hatred of or discrimination against individual Jews to organised pogroms by mobs, state police, or even military attacks on entire Jewish communities.
Image result for mahathir mohamad

Perhaps Mahathir should take a cue from Golda Meir’s two popular mantras, “Authority poisons everybody who takes authority on himself” and “Don’t be humble […] you’re not that great.”

Yes, dear Dr Mahathir, your authority as prime minister is not for you to exercise alone without consultation with your cabinet. And remember you are not that great and respected now as before GE14.

The next time you wish to launch your anti-Semitic outburst, let me respectfully tell you that you do not speak for me.

* Francis Siah heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS). This piece first appeared in Malaysiakini