Mahathir is right: Jews do
rule the world
Just because you
are paranoid it doesn't prove that they are not out to
get you. Paranoid, to be sure, was Malaysian Prime
Minister Mahathir Mohamad's allegation that the "Jews
rule this world by proxy" on October 16. Whether Dr
Mahathir himself is paranoid, or whether he adapted his
words to the paranoia of his audience makes little
difference. Through the twisted prism of paranoia, the
facts on the ground do indeed suggest that the Jews rule
Europeans who turn up their noses at
Malaysia's leader should recall that just 60 years ago,
Europe's official ideology (under Nazi conquest) agreed
with Mahathir's claim that the Jews "invented and
successfully promoted socialism, communism, human rights
and democracy". That is where Mahathir doubtless got the
idea in the first place. Not only Adolf Hitler, but the
highest circles of the Catholic Church believed that
communism was a Jewish plot, as a Swiss priest, Father
Martin Rhonheimer, documents in the November 2003 issue
of First Things.
Not since Hitler has the leader
of an important country claimed that democracy itself
was a Jewish invention, at least in the modern period.
Let us however not engage in what Leo Strauss called
"reductio ad Hitlerum," rejecting ideas merely because
Hitler invented them, and take Mahathir's claim at face
The Jews did indeed invent democracy, in
its modern form, although not quite in the way he
Modern (as opposed to ancient Greek or
Roman) democracy stems from the Protestant motto "solo
scriptorum", "only the Bible", by which every man must
interpret scripture for himself. To begin with,
Protestantism was unimaginable without Jewish
theologians (who exposed the incompatibilities of free
will and original sin), not to mention Jewish bible
translators. In such a world, congregations must elect
their church elders (Presbyterians) or even their
pastors (Congregationalists), rather than accept church
hierarchy. If democracy rules ecclesiastical affairs,
why not then secular affairs as well?
Anglo-Saxon Protestantism had the opportunity to take on
a political form, thanks in large part to the
colonization of America. America's so-called revolution
was in fact a second English civil war, in which the
Whigs supported the American rebels against the Tory
government. England's democratic impulse came from the
extreme wing of its Protestants, from such sects as the
Separatists who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony, or
the Quakers who founded Pennsylvania. Only on American
soil did radical Protestantism flourish unimpeded by
monarchy and established church.
founders set forth with messianic ambitions. They saw
themselves as a new Israel setting out to found a new
Jerusalem, as in John Winthrop's famous sermon "On
Christian Charity". "We shall find that the God of
Israel is among us, when 10 of us shall be able to
resist a thousand of our enemies, when He shall make us
a praise and glory, that men shall say of succeeding
plantations, the Lord make it like that of New England.
For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a
hill, the eyes of all people are upon us."
played a small role in the creation of the American
colonies, and a marginal role in the revolution, but
American democracy stemmed from Jewish ideas. That is
quite different from Mahathir's claim that Jews
"invented" democracy. No conspiracy can invent democracy
of the American kind. Massachusetts farmers formed a
battle line against British regulars at Lexington and
Concord in 1775 because self-governance was to them a
matter of life and death. Such a sentiment is alien to
Mahathir's world. His imagination does not encompass
people like the radical Protestants of 18th century New
American democracy grew from a
seed-crystal of representative institutions, beginning,
as noted, with the election of church officials.
Americans are used to governing their own affairs
through a vast number of institutions at the capillary
level of society. It astonished me to discover that the
election of local school boards in American towns can
excite more partisan passion than a presidential
election. Unlike Europe, where education ministries
dispense a centralized budget, American towns tax
themselves for elementary and secondary education. Towns
with better schools attract higher-income residents who
can afford to pay for better education, in a virtuous
cycle. Hospitals, public libraries and even the fire
brigade draw on private resources and volunteer labor.
That brings us to the touchy matter of
conspiracies. Mahathir's world is populated by
conspiracies. They are as real and tangible to him as
the chair on which he sits. In the rough-and-tumble of
democratic governance, conspiracies help little, because
all the important issues will come to light one way or
another. What Bernard Lewis calls "consultative"
governance in the Islamic world, however, only can exist
There does not exist to my
knowledge a self-governing school board, hospital
committee or fire brigade anywhere in Arab countries.
But the meanest peasant may approach the loftiest ruler
for the privilege of a few moments' worth of whispered
pleading. Beneficent and merciful rulers will take pity
on their subjects. If one wishes to influence the ruler,
numerous of his subjects must agree in advance what they
shall whisper in his ear, that is, literally, to
That helps explain why Mahathir can
account for the facts as he observes them by no means
other than conspiracy. There is another dimension to
this as well, namely the theological. If the
constitution is the bone of American democracy, radical
Protestant theology forms its bone marrow. What is the
relationship between Islamic theology and government?
Does it help explain why we encounter what Lewis calls
"consultative" as opposed to "representative" forms of
government in the Islamic world?
dei, emulation of God, is the most important
practical consequence of religion. Religious men act
according to their conception of the attributes of the
deity they worship. Let us tug a bit at this thread, and
see where it leads us.
Remember that the Jewish
God enjoys only a qualified sort of omnipotence. His
sympathy with mankind, his creation, compels him to
suffer along with his creatures. He cannot help but hear
the cry of innocent blood, the complaint of the widow
and orphan, the mistreated stranger and the oppressed
slave (Professor James Kugel of Harvard makes his hoary
argument in The God of Old). He is the God of the
town meeting, of the popular assembly, of the democrats.
With good reason, Friedrich Nietzsche labelled the
Jewish deity a God of slaves. He permits the likes of
Abraham and Moses to give him a hard time over such
things as the destruction of Sodom, or exterminating the
sinners among the Israelites.
Israel demanded that their leader, the prophet Samuel,
appoint a king (I Samuel 8), God complained, "They have
rejected me as their king." He tells Samuel to warn the
people against kings. When the people demand a king
nonetheless, God tells Samuel, "Give them a king." The
Jews' God chose for his people a despised race of
slaves. He humbles himself by sympathizing with the
weak. The Christian God even came to earth and allowed
himself to be crucified. He loves the poor and weak.
Indeed, weakness ineluctably draws forth his love.
Jewish and Christian theologians speak of "divine
Not so Allah, the beneficent, the
merciful. "For Islam, the notion that man's failings
more powerfully awake God's love than man's merits is an
absurd, indeed an impossible thought. Allah has pity
upon human weaknesses, but the idea that he loves
weakness more than strength is a form of divine humility
that is foreign to the God of Mohammed," wrote the
Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig.
dei may explain why Americans and Muslims seek quite
different attributes in their political leaders. More
important than strength and intelligence in the
character of an American presidential candidate is
humility. Whatever one thinks of President George W
Bush, he cultivates the same sort of folksy image that
served former president Jimmy Carter so well. In this
regard one thinks of Bill Clinton, who hid his
intellectual arrogance so effectively, or Ronald Reagan,
who cloaked his ideological fervor in self-deprecating
More than anything else, Americans want
their leaders to listen to them. A president had better
be a better listener than a talker. That is what
Americans expect from their God, after all, and all the
more so from a president who is a mere human.
The sort of leader who evoked adulation in the
Arab world, eg, a Gamal Abdel Nasser, produces only
revulsion among Americans. The trouble is that the gap
between American and Islamic views of the world may be
unbridgeable. The more Americans learn about the Islamic
world, the less they may be inclined to sympathize with
the Islamic cause.
In November 2001, for
example, 31 percent of Americans told an opinion poll
that Islam had a great deal in common with their
religion. Now, only 22 percent believe that this is the
case. That is why Bush will not fire General William
Boykin, who scandalized the news media by suggesting
that the "war against terror" had a religious dimension.
If barely a one-fifth of Americans see a commonality
between Islam and their own religion, who can blame
Boykin - who heads the hunt for Osama bin Laden - for
stating what everyone believes?
11, 2001, the government of the US, its news media and
its academic institutions have made extraordinary
efforts to emphasize the common goals of Islam and the
West. "Islam is a religion of peace," Bush has repeated
countless times. Spokesmen for Islamic organizations in
the US and abroad have enjoyed an unprecedented degree
of access to the American media, and the American public
has been exposed to the Islamic viewpoint to an extent
never before imaginable.
The result appears to
be precisely the opposite of what the government, news
media and academia intended. Americans show less
sympathy than before to Islam, and, correspondingly,
more inclination to support the Israeli cause.
Why, Arabs (and many Europeans) ask themselves,
should the greatest power in the world care about the
fate of a few million leftovers from an ancient past,
colonizing a corner of the Mediterranean in order to
preserve their battered nationhood? Why would America
make so many enemies and lose so many friends over the
Jews? Can anything but a vast and insidious conspiracy
explain such irrational behavior?
That is a
fatal error. America may be a great power, but it is
composed of individuals who consider themselves weak.
They want the respect of their leaders and the
protection of their laws even when they are weak, poor
and despised. Their ancestors came to America in the
hope of finding such a haven. Fairness and sympathy for
the underdog are not merely a sentimental issue in the
US; they are woven into the fabric of America's being.
America is the political realization of the
slave-religion, the cult of the creator of heaven and
earth who cannot help but answer the cry of the widow,
the fatherless, the poor, and the stranger. The more you
tell Americans that they should abandon their friends in
the interest of political advantage, the likelier they
are to reach for their guns (and most of them own guns).
They want a Jewish sort of God who hears the
prayer of the widow and the fatherless, and they want a
government that protects the widow and the fatherless
from the powerful and the arrogant. Through America's
inherent sense of justice, Jews do rule the world, just
as Mahathir believes, although not of course in the way
he imagines it.
Mahathir, to be sure, has
deplored the violent responses of some in the Islamic
world, which merely repels potential friends. Yet he has
done just as much damage to the image of Islam in the
West. Merely by being himself, he contributed to the
deep sense of unease that Americans have concerning the
character of the Islamic world.
understanding among cultures does not always make things
better. Sometimes it makes things worse. Adolf Eichmann,
it should be recalled, studied Hebrew with a Berlin
rabbi, the better to understand the Jews he wished to
exterminate. The leaders of the Islamic terrorist
organizations are not throwbacks to the 10th century,
but Western-educated science students.
own paranoid fashion, Mahathir has advanced the cause of
mutual understanding between the Islamic world and
America. Mahathir has made clear that the Jews do,
indeed, rule the world, at least in the sense that he
and his compatriots understand the words "to rule". And
he has made clear to Americans that the filter through
which the Islamic world views America is a form of
paranoia that cannot quickly be cured.
(Copyright 2003 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All
rights reserved. Please contact email@example.com for
information on our sales and syndication