Israelis are living high on US expense account

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					Israelis are living high on US expense account
Michael Backman
The West and Israel have managed to unite the Muslim community.

T      HERE'S a memorable scene
       in the Stephen Spielberg film
       Munich. After the 1972 Mu-
nich Olympic Games killings of
Israeli athletes, prime minister

                                                      Muslim        communities
                                          worldwide. It is pictures like these
                                          that make them want to do some-

                                              Consider Malaysia. Every citi-
                                                                                   strong investment in education -
                                                                                   when people's physical wealth is in
                                                                                   danger of destruction from war and
                                                                                   persecution one store of wealth
                                                                                   that stays with individuals even
Golda Meir tells confidants she           zen of this outpost of Islam has         when they must flee as refugees is
wants to show the plotters that kill-     printed in his or her passport that      education. It explains why such
ing Jews "is expensive". She then         the passport is not valid for Israel.    groups often insist on their own
organises for the assassination of        And given that Malaysians are not        schools - education is too impor-
each of the plotters.                     allowed to hold dual citizenship,        tant to be entrusted to others.
    Today, it is Israel itself that has   this essentially means that every            Hamas did not enjoy the sup-
become expensive. Most directly,          Malaysian citizen, including the         port of all the people of Gaza. It
it is very expensive to the US,           40% who are not Muslims, are             does now. Why does Israel keep
which subsidises and arms it.             banned from visiting Israel.             getting it wrong?
    But Israel's utter inability to           "When will Malaysia recognise            Trekking in Nepal is fashion-
transform the Palestinians from           Israel?" I once asked the then fi-       able among young Israelis. So
enemies into friends has imposed          nance minister. "Once Israel treats      much so that many shops in Kath-
big costs on us all. We have paid         the Palestinians better," was his        mandu and Pokhara have signs in
for Israel's failure with bombs on        reply. How would he determine            Hebrew. But once you get on the
London public transport, bombs in         that? "When the Palestinians tell        trekking circuit and speak with
bars in Bali, and even the loss of        us," he said. It is not Israel's right   local Nepalese guides and guest-
the World Trade Centre towers in          to exist that is at issue.               house operators you soon discover
New York.                                     The enmity many Muslims              how disliked the Israelis are. Many
    It is not true that these outrages    now feel for Israel has nothing to       guesthouses in this poor country
have occurred because certain Is-         do with religion. The historical         will even tell Israeli trekking
lamic fundamentalists don't like          persecutors of the Jews have been        groups that they are full rather than
Western lifestyles and so plant           Christians - their punishment for        accept them. This has nothing to
bombs in response. Rather, it is          the death of Jesus. Jews and Mus-        do with religion or politics: Nepal-
Israel - or more correctly the            lims have lived in peace for hun-        ese people are some of the warm-
treatment of the Palestinians - that      dreds of years in many parts of the      est, most hospitable in the world.
is at the nub of these events.            Islamic world. When Catholic             Rather, they say that the young
    The world's Muslims have no           Spain and Portugal expelled its          Israelis are rude, arrogant, and ar-
head: no overarching caliph or            Jews, the Ottoman sultan in Istan-       gue over trifling amounts of
pope equivalent exists - no single        bul invited them in. It is the Pales-    money even though they clearly
power source with whom to nego-           tinian issue that has ruined all this.   have means.
tiate. Instead, Islam is remarkably           Of course, today Israel must             Israel needs to change. The
decentralised. So, how extraordi-         defend itself. If the residents of       Parsees of India might provide a
nary that Israel and the West have        Bendigo started firing rockets into      model. The Parsees are a very tiny,
managed to unite this headless,           Melbourne you would expect Mel-          very rich ethnic and religious mi-
diverse, dispersed grouping with-         bourne to retaliate. But what must       nority. They own perhaps most of
out any institutional framework,          Melbourne have done to Bendigo           the land in central Mumbai as well
around just one issue - anger at the      to make them do such a thing?            as the country's largest conglomer-
treatment of the Palestinians.            Constantly slapping an opponent in       ate. And yet ordinary Indians ad-
    Otherwise dispersed groups of         the face, kicking it down to its         mire and respect them. Violence
Muslims do seem to feel for one           knees, and watching it struggle in       against them is unthinkable.
another in a way that Christians          the dirt will not teach the opponent         How have they achieved this?
and others do not.                        to love or respect you. It teaches       They are not flashy or arrogant.
    In this respect, the international    only hatred.                             Their overriding characteristic is a
Islamic community is like a body:             Persecuting people does not          deep interest in the welfare of oth-
kick it in the leg and the rest of the    weaken them. Israel should know          ers. They have established hospi-
body feels it. Kick it hard enough        that. The Jews have been perse-          tals, libraries, schools, museums
and the entire body will be ener-         cuted for centuries. It didn't de-       and many other institutions and,
gised to defend itself. Pictures of       stroy them but gave them the im-         most importantly, not for the Par-
distraught Gazan mothers beside           petus to survive.                        see community exclusively but for
the mutilated bodies of their chil-           One characteristic that is com-      everyone. So the Parsees have
dren are circulating right now            mon among persecuted groups is a         peace and the Israelis do not.
Backman, Michael 2009, ‘Israelis are living high on US expense account’, The Age (BusinessDay section) Sat-
urday 17 January, p. 2.

Correction: A column by Michael Backman headlined "Israelis living high on US expense account"
(BusinessDay, 17/1/09) was published in error. The Age does not in any way endorse the views of the
columnist, apologises for the distress the column caused to many readers, particularly in the Jewish
community, and regrets publication of the column.

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