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 among thing. 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. www.michaelbackman.com 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.