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October 21, 2003



Sorry Oliver, but this is nonsense. Krugman explicitly calls Mahathir's words inexcusable and hateful. That is an explicit condemnation. He then tries to offer an explanation as to why a cagey, if amoral, politician might use anti-semitism to shore up domestic support.

We can condemn the fact that this is possible, we can lament the fact that a substantial proportion of malaysian Muslims are anti-semitic, but we can we really dispute that recent US foriegn policy has heightened these tensions. If they haven't, -why is Mahathir saying such hateful things now, when in May 2002, well after the US attack on Afghanistan, Bush was saying about him:

"He, right after the September the 11th attacks, immediately went and signed a condolences book in our embassy, and that meant a lot. He's been a -- somebody with whom we can talk, we've got good relations. We share a deep concern about terror, what terror means to our respective countries, what it means to our peoples.

Mr. Prime Minister, I want to thank you for your friendship and thank you for your leadership, and I want to welcome you.....

....our enemy is shadowy. They lurk behind civil institutions and then they strike. They -- they're not like an enemy we've known before. And in order to make sure our respective societies are as secure as possible, we must share intelligence.

We find out a lot about movements throughout the region, and we're more than willing to share with the Prime Minister's government what we know. And vice versa, and that's important. That's incredibly important. My most important job -- I remind this to the American people -- is to secure our homeland."

Somehow I can't imagine Mahathir is helping much with that now. So how can you argue that US-Malaysian relations have not declined since May 2002? If you accept that premise, what alternative explanation do you offer for the decline other than US policy in Iraq and the Middle East? To accept Krugman's point you don't have to believe US policy in Iraq is wrong in itself, merely that you recognise it has consequeces.

The question Krugman raises is not whether Mahathir is an Anti-Semite, he clearly is or prepared to pander to them, which comes to the same thing, morally. The question asked why he has decided to express this now? If it is a surge in Malay Anti-Semitism (to which you obliquely link Pakistani anti semitism) and related anti-Americanism, it means Mahthir is a disgusting pol who is prepared to exploit prjudice for political advantage, but it does not challenge the validity of Krugman's article.

He is not excusing Mahathir, but attempting to explain why he is acting so barbarically. You say that no matter what Bush had done, the anti-semites would feel that way in their. Hearts. No doubt you are right, but would they feel confident in expressing it without the changes in the world in the last two years. On this at least, Krugman has the evidence on his side in the case of Mahathir as the US- Malay relationship shows.

On a more general note, In a way, I believe that Israel has become an enemy by proxy for the US. No Muslim leader can attack America openly, but they can attck Israel as an "agent" of the US, and the US's greatest excess. This ties in with a pre-existing Anti-Semitism which often reverts the puppet-master/puppet relationship into the world of the protocols and conspiracies.


Damian P.

Krugman - and BritishSpin - probably aren't aware that Mahathir was saying this kind of nonsense long before Bush was elected President:


At least, I think BritishSpin wasn't aware of it. On the other hand, I think Krugman knows better, but is so desperate to slander Bush that he ignores it.

Daniel Calto

I read Paul Krugman's op-ed piece this morning with growing distaste and disbelief. His apologetics for Mahathir Mohamad's anti-Semitic remarks are unconvincing. Yes, Mohamad criticised Muslims as well, and yes, his economic policies have been relatively forward-looking. So what? How would any reasonable person react if such scurrilous remarks were directed at Muslims by President Bush or Tony Blair? They would justifiably be condemned. This is a double standard of the worst sort, where
leaders of developing countries get a pass for remarks that are considered beyond the pale in developed nations.

The error is compounded by laying blame for these remarks at the feet of the Bush Administration. Apparently, nothing bad which happens anywhere in the world cannot be connected and blamed on Bush Administration policies, even elders-of-Zion-type nonsense from the leader of an East Asian nation. Further, to draw a
comparison between Muhamad and General Boykin is inapt at best. Muhamad was speaking as the head of state at an international forum, where his remarks drew almost no protest. Boykin was reprimanded for his remarks and forced to make a denial of their intent.

There was no great sympathy for the U.S. in the wake of 9/11 in Malaysia to begin with, yet Krugman repeats the tiresome canard that the U.S. has squandered international sympathy in the wake of 9/11. A close reading of the French, German and other international newspapers in the post 9/11 period undermines any such interpretation of events--sympathy evaporated very quickly and well-prior to any talk of the war in Iraq, becoming instead a cliched morality tale of hyperpower hubris. 20% of Germans are reported to believe that the U.S. itself was behind the 9/11 attack. Is that too the fault of Condoleeza Rice and company?

Oliver Kamm

British Spin - Thank you for your characteristically lucid observations, but you miss my point. Of course Krugman reviles antisemitism; in the very passage I quote he refers to Mahathir's sentiments as 'hateful'. But - and this is the crucial point - he downplays Mahathir's moral responsibility for those sentiments. What I term repugnant demagoguery is, to Krugman, something provoked by the policies of President Bush rather than the exclusive responsibility of the Malaysian PM. Krugman thereby crosses a boundary that separates mere partisanship (which is the consistent weakness of his political commentaries) from something worse - frivolity when dealing with matters of immense moral import.


The points made in that paragraph quoted from the "Daily Times of Pakistan" deserve a serious rebuttal. Such views appear (to me) to be near universally held across the Muslim world. They are presented as being "facts" that cannot be denied (and hence it is argued that merely reciting them is not "anti-semitic" but is rather "plain-speaking"). They are presented as being facts that everybody knows about, except for the West which is blinded by "a guilt factor which holds together the West’s new theology of political correctness".

Such facts should be able to stand up to serious scrutiny. If not, it would be useful to have a well-argued rebuttal of that position available on the Web somewhere, to link to. If we are engaged in a "war of ideas" then this is a major battleground. These ideas should not stand unchallenged.

Mark T

If you haven't read it already, please check out the tremendous blog, conspiracy to keep you poor and stupid http://www.poorandstupid.com/chronicle.asp in which Don Luskin and others highlight the actions of america's most dangertous liberal pundit - ie Krugman - and how he (mis)uses his acquired authority as a famous economist and more importantly an OP Ed writer at the NY Times to pusue an openly anti Bush agenda through misuse of statistics and wilful misinterpretation of the facts. It's having an effect, the chronicle of how Krugman's TV promotion of his book tour is being spoiled by mainstream media interviewers who come armed with facts gleaned from the blogs of Luskin et al should give encouragment to bloggers everywhere.


"Presumably Krugman also believes Osama bin Laden had nothing to do with the destruction of the World Trade Centre: after all, didn't the man explicitly deny responsibility?"

(a) Krugman's fact about the captured Al Qaeda leaders is an ancillary premise.

(b) Statements made by Al Qaeda leaders under CIA interrogation are more reliable and robust than statements made by free Al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan.

"There are many things wrong with this passage. Most obvious is the rank colonialist assumption that a Third World political leader can't be considered a responsible moral agent who should be held to account for his own actions and attitudes."

As the above commenter points out, Krugman plainly does not excuse Mahathir from moral responsibility, hence "those remarks were inexcusable." Any causal role played by Bush's policy is not exclusive of Mahathir's personal moral responsibility for the speech, and vice versa. You are the only one implying that dichotomizing etiology. Your comment about "downplaying" Mahathir's responsibility is just the same thing warmed over. Krugman is not measuring Bush morally against Mahathir--he's measuring Bush against a counterfactual Bush who acted differently in a context in which Mahathir is, morally speaking, a fixed variable. What your complaint boils down to is that after condemning Mahathir it is offensive to say anything else on the subject.


Dr Mahathir's rantings not only included his views on Jewish power (which were, of course, straight from the pages of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion), but contrasted this power with what he sees as Muslim weakness and under-achievement. Crooked Timber posted an entry on this aspect of Mahathir's speech, and in the comments section, one reader makes some interesting observations on the resemblance between this speech and Mahathir's long-held views on the position of native Malays in his own country, and what he evidently sees as their inability to compete with the ethnic Chinese of Malaysia:


This aspect of his mindset is of a piece with his antisemitism (of which Damian P provides additional evidence above). Throughout Southeast Asia, ethnic Chinese are often the target of hatred and resentment that takes forms strongly reminiscent of antisemitism.

Richard, I agree that antisemitic views of this kind are appear to be near- universally held across the Muslim world - but alarmingly, they are becoming increasingly common (in a softer form) in the West itself. When I have discussed such matters as Iraq, Israel and radical Islamic terrorism with "progressive" friends and colleagues (who would never dream of being antisemitic), I frequently hear the very same views on US support for Israel, the power of the Jewish lobby and money in US politics and the influence of "neoconservatives" - the latter are seen as being predominantly made up of Jewish intellectuals, and is viewed as a movement identical with the Israeli lobby. In such circles, these views "are presented as being 'facts' that cannot be denied (and hence it is argued that merely reciting them is not 'anti-semitic' but is rather 'plain-speaking')" (as you put it so well about the Muslim world). The war of ideas that you correctly point out is taking place must also be waged in the West.

Finally, the need to hold non-Western leaders to the same moral standards as we would apply to ourselves is an important point. In media discussions of (for example) Robert Mugabe, a lower standard of behaviour - and hence responsibility - seems to be implicitly but constantly attributed to him - an attitude that dovetails with and supports his tactic of blaming every problem in Zimbabwe to British colonialism. Similarly, we "expect" (and therefore do not condemn) the media (and often the government) in places such as Egypt and Pakistan to peddle lunatic and antisemitic conspiracy theories, and we "understand", sympathise with and explain away Palestinian support for the murder of Israelis (or Americans) by suicide bombers. Somehow, there are always others (the US, Israel, the proponents of "globalisation", all of them combined...) who are really to blame.

Charles Stewart

Mark T: I don't have a high opinion of Donald Luskin, nor does he seem to be well regarded by other blogging economists. Luskin has some kind of
vendetta against Brad DeLong, and Arnold Kling hasn't been flattering about Kuskin. Another Krugman basher is Econopundit (http://www.econopundit.com/); while I am hesitant to recommend an anonymous blogger, he does read much better than Luskin.


There's a good book review of Paul Krugman's collection of NYT columnns in the New York Review of Books http://www.nybooks.com/articles/16730

As it notes the vast majority of Krugman's columns are about the domestic or to a lesser extent the international economy. But the conclusion captures it best, 'Krugman has been strident. He has been shrill. He has lowered the dignity of the commentariat. How refreshing'


I agree with what Charles says about the so-called "plain-speaking" mode, an affront to intelligence the world over. However does it really make sense to hold non-western leaders to the same moral standards as ourselves? That may sound shocking, but let's consider the consequences (I'm undecided, lest it be asked):

Let's take Saudi Arabia. If the Crown Prince, or dedicated minion, were to publicly denounce anti-semitism, criticise his country's police and army and attempt democratic reform then I would argue that these things would occur, in no particular order.

1) Streets full of burning Israeli/American/UK flags and protests.

2) A military coup.

3) Either (2) or an even more fundamentalist government would come to power.

I'm not one of those weirdo moralist types who claim that non-western populations are perfectly happy to be ruled by tyrannies and-thanking-you-kindly. But come on folks, the stand-and-deliver school of moralising will get us all nowhere. I don't have any grand answers (yet). But I think I'm a little closer to seeing the problem than I have been in the past - we ought to denounce those states that don't meet a generally accepted moral calculus, but blaming these countries tout court for their depravity is forgetting anything we've done to them over the years, aside from the fact that we sometimes haven't met our own moral calucli either - and in some cases we still haven't come to terms with this fact.

What to do?

Daniel Calto

Interesting thread. I think Charles' points in particular are well-taken. The double standard he writes about, in which heads of state such as Mugabe, Chavez, Mubarak, and most egregiously Saddam Hussein get a pass, while George Bush and Tony Blair are condemned as bloodthirsty warmongers, is alive and well.

If one considers this question for any length of time, it's difficult not to come to the conclusion that this is a latent form of racism: "Well, they can't really help it, can they? That's their culture. They're not like us." Such attitudes, conscious or semi-conscious, distort political debate and have a pernicious effect indeed, making opaque what should be clear.

Daniel Calto


I wouldn't assert that there are no cultural differences between nations or that rulers are not significantly constrained by the attitudes of their own people.

I think asking the Saudi Crown Prince to publicly denounce anti-Semitism would be a bit much, but I don't think it's asking too much that he not deliberately make anti-Semitic statements in international fora. There should be some minimum standards which hold if a nation is to be an accepted part of the international community.



I agree with you. However, I'm trying to extrapolate the consequences of holding non-western states to a common moral standard, and I'm coming up blank. It's an impossibly complex situation. We have to be strong in the face of someone like Mahathir. And people like him will always gravitate toward the weakspots of the international community, or fora, like France and Russia, which makes a mockery of common moral standards.

Perhaps just as important as the wish to hold people to common standards is the extent to which you will act to uphold them - something that I think you're also saying above. For example I heard that the UK decided to withdraw its ambassador to Malaysia in light of the speech - this seems like a reasonable action to take (please correct me if I've got this wrong). But the afore-mentioned France and Russia will seemingly do anything to avoid confrontation with muslims, whilst happily denouncing Israel day after day. When we think action should be strong, some other flake always wants to go softly-softly.

As for Saudi, it's like the Augean stables, and no Hercules to clean up. In line with my previous comments on a different thread, we should hold countries to the standards that they have voluntarily subscribed to themselves, with the relevant caveats about acts of internal genocide (allowing military intervention for example). Most of the countries that we would think of as despotic have failed miserably on this score and are therefore wide open to legitimate criticism from anyone.

Something else is brooding in my head. In that moment, just before he spoke, while he was pondering how the audience would receive his speech, I wish Mahathir could have been honest with himself and the conference delegates and stuck to the reform outline. It seems, from a distance, only a small act of courage to simply drop the bogus blame-everything-on-jews-and-americans stance. Just imagine that he had dropped all that stuff and simply told the assembled heads of state that they had to reform. What a difference that speech might have made.

Daniel Calto


Yes, it's interesting to think that a simple decision to drop the Jews-rule-the-world rhetoric would have likely meant the press would have focused on the bulk of the speech itself--but like the gorilla in the corner, the inflammatory rhetoric can't be ignored.

As you say, it is difficult for political and practical reasons to hold non-Western states to Western standards. Applied too rigidly, it's a recipe for disaster. A nice start, however, would be to hold at least developed nations to the same standards. I was appalled at Bush's recent comments about what a democrat Putin was. For reasons of great-power politics, the world studiously ignores the miserable plight of Muslims in Chechnya while proclaiming that the killings of Hamas leaders and the bombing of a field in Syria are horrible crimes against humanity. I'm not starry-eyed enough to expect perfect consistency from the U.S. or U.K., but a moderatley even-handed appraoch to major human rights violations would be much appreciated. Imperfect and inconsistent as the Atlanticist axis of bloody-handed warmongers is, it's far preferable to the blatantly cynical and self-dealing "jellyfish" approach of France and Germany. I really am not in the mood to appease those who would happily slaughter my sons to hit back at the infidels. As a New Yorker, one 9/11 is more than enough.


You're quite right.


Krugman's whitewashing of the Mad Hatter's anti Semitism "tossing his domestic flank red meat" confirms what President Bush once said about the silent racism of low expectations. Islamic countries are not expected to act as honroably and civilized as Western nations.

Floyd McWilliams

"Sorry Oliver, but this is nonsense. Krugman explicitly calls Mahathir's words inexcusable and hateful. That is an explicit condemnation. He then tries to offer an explanation as to why a cagey, if amoral, politician might use anti-semitism to shore up domestic support. "

Well as long as Krugman is explaining rather than excusing, it's all okay.

Mike Nargizian
"Sorry Oliver, but this is nonsense. Krugman explicitly calls Mahathir's words inexcusable and hateful. That is an explicit condemnation. He then tries to offer an explanation as to why a cagey, if amoral, politician might use anti-semitism to shore up domestic support."

So you mean like playing to racism in the South would be ok towards blacks?
Or you mean like Sharpton rabble rousing a crowd to murder in NYC?
You mean like the way Goerbells and Hitler used it?
The way the Czars and Kossacks used it?
The way the Church used it in Spain?
And this must excuse or at least explain the Dreyfus Affair?
Ya know that one was bathering me but at least Krugman "explains" it now.... so at least it makes some sense.....

What a guy that little sniveling high brow weasel is.....


How about this?

1) The entire Muslim world blames "the Jews" for any bad impression the West has of them and any of their failures.

2) How insane is it that Malaysia, a huge country half way around the world, from Israel, the size of Rhode Island, blames Israel's treatments of the Palestinians and the Jews "control" in general for its failures?

3) Malaysia and the Muslim world actually believe that "Jews" actually not only give a shit about them, but that they are their "enemies" and are out to get them...... PRE 9/11 I doubt most American Jews could find Malaysia from China on a map, or even find Israel on it for that matter!!
Its between comical to dillusionarily paranoia that the Muslim world actually believes that "jews" are out to get them and are "defeating them" because Israel simply exists!!! and look at the fucking size of it for crying out loud!!

4) Hundreds of thousands of Muslims are being killed around the world in conflicts 5 to 10 fold worse than what's going on in the territories, yet this is all that is spoken about, like its the center of the world of conflicts..... Indonesia, Phillipines, India/Pakistan, Chechnya, Sudan etc.........

So the reason why anti-semitism is used in a speech at the OIC is because its ever present in everything in these countries. Anyone who would limit their use of it would be deemed a "Zionist Sellout" anyway........ not that Mathir doesn't fully believe his poison anyway.... he just realizes more than most of his 'brethren' how pathetic they really are, to his frustration.... and how better to drive that point home than to point out how the "evil successful and creative" Jews are "defeating them".........

Mark T

Charles, you don't have to have a high opinion of Don Luskin's writing to realise the importance of what he is doing - exposing the mistakes/misrepresentations of someone who ought to know better/be accountable. In fact econopundit - Steve Antler - has a recent blog in which he discusses this - and Luskin actually adds a contribution.As Antler puts it, Luskin has "invented a new genre, a fact-based but angry economic journalism that directly and very effectively confronts the now-crumbling hypocritical politico-economic elitist ideology that exalts all things planned by government and sneers at dull, old-fashioned capitalist businesspeople and their workers." And good on him I say.


"As you say, it is difficult for political and practical reasons to hold non-Western states to Western standards. Applied too rigidly, it's a recipe for disaster."

I think the obvious answer, one that is harsh but realistic, is to assume the right of any country to interfere in other's countries whenever there is any sort of moral
Yes this seems to lead to disaster.

But if you think it through I'm not demanding that this right be enforced. It's not a duty.
The US starting a war in China because one woman was discriminated is irrealistic. Even if I think the morality of it is absolutely justified. (Morals have to be absolute, laws and justice are more practical matters.)

So I don't think granting this right would lead to disaster. There would be regulating cause and consequences that would lead to the right wars being fought.

Like Iraq. And god knows it was hard enough to start this one.

I think this liberalization of conflict is better than current state of affairs. When the world is economically and socially globalized then will be the time to implement some sort of globalized political body.

Until then I think this is the way to go, even if it's a door open to morally justifying Nazi aggression because the right to kill a jew was being denied the rest of world citizens.

I just can't trust any supranational body at this point to judge these kind of issues, not after what happened.

So, let the best country win is enough of a pragmatical principle for me. I believe some ideals are better, I think we should all try to emforce the ideals we believe in. Not on those that are just different... but on those that disrespect them and act violently to destroy them.


It's tempting to try to set before the public a critique of Krugman's columns which will shock them into understanding how sloppy his thinking is. You are one of many who try.

This is largely wasted effort however, in the sense that as long as he goes on blaming Bush for something new each week, however absurd his reasoning and no matter who he tramples over on his way there (in this case Jews), the bulk of his readers in the NYT will go on uncritically lapping it up. They can't get enough of it.

It is beginning to look as though the only thing likely to get the NYT's readership to reconsider their position on this is the experience of losing a very long sequence of elections (think Neil Kinnock).

British Spin

The Spectator joins in on Mahathir's side today. the author may or may not be a rare Spectaor lefty- he writes for the Indy, but the only non-Jazz piece I can find is about defending Taki from racist accusations. In any case Boris publishes it straight up, with no critique, or alternmative postition. Time for some even handedness about the Spectator's bile, perhaps?

See my site for some details.

Johnathan Pearce

British Spin: Taki has "form", as police prosecutors would say, on this issue. He has written diatribes about American Jews before, both on the Israel question and on issues of Jewish folk more generally. The man is a disgrace and I honestly don't understand why Boris Johnson, whom I have met and is a basically decent fellow, hasn't fired him from the Spectator.


Oliver, I blievieve you are quite right and Permalink, while I find your comments interesting, I am afraid you are quite wrong (IMO).

If we decide that it's all right to "explain" Mahathir's remarks by saying in essence that he had to say this because we (meaning the West) were not always nice to the Third World in the past, we must also I am afraid excuse/explain away Hitler.

After all, the Treaty of Versailles was pretty brutal and humiliating. Anyone who has read Keynes' remarks on the subject (and I suppose Mr. Krugman was not one of those people) knows that Keynes at least expected the Treaty to lead to another war.

Is it then legitimate to say (as many British commentators did just before the Second World War)that "He is not excusing [Hitler], but attempting to explain why he is acting so barbarically.... [Perhaps no matter what our government had done, the barabarians would still feel the same in their hearts] but [they] would [not] they feel confident in expressing it without the changes in the world [since the Great War]. On this at least, [pick commentator] has the evidence on his side in the case of [Hitler] as the [British-German] relationship shows."

Can we not, after all say, then that Hitler was advocating genocide simply because he had to toss read meat to the audience; because he had to unite the German people in order to achieve an economic recovery? Should we then say/explain away Hitler by claiming that really the responsibility for the Second World War and the Holocaust must be fall not on Hitler and his Nazis but on the British, the French, and the Americans?

In this schema of course, the Nazis and Hitler are the victims and the Allies are the bad guys.

Is this waht we want to say?



We don't... but they certainly do...

What's wrong about conflict to sort who's right?

We need some way to determine what morals are better... people seem to always come up with the same bad answers... blame your differents, take what you can't get...

I think it's time we realise that values and ideas are something that should be fought for. Violently if it comes to that. (though I'm in favor of restraint in warfare, geneva conventions, limited intervention in foreign affairs, etc... it's just that those things can't stop us from acting when we need to, ergo, when we're threatened)

Colin MacLeod

"I think it's time we realise that values and ideas are something that should be fought for."

Which values and ideas, and how hard?

During the Cold War, the presumption underlying mutually assured destruction and of deterrence strategy in Europe and elsewhere was that we'd rather risk the end of the world than yield our freedom.

As an American, I am forced to wonder whether, for instance, "live free or die" is anywhere close to a generally accepted mode of thinking "over there." I believe that it is still the reflex here - it's our peculiarly abstract form of nationalism - but I don't have a sense for what motivates the general population in Europe. I imagine confusion, denial, and wishful thinking occupying the place in the European heart where the fierce love of tribe and country used to be. It might be interesting to see polling on the subject. In any event, it seems that European leadership and bureaucratic inertia (same thing?) are motivated by a desperation to defer the question, not an unreasonable objective, but it's as true in peacetime as in warfare that the enemy gets a vote.

The Islamic radicals seem to be motivated by "live Islamist or die," but the commitments of the larger Islamic population seem much weaker, or more diverse, thus the resort, turning to the main topic of this discussion, to racism and conspiracy theories. When "live Islamist or die" meets "live free or die," then it seems inevitable that some dying will be done, and, if history is any guide, it will be done by Islamists in far greater numbers than by the free.

As for Islam and the Jews, there are kernels of truth in Mahathir's hopeless and paranoid ramblings. It is no accident that the Jews have flourished wherever freedom and its benefits are strongest, just as persecution of the Jews so often accompanies a nation's political, moral, and economic decline. In this sense, the Jews do rule the world "by proxy," but it's in a way that Mahathir may be incapable of comprehending - in precisely the same way that he appears incapable of comprehending the dependence of scientific and technological advances on the free flow of people and ideas. The Jew's proxy is freedom - which rules by refraining to rule, and rules most decisively wherever the world is least ruled by ignorance.

Here, the evangelical Christians who believe that God blesses those who protect the Jews are much more right than those secularists whose commitment to unbelief seems to make them blind to all such distinctions. Just as the Christians, after a long and bloody historical adolescence marked by familiar false gestures of independence, may have finally, to the great benefit of all concerned, come round to recognizing that Christianity is Judaic, the only hope for Islamists and secularists alike may be to recognize and accept their own religious and historical parentage: We're all children of the same mother, freedom, who is Jewish, so we're all Jews. (Even the Hindus have lately been casting their lot with the Jews - possibly because the Hindus are finally turning Jewish, or possibly because the Jews have always secretly been Hindu, even if they don't look Hinduish - I'll have to think about this one.)

So long as Islam sets itself against the Jews, it sets itself against the same processes of modernization that Mahathir deludedly embraces. By corollary, the apparent ongoing relapse into antisemitism in Europe is one of the clearest signs that European culture has been going dangerously off course.



"Even the Hindus have lately been casting their lot with the Jews - possibly because the Hindus are finally turning Jewish, or possibly because the Jews have always secretly been Hindu, even if they don't look Hinduish - I'll have to think about this one"

This comment reminds me of an old Jewish joke:

A Jew is walking along a street in China and hears a part of Shabbat sermon. He walks into a seemingly typical Chinese building and discovers that it is a shul where the congregants are reading the Torah. So he joins the prayers.

After the service he walks up to the rabbi and exclaims, "I had no idea there were Jews in China as well! This is wonderful!"

The rabbi looks at him somewhat dubiously and asks, "What do you mean 'as well'? Are you Jewish?"

The man is a bit put out and responds, "Of course I am Jewish!"

The rabbi looks at the man very attentively and says, "Hmph, you don't look at all Jewish to me."

On a more serious note: I should imagine that European Jews don't look at all Jewish to the Bene Israel (Indian Jews) either ;)


Ikram Saeed

I thought this was a difficult to understand post. Are you condemning Krugman's attempt to understand Mahathir's motivations, or are you condemning his explanation of Mhathir's motivations as inaccurate? The latter is a reasonable postion, the former seems like an endorsement of ignorance.

As for Mahathir's comments themselves, I haven't yet read a review in a blog that appraoched the comments from the persepective of the audience listening, or from a domestic political persepctive. I tried to the latter at the crooked timber thread, as did Dan Drezner and Doug Muir. I still hope someone will attempt the former, rather than being waylaid by the anti-semitism in the remarks. Any takers?


I am of Jewish descent, though not practicing, and I find it disturbing that so many Americans react hysterically to any suggestion that there are Zionist lobby groups with definite power and influence. This, to me, is a fact no more remarkable than the existence of any other lobby group (oil/black/women). Why is it racist to talk about the influence that [some] Jews have? Is it because there is still this subconscious fear of a monolothic Jewish idenitity subverting the world? Well, rest assured: the world is safe from Jewish takeover because Jews would be lining each other up against the wall before they finished with you. This is a generalistion of course but my view is that we are one of the most disputative people in the world (which I think is a great, enjoyable thing for the most part and leads to us also being very successful in many areas).

Primarily, I think Mahathir should have said Zionists rather than Jews, because his comments all related to politics and it makes no more sense to say Jews have a political agenda than it does to say a white baby must be a Democrat. I also think he's just wrong on the facts when crediting Jews with inventing communism, democracy, etc. Flattering but again confusing ethnicity with political agenda: Marx may have been Jewish but he was hardly developing the theory as part of a Zionist plot! However, I can also see that there is a large grain of truth in his complaint that Zionists have more influence over US policy that Muslims do. That is, of course, partly down to the Muslims, which was the unreported part of his speech.

What he omits to say is that there are a lot of Jews who would like Israel to have a lot less influence; a lot of us really resent the way Israel hijacks Jewish identity and history for its grubby territorial objectives, playing on sympathy for OUR dead relatives to justify its ruthless treatment of Palestinians. Many, many Jews and Israelis feel that the US is not being a friend to Israel by effectively maintaining the power of the settlers; it is like the friend that does not tell a man to stop beating his wife and go to counselling. Unconditional US support is a heady drink and not necessarily any healthier for a nation than unconditional hostility. But that's just my view - I'm sure other Jews have another.


"a man who, like Noam Chomsky, is authoritative in one discipline and incorrigibly silly when he ventures outside it."

Ah yes, now i see why the man so repels and yet attracts you!

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