Anwar’s anti-Jewish stance bites back

His criticism does not go down well with supporters in the United States.

OPPOSITION Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is learning the hard way that being anti-Jewish might help to shore up Malay support at home but it does not sit well with his supporters in Washington DC where he counts many influential policy makers like former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz as his friends.

His American friends have always been a source of moral and political support for him.

In good and bad times they have spoken up for Anwar, like former vice-president Al Gore in 1998 and 2000 when he described the first sodomy trial a mockery and referred to reformist demonstrators as “freedom fighters”.

Such unequivocal support is rare to come by and is a product of years of tireless cultivation by Anwar since the time he was an influential Muslim student leader in the late 1970s and later as Finance Minister and a moderate Muslim global leader.

They believed him to be a liberal Muslim leader advocating human rights and democracy for the Muslim world and were therefore taken aback by Anwar’s anti-Jewish rhetoric over the hiring of Apco Worldwide, an American company that employed American citizens who happened to be Jewish, that was hired by the Government to help it formulate strategic communication capabilities.

Anwar’s Apco criticism, both in Parliament and outside, was unusual for him because he had never indulged in Jew baiting before.

His anti-Jewish rhetoric therefore added a new dimension to his relationship with the Washington political circles where the Jewish lobby is not just influential but pre-eminent.

His claims that Israeli agents were involved in the police IT section and influencing the country’s foreign policy were rubbished by the Government.

PKR strategy head Tian Chua did not help matters by passing so called “authoritative e-mail statements” that were a heady mix of alleged US arms dealing with anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and designed to shore up Third World dictators.

These were probably lifted off the Internet and reached “friends” in Washington who were “disturbed” by it, a PKR source said.

Anwar also ramped up his anti-Israeli rhetoric while protesting the May 31 Israel military raids on Gaza aid ships that killed at least a dozen pro-Palestinian activists.

He led a 10,000-people demonstration, according to Bernama, that ended in front of the US embassy on June 4 where an Israel flag was also burnt.

The event was widely reported in US media and was one reason why Anwar, who always had enjoyed good press in Washington, started to get bad press for the first time.

The Washington Post sparked the current Anwar criticism with an article on June 28 by its deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl.

The article, “Flirting with Zealotry in Malaysia,” is critical of Anwar who has chosen, like others in the Muslim world, to give up being America’s friend for Jew-bashing as a way to ramp up support back home.

It says Anwar was in Washington in late June, spending “a lot of time” explaining to old friends, including House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Howard Berman and “a Jewish leader or two”.

Diehl wrote: “He (Anwar) said he regretted using terms such as “Zionist aggression”.

However, the writer contended that many of Anwar’s American friends were inclined to give him a break because he is under constant attack from his political opponents.

Diehl warned readers that the “Anwar story” can also be read as a warning of a transition from pro-American democrat to anti-Israeli zealot.

For Malaysians, it is yet another dimension in the perpetual transformtion of Anwar.

Letters , Opinion