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Anti-Semitism peddled in Southeast Asia
By Keith Andrew Bettinger

KUALA LUMPUR - In casual conversations about geopolitics here, it is common to hear charges that Israel controls US foreign policy or that Jews run the world (one of these more virulent indictments came from former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who stated just before stepping down last year that "Jews rule the world by proxy").

This is a truth that "everyone knows" and is a common view around the world. The problem with this "truth" is that the evidence to back it up is sketchy at best, relying on questionable facts and a selective interpretation of events and information. There is a vacuum of conclusive data, and corroboration can't be found in the mainstream media. But an emerging trend suggests that US and European extremist groups are recognizing demand among Southeast Asian Muslims for anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism and are moving to adjust their message to spread the broader message of anti-Semitism.

One clear instance of this is the recent visit to Malaysia of American "journalist" Michael Collins Piper, a writer and editor for the American Free Press. Piper addressed several groups, including the Bar Council of Malaysia, on a trip that also included a stop in Japan. Piper's talks ostensibly were about the hidden motivations for US foreign policy, but some basic research reveals that Piper's musings are characteristic of an effort by anti-Semites and white supremacists to repackage themselves as "alternative media voices" claiming to tackle stories the mainstream media in the US won't touch. The formula is easily recognizable to American readers: analyze any event and bend, shape and twist facts to reveal a Jewish influence.

To spread his message, Piper also spent time promoting his books, which were given out free at several speaking engagements. As anti-Semitism spreads from the Middle East to moderate Muslims around the world, anti-Semitic literature is selling faster than it can be restocked on bookstore shelves. Publications that contributed to the zeitgeist from which the Holocaust sprang have now begun finding readers in Malaysia.

Universal disapproval of Israeli foreign policy is fueling a resurgence of anti-Jewish sentiment. And anti-Israel becomes anti-Jew. Of course, many people here do not know the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Israel; some say book sales simply reflect Malaysian's love for conspiracy. But due to their lack of a Jewish experience - the only evidence of a Jewish presence in Malaysia is an old Jewish cemetery in Penang - people are groping to understand world events. And people like Piper are ready with a framework that explains all the unfairness and injustice that exists. In the process, though, the seeds of anti-Semitism are planted.

The messenger
Michael Collins Piper has written and been an editor for The American Free Press and its predecessor, the Spotlight, for the past 20 years. Both papers, as well as the now-defunct Liberty Lobby, were founded by Willis Carto, one of the most notorious American anti-Semites in the post-World War II era. Carto's ideological genealogy can be traced back to Francis Parker Yockney, an American anti-Semitic writer/philosopher and supporter of the Hitler regime in Germany. Carto's career has had its ups and downs, but critics maintain that he more than anyone else has been responsible for keeping anti-Semitism alive in the United States. He was also instrumental in the creation of the National Alliance, the most notorious neo-Nazi organization in the US. Piper has been a close associate of Carto's for years and also contributes to the Barnes Review, a "scholarly journal" founded by Carto and devoted to "Holocaust Revisionism".

Piper's own writings have disputed recognized historical truths and have suggested, for example that the Zyclon-B used to gas Jews in Nazi concentration camps was really used only to delouse clothing. Particularly illuminating, though, was an American Free Press article he penned shortly after the events of September 11, 2001, arguing that the Israelis and the Jews were responsible for the attacks. "Did Ariel Sharon help orchestrate the September 11 terrorist attacks to instigate all-out US war against Israel's enemies?" he asked. "Don't discount it," the article concludes.

This sort of writing is typical of Piper, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based Jewish human-rights organization dedicated to "fostering tolerance and understanding".

"[Piper] never found a conspiracy he didn't like," explained Cooper, who is well acquainted with Piper's activities. Piper, who has attributed everything from the Monica Lewinsky scandal to Watergate to the Israelis, is from the school of writers that disregards the mountains of evidence and facts pointing to one conclusion in favor of rumors, whisperings and innuendo that point to the hidden hand of a nefarious enemy.

The main theses of Piper's books are that the Mossad, Israel's spy agency, was complicit in the assassination of John F Kennedy and that the Israel lobby (in his writings and interviews Piper uses the terms "Jews" and "Israel" interchangeably) controls US foreign policy. They are "the hidden power behind Washington", according to an interview that ran in the Star, Malaysia's largest English-language daily. Piper insists that his motives are "to help Palestinians get their land back, keep American kids from getting their hands and legs blown off, and keep some Jewish people from their own excesses". But an examination of his writings clearly reveals a lifetime crusade against a singular villain - the Jews. Repeated phone calls to the Star editor responsible for the interview over the course of the week requesting an interview, or even an informal lunch discussion, were to no avail. To his credit, though, the editor did mention in the article that "regardless of views and beliefs, open discussion and exchange usually serve better" the cause of divining truth.

The Star article suggested that Piper doesn't get play in the US press because he brings up unpleasant truths, implying that there is a campaign to suppress Piper's writings. Piper himself works up this angle in interviews, speeches, articles and books, frequently lashing out at the Anti-Defamation League, a watchdog group that he contends is out to get him. Piper says the Jewish-controlled media giants and publishing companies won't go near his books because they are afraid of the truth. A more accurate description, however, would be that the mainstream media ignore Piper and his ilk, as his scribblings were recognized long ago for what they are.

"Nobody takes him seriously in the United States," said one media watcher who attended one of the lectures. "He's pretty extreme, to say the least."

Rabbi Cooper explained: "People like Piper and the others are free to write just about anything they want because we champion the freedom of the press ... but it's hard to over-exaggerate how irrelevant the lunatic fringe is in the US." Western journalists in Kuala Lumpur echoed this assessment. Common sense works against Piper as well; it would stand to reason that if he was as dangerous as he claims to be, Mossad would have killed him long ago.

Until recently Piper has been the darling of white supremacist bulletin boards such as Stormfront.org and has been a speaker at meetings of the Counsel of Conservative Citizens, as well as a noted guest at reunions held by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Recently, however, Piper has found some attention on the worldwide lecture circuit, speaking at events in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Moscow, Japan and Malaysia. "There is a market for Americans who are prepared to say nasty things about America," explained Cooper.

Piper told the Zayed Center in Dubai, also in the UAE, that he became a journalist to "combat the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias on the part of the mass media in America". That visit has been something of a feather in Piper's cap; he asserted that the anti-Jewish Zayed center was closed down because it hosted him and that the visit sparked an international controversy. During that visit he sounded the trumpet against the Jewish plutocrats who allegedly control America, insisting that "everyone of the major television networks is dominated by Jewish financial interests". He also asserted that antipathy in the US toward Saudi Arabia is a result of Anti-Defamation League propaganda. Piper didn't respond to an interview request.

There is no shortage of "alternative media" available to the curious reader with an Internet connection. The proliferation of bloggers and e-papers is a testament to the fact that people are searching for more than the mainstream line. With the rise of the Internet, however, there is also no shortage of hate-motivated "reporting", and stories originating in the US and disguised in a veneer of legitimacy can make it around the world in seconds, to be read by people lacking the experience to put the "news" in proper context.

Fertile ground for conspiracy theories
In preparing for this article, I wrote several e-mails and called the Malaysian Bar Council a number of times. The human rights officer and the communications officer both refused to comment, but only after they asked me if I was a Jew. No one at the Bar Council of Malaysia was willing to discuss anything about Piper. I was able to speak with Dr Chanda Muzaffar, director of the International Movement for a Just World or JUST, a Kuala Lumpur-based organization that works to increase cross-cultural dialogue in an effort to "discover that the spiritual and moral worldviews and values embodied in all religious and cultural philosophies can offer the human race much needed guidance in our common quest for a just world".

Dr Muzaffar said his group helped to organize one of Piper's speaking engagements. He told me that Piper had spoken mainly about the influence of the neo-conservatives and "the hidden power behind Washington". Piper was an interesting draw, explained Dr Muzaffar, because he discussed "manifestations of Washington's overwhelming military power." JUST's website is consistent with the aforementioned mission; its essays are aimed at increasing understanding and most of its analysis centers on the exercise of power to protect its own interests. Although the US government is a common target, there is no mention of Jewish influence or conspiracy theories. The website also has essays describing the difference between anti-Semitism and radical Zionism.

In my discussions with people in Malaysia, I discovered an unfortunate reality that derives from lack of experience. Many people here do not know the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Israel. The two are conflated. A senior journalist at Malaysiakini.com, a popular online newspaper here, explained to me that the concept of anti-Semitism doesn't really exist in Malaysia. "People say things about the Jews," he said, "but it's not at the level of racism."

He explained that most people have not met Jews, so the remarks stem from a sort of benign ignorance. He suggested that it would take a push from the outside to create true racism. Another discussion with a Malaysia-based American human-rights advocate confirmed this: "To have anti-Semitism, to classify it as such, you need to have incidents, like spray-painting a synagogue, or something like that. Here that just doesn't happen, because there are no targets." Thus, people are groping to understand world events, and people like Piper are ready with a framework that explains all the unfairness and injustice that exists.

The International Jew
A recent trip through a bookstore at Kuala Lumpur's central train station revealed a treasure trove of anti-Semitic literature, including two versions of Henry Ford's The International Jew, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and The New International Jew. There were also numerous titles in Malay. I asked the manager about the books, and he said they can't keep them on the shelves. "This one [The International Jew], we must sell 50 a day. We have already had to reorder three times."

When asked why people are buying them, the manager said it's because they want to know about Jews, especially now.

Some of the books were published by the Thinker's Library, a local publishing house that takes its name from the renowned Thinker's Library of London, which once published works by Brave New World author Aldous Huxley, among others. I called and spoke to the director of the Thinker's Library, who had his whole line of English-language books couriered to my office the next day. He said the books about Islam weren't big sellers but The International Jew was about to go into its third print this year; the first two runs of 3,000 books each had sold out.

So why is the book selling so well? "People here love anything about conspiracies," the bookstore manager said, adding that he got the text off the Internet. The International Jew originally was published in the 1920s. It is now part of the public domain, meaning that any publisher can print it freely. Extremist publishing houses in the US such as Noontide Press make these works conveniently available online.

Another Thinker's Library title, Gordon Mohr's The New International Jew, is published "by special arrangement" in Malaysia. These books are widely available in other bookstores around the capital as well. The synopsis on the jacket of the abridged version of The International Jew, which is also available on the Internet, explains that "the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion reveal a concerted plan of action, or intention, and achievement, through centuries of world history". The Protocols has been recognized as one of the most pernicious hoaxes in history, and was used to justify pogroms against the Jews in czarist Russia, as well as by the Nazis to support "the Final Solution", the Nazi plan to exterminate the Jewish people. Conversations with book dealers in the night markets of Kuala Lumpur reveal that the Protocols is kind of an underground favorite. And while it is understood in the West that this book is a hoax, it is sold as an authentic document here.

Publications such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and The International Jew contributed to the zeitgeist from which the Holocaust sprang. People believed what they read. Now these works are finding readers in Malaysia. The same thing is happening throughout the world, it seems. Universal disapproval of Israeli foreign policy is fueling a resurgence of anti-Jewish sentiment. Anti-Israel becomes anti-Jew. "It's not the ideas that we're afraid of," says Rabbi Cooper, "It's the blind embrace of hatred. The hate is not new, the ideas are not new." But there are new opportunities to spread the hatred.

The Internet, it has been written, is a massive, unregulated "Wild West" technological frontier in which anything goes. Hatred and racism seem to go very well, and the Internet has indeed facilitated the dissemination of racist propaganda. For example, RadioIslam.org, a Sweden-based organization founded by Ahmed Rami, claims to reveal the truth of the Jewish conspiracy and carries the text of the Protocols in 11 languages. The Protocols has become so widespread that the Wiesenthal center has translated its "Debunking the Big Lie" into Arabic and will soon make it available on its website. The Anti-Defamation League's website says that "the Internet has given free access to the hatemongers in the US to cross-pollinate with anti-Semites globally to spread their venom of hate on a scale [like] never before possible".

Roots of anti-Semitism in Malaysia
Rabbi Cooper said that the most virulent anti-Semitism comes from the Middle East, but that it is spreading among moderate Muslims around the world. "It's a kind of cancer that started in the Middle East in which thinkers have borrowed classic anti-Jewish themes to paper over the lack of democracy in the Arab world ... It has little to do with Islam and everything to do with hate." Malaysians watch the Israel/Palestine conflict very closely, and feel sympathy for the latter.

Much of the anti-Israel sentiment in Malaysia comes from former prime minister Mahathir. Mahathir is well known for tirades against the Jewish conspiracy made during his 22-year reign. His most famous remarks were aimed at financier George Soros and include a speech he made at the Organization of Islamic Conference last year, where he stated that "the Jews rule the world by proxy" and insisted that "1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews".

Mahathir discusses global Jewish hegemony matter-of-factly and says he has lots of Jewish friends. He invited the Israeli cricket team to play a game in Malaysia to enhance understanding. That may be the case for Mahathir, but it's not the case for most Malaysians. And while analysts debate the motivations behind Mahathir's comments, some claiming that he is forced to say such things due to domestic political considerations. Others maintain he is, in his heart, anti-Jewish. Whatever the case, the fact remains that his opinion carries weight in Malaysia, and since there is no debate, argument, or counterweight, people reasonably take his word as truth. The only evidence of a Jewish presence in Malaysia is an old Jewish cemetery in Penang. There are no synagogues here, and nobody to refute the allegations that Jews control the world.

An intellectual veneer
Everyone from the National Alliance to French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen are scrambling to identify themselves with more moderate positions. Le Pen's championing of the cause of Iraqi children is a good example of extremists attempting to show their "human side". This move has been hijacked by the more esoteric elements of global hegemonic theory by the Jewish conspiracy crowd. The fact that International Movement for a Just World was willing to host Piper is evidence enough of this conflation of world views. But the differences are fundamental; one outlook makes an argument based on power and money, while the other is purely racial in nature. It is integral to the new anti-Semitism that common cause be found with anti-establishment intellectuals, those who see global politics as manifestations of power and money. By adopting elements of these more palatable world views, the Pipers of the world are able to find a forum among intellectuals not familiar with their true motivations. US extremists contacted for this article confirm that meshing of ideals. Tom Metzger, leader of White Aryan Resistance, explains that their "anti-transnational corporation, anti-imperialist position" finds a great deal of like-minded people around the world. Piper and the writers at American Free Press have learned to tone down the language a bit, but the message remains the same.

US hate-group leaders have expressed admiration for the September 11 terrorists on numerous occasions and admit to an ideological affinity with extremists. Public Eye, the online portal of the American non-profit organization Political Research Associates, explains that the extreme right in the US has three ideological affinities with fundamentalist Muslims: 1) A hatred of Jews who are seen in the traditional anti-Semitic caricature of running the world through secret conspiracies; 2) A hatred of the US government, which is seen not just as a global bully but also as a tool of the Jews; and 3) A desire to overthrow existing governments and replace them with monocultural nation states built around the idea of supremacist racial nationalism. Thus, there is an ideological marriage of convenience. As Metzger puts it, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".

Does it really matter?
One political analyst suggested that the concept of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy is a coping mechanism. "It makes it a lot easier to understand the world if you can pick out a few bad guys, a plan, or a plot, and blame all the bad things that are happening in the world on that," he said.

Rabbi Cooper suggested that there is a "need to find conspiracy theories that will get Islamists and jihadists of the hook". So in Malaysia, where there are no Jews, it may seem irrelevant. "What's the harm?" one might ask. But Cooper explained that for a nation determined to be recognized as "developed" by the year 2020, it is very dangerous. "Bringing in a guy like Piper to speak to your decision-makers is like bringing in the lunatic fringe to provide analysis of the Bush administration's plans over the next four years ... It's a terrible signal to investors in the US," Cooper said.

Whether Piper's appearance here indicates a lack of research by his hosts, or a genuine anti-Jewish bent, his cause is served. He and others like him will continue to bang the drum of Jewish conspiracy now that they have found a new audience. Perhaps the most telling excerpt from Piper's interview with the Star was a comment on the US election: "The pro-Israel influence will remain, whichever party wins the election ... Israel wins whoever wins the presidential election." And either way, people like Piper will still be in business.

Keith Andrew Bettinger is a researcher and journalist currently based in Kuala Lumpur. His interests include development and environmental issues, as well as US and international politics. He is a native of Shreveport, Louisiana, and has advanced degrees in international affairs and education. He can be contacted at kisu1492@yahoo.com.

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Nov 30, 2004
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