Malaysia’s nonagenarian prime minister has defended his controversial statements referring to Jews as “hook-nosed,” doubling down to assert that the creation of Israel has triggered most of the current troubles in the Middle East.
Mahathir Mohamad’s comments came after being asked about alleged instances of being a “proud anti-Semite” during his long career in politics, by journalist Zeinab Badawi during an interview on BBC’s Hardtalk program on Tuesday.
“If you are going to be truthful, the problem in the Middle East began with the creation of Israel. That is the truth. But I cannot say that,” he told Badawi. Labelling Israelis as “special” over other nationalities, Mohamad said that any challenges to the Israeli state’s historical narratives, such as questioning the exact number of Jews murdered during the Holocaust, are automatically branded as anti-Semitic.
— AJC Asia (@AJC_Asia) October 2, 2018
Quoting his 1970 book “the Malay Dilemma,” Mohamad was then challenged about describing Jews as “hook-nosed” and who “understand money instinctively.” He responded that Malaysians too were the subject of comments like being “lazy” or about their appearance.
“They are hook-nosed,” he agreed, before adding that “many people called the Malays fat-nosed. We didn’t object, we didn’t go to war for that.”
At 93, Mohamad became the world’s oldest leader in May, when he swept to power for the second time in his career, following the resignation and arrest of Najib Razak amid a massive corruption scandal.
With Mahathir Mohamad again leading Malaysia, we cannot forget his decades-long record of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. The world cannot accept this from any leader. https://t.co/VeI0cxpTFu
— ADL (@ADL) May 10, 2018
However, his return to power was met with criticism from those who say his previous remarks on Israel were anti-Semitic, with a tweet from US-based Anti-Defamation League (ADF) calling it “unacceptable.”
While the Israeli government has yet to comment and the ADL has yet to react to the comments made in his recent interview, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) slammed the remarks tweeting: “such moments by political leaders cannot be tolerated.”