Malaysian PM defends describing Jews as ‘hooked-nosed’ on BBC’s Hard Talk

Malaysian PM defends describing Jews as ‘hooked-nosed’ on BBC’s Hard Talk

Mahathir Mohamad refuses to apologise for series of antisemitic remarks, including saying Jews 'understand money instinctively'

Malaysia's leader, Mahathir Mohamad
Malaysia's leader, Mahathir Mohamad

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad described Jews as “hook-nosed” and blamed Israel for the unrest in the Middle East, reinforcing accusations that he is an antisemite.

“If you are going to be truthful, the problem in the Middle East began with the creation of Israel. That is an old truth. But I cannot say that,” he said Tuesday in an interview on the BBC’s Hard Talk.

Mohamad, 93, is serving his second stint as prime minister, after previously serving in the position from 1981 to 2003.

BBC host Zeinab Badawi called him out for describing Jews in his 1970 book “The Malay Dilemma,” as being hook-nosed. “There are many races in this world, I have said nasty thing about them but they never accuse me of anti this or that,” Mohamad said.

“Even lots of people say nasty things about us, such as Malays being lazy or fat-nosed but I did not take it up against them and we did not go to war for that,” he said.

He also wrote in his book that “the Jews are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively.”

Mohamad also has questioned the fact that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, saying the figure was 4 million Jews.

He is a supporter of the Palestinian cause and called out Israel for oppressing the Palestinian people during his address last week to the United Nations General Assembly.

On Monday, Jewish groups denounced the UK visit of the 93-year old. Fresh from his vehemently anti-Israel speech at the United Nations last week, Mohamad visited Imperial College and the University of Oxford before giving a speech to influential think-tank Chatham House.

Board of Deputies Senior Vice President has condemned his latest antisemitic outburst: “Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is a purveyor of antisemitic and antiquated tropes. While the rest of Malaysia is moving forward, he makes it look like the country is moving backward, which is a great pity. We urge our Government to treat him accordingly and to raise concerns at an official level.”

Campaign Against Antisemitism chair Gideon Falter said: “It is utterly appalling that at a time when antisemitism is so raw, a man who is proud to be an antisemite is being courted.”

Falter added: “It is equally unforgivable that he was invited to tour our most prominent educational institutions and share his opinions with students.”

Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister, Mohamad re-entered politics in 2017 and was re-elected in May, ousting his former ally Najib Razak, who has been implicated in a billion-dollar corruption scandal involving state-run investment fund 1MDB.

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