Malaysian PM: I made ‘hook-nose Jews’ remark as Israel has done ‘wrong things’

Malaysian PM: I made ‘hook-nose Jews’ remark as Israel has done ‘wrong things’

Elderly leader speaks at the prestigious Oxford Union where he was challenged over previous remarks, but insists 'It is unfair to call me antisemitic'

Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaking at the Oxford Union
Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaking at the Oxford Union

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed has told Oxford students that he denied visas to disabled Israeli athletes and made comments about “hook-nosed” Jews because he feels Israel has done “wrong things”.

Dr Mohamed, 93, was speaking in the prestigious Oxford Union debating chamber, where students have heard from – and challenged – other divisive world figures such as Donald Trump’s former advisor Steve Bannon.

On the subject of visas, Mohamed said Malaysia had no diplomatic relations with Israel, adding: “We feel that they were doing a lot of wrong things but getting away with it because nobody dares to say anything against them”.

Challenged on the unfairness of denying individuals visas because of their state’s actions, Mohamed said: “It is also unfair to call me antisemitic. I’m not antisemitic. The Arabs are all Semitic people.”

The Malaysian PM has previously said Jews are “hook-nosed” and have an “instinctive” sense of money. At Oxford, after being accused of racism, he said: “I cannot understand this. We talk about freedom of speech and yet you cannot say anything against Israel, against the Jews.

“Why is that so? If we are free to say what we like, we are free to say something that may be regarded as antisemitic by the Jews. That is their right to call such opinion of me, but it’s my right also to tell them they have been doing a lot of wrong things.”

Mohamed, whose invitation had been questioned by the University’s Jewish society, was applauded by sections of the audience, and explained that he had used the word “Jews” because he felt people would not understand if he used the word “Zionists” instead.

Asked why he attacked Jews and not Israel, Mohamed said: “Most of them support the stand taken by Netanyahu against the Arabs, so when I say ‘only the Zionists’ people do not understand. What they do understand is the word ‘yehudi’ or ‘Jews’.”

On Israel, he added: “We can’t do much about the Israeli government. They are very powerful. But we don’t have to show friendship towards them. We have borders to allow people we like to come to Malaysia. People who have done wrong things we consider unfit to visit.”

Mohamed was asked by a student what good his comments would do for the two-state solution, but the 93-year old returned to the theme, saying: “This is a government that doesn’t care about the opinions of others. That’s why they keep on committing war crimes all the time. That’s why I say what I say. If they don’t like it, they can say they don’t like it, I don’t care.”

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