Malaysia’s avowedly anti-Semitic prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has repeated his claim from the 1970s that Jews are “hook-nosed” and claimed that the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust wasn’t six million.
“They are hook-nosed,” he insisted in a BBC interview during a visit to the United Kingdom, after host Zeinab Badawi asked him why he used such language, according to Reuters.
When she noted that many viewers would find his remark offensive, he said: “Many people called the Malays fat-nosed. We didn’t object, we didn’t go to war for that.”
The interview on BBC’s “Hard Talk” is set to air Tuesday afternoon.
In his 1970 book “The Malay Dilemma,” Mahathir wrote that “the Jews are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively,” relying on two famous anti-Semitic stereotypes that were used by Nazi Germany to dehumanize Jews.
Mahathir also claimed that the consensus among historians that some 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust was false, putting the number at 4 million.
Mahathir, a long-time supporter of Palestinian causes, also blamed Israel for the Middle East’s woes.
“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 added.
Last week, Mahathir used his UN General Assembly speech to lambaste Israel, claiming the international community was “rewarding” the Jewish state for its alleged breaches of international law and “terrorism” against Palestinians.
Mahathir recently caused an outrage in Britain after he was invited to speak at Oxford University’s Centre for Islamic Studies and the prestigious think tank Chatham House, and also visited Imperial College London.
The Daily Mail reported that at no point was the Malaysian premier challenged over his virulently anti-Semitic views and statements. Jewish groups have protested the visit.
“It is utterly appalling that at a time when anti-Semitism is so raw, a man who is proud to be an anti-Semite is being courted,” Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, said, according to the Jewish News. “It is equally unforgivable that he was invited to tour our most prominent educational institutions and share his opinions with students.”
In an interview with the Associated Press in August, 93-year-old Mahathir was asked about his record of comments seen as anti-Semitic.
“We should be able to criticize everybody,” he said, and assailed laws against denying the scale of the Holocaust.
“Anti-Semitic is a term that is invented to prevent people from criticizing the Jews for doing wrong things,” he said.
— Imperial College (@imperialcollege) September 24, 2018
Mahathir led his opposition Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) coalition to a surprise victory in national elections in May. He is a larger-than-life figure in Malaysia, with his influence dominating the multiethnic country’s politics from the Cold War into a new millennium. His first turn as prime minister stretched for 22 years, coming to an end in 2003.
He is famous for his outspoken anti-Semitism. He wrote on his personal blog in 2012 that “Jews rule this world by proxy,” the Associated Press has reported.
In a 2003 speech before assembled leaders of Muslim-majority nations at the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Kuala Lumpur, he called for “1.3 billion Muslims” to unite to “counterattack” against the “few million Jews” who had defeated them. He also suggested Jews sought to “wipe out” all the world’s Muslims, and used the Holocaust as an example Muslims could emulate.
“1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews,” he said in the speech. “There must be a way. And we can only find a way if we stop to think, to assess our weaknesses and our strength, to plan, to strategize and then to counterattack. We are actually very strong. 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out.”
He has also said, “I am glad to be labeled anti-Semitic […] How can I be otherwise, when the Jews who so often talk of the horrors they suffered during the Holocaust show the same Nazi cruelty and hardheartedness towards not just their enemies but even towards their allies should any try to stop the senseless killing of their Palestinian enemies.”
AP contributed to this report.