'Why we can't say anything against Israel and the Jews?'

Malaysia has ‘right’ to ban Israelis, says PM, rejecting anti-Semitism charge

In speech to Oxford Union, Mahathir Mohamad defends bigoted remarks about Jews, says ‘powerful’ Israeli government ‘committing war crimes all the time’

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in an interview with The Associated Press in Putrajaya, Malaysia, August 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)
Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in an interview with The Associated Press in Putrajaya, Malaysia, August 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that it was the country’s “right” to deny entry to Israeli nationals and that it was “unfair to label him as anti-Semitic” for previous anti-Semitic remarks while criticizing the Israeli government.

Speaking on Friday evening before Oxford University’s prestigious debating chamber, the Oxford Union, Mohamad said that “a country has the right to keep its borders closed to certain people, that’s why borders are there.”

Malaysia has banned Israeli athletes from an upcoming Paralympic swimming tournament, a move harshly criticized by Israel “shameful.” Israel further called for the International Paralympic Committee to help reverse the decision or change the venue of the Kuching tournament, scheduled for July and August on the island of Borneo, a qualifying event for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

“Many countries today are seeing outsiders coming to their country and they are not very happy about it. They are overthrowing their governments because their governments allow immigrants to come in,” Mohamad said Friday in a discussion session posted to Facebook.

Malaysia, Mohamad said, has “no diplomatic relations with Israel at all, and we don’t think that they should come to our country because we have no relations with them.”

“We feel that they were doing a lot of wrong things but getting away with it, because nobody dares to say anything against them,” he said.

When pressed by a host on whether it was “fair to penalize” individual Israeli citizens or athletes because Malaysia may oppose the policies of the Israeli government, Mohamad responded with: “Well, it is not fair to call me anti-Semitic; they should call other people anti-Semitic. I am not anti-Semitic, the Arabs are all Semitic people.”

This was met with applause from the audience.

The Israeli national Paralympic team on its return from the 2018 European championships. (Israel Paralympic Association photo, Facebook)

The Malaysian prime minister further defended himself against charges of anti-Semitism, when he was reminded that he had previously said Jewish people are “hooked nosed” with “an instinctive sense of money,” which the host pointed out are anti-Semitic statements.

Mohamad said these remarks were part of “freedom of speech,” and asked “why we can’t say anything against Israel, against the Jews?”

“We are free to say what we like, we can say something that can be regarded as anti-Semitic by the Jews. That is their right to hold such an opinion of me. It is my right to tell them they have been doing a lot of wrong things,” he said.

When pressed further on why the criticism against the Israeli government takes the form of anti-Semitic remarks and not a direct rejection of certain policies, Mohamad said,”Well, it seems most of them support the stance taken by [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu against the Arabs, so when I say only the ‘Zionists,’ people don’t understand. What they do understand is the word ‘yahudi’ or ‘Jews.'”

Ucapan dan sesi dialog Perdana Menteri, Tun Dr.Mahathir di Majlis Perhimpunan Kesatuan Oxford

Ikuti ucapan dan sesi dialog Perdana Menteri, Tun Dr.Mahathir Mohamad di Majlis Perhimpunan Kesatuan Oxford. Kesatuan Oxford, atau, Oxford Union merupakan sebuah kesatuan debat paling berprestij di dunia, dan salah satu daripada kesatuan universiti tertua pernah diwujudkan di Britain.Anda juga boleh menonton secara langsung di Saluran Astro 501, FB Astro Awani, www.astroawani.com/live-tv & Saluran YouTube 501 Astro AWANI

Posted by Astro AWANI on Friday, January 18, 2019

Mohamad went on to call the Israeli government “very powerful, so we don’t say anything about the Israeli government, but we don’t have to show friendship towards them.”

“This is a government that does not care about the opinion of others, that’s why they keep on committing war crimes all the time…so if they don’t like it, they can say they don’t like it, I don’t care,” he went on, to more applause and laughter.

“If they want to come to our country, we have borders which we guard to allow only people whom we like to come to Malaysia. But the people who have done a lot of wrong things, if we consider them as unfit to visit Malaysia, that is our right,” he said.

Prior to the discussion, the Oxford Jewish Society voiced its concerns over the invitation of Mohamad whom it said is “known for publicly expressing anti-Semitic views.”

“Prime Minister Mohamad is an open and unrepentant anti-Semite, accusing Jews of ‘Nazi cruelty’ and seeking to wipe out all Muslims, has said ‘Anti-Semitic’ is ‘an invented term to prevent criticizing Jews for doing wrong’, as well as indulging in Holocaust denial. Given an opportunity to reframe his comments on a recent edition of BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’, he instead chose to refer to Jews as ‘hook-nosed,'” read a statement by Oxford Jewish Society President Nicole Jacobus, to Facebook.

Other Jewish groups also expressed concern over Mohamad’s invitation.

Israeli athletes in the Arab world

Israeli athletes are regularly banned from competing at international sporting events in Arab and Muslim countries, or forced to compete without displaying their national symbols. A number of incidents have led to reprimands from international governing bodies and promises to reform.

Malaysia has stopped Israeli athletes from competing in a sporting event before. Two Israeli windsurfers had to pull out of a competition on the island of Langkawi after they were refused visas in 2015.

Malaysia also refused to host a conference for world soccer’s governing body FIFA in 2017 as an Israeli delegation was due to attend.

Mahathir, now 93 and in his second stint as prime minister, has in the past attracted criticism for his verbal attacks on Jews, including calling them “hook-nosed.”

The previous government allowed a high-level Israeli delegation to attend a UN conference in Kuala Lumpur in 2018, sparking public anger.

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