LONDON—Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad described Jews as “hook-nosed” and blamed Israel for creating the troubles in the Middle East, in an interview with BBC’s HardTalk.
In the interview, widely reported by the British media, he said: “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.”
Calling Israelis “special,” Mahathir challenged historical accounts that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, saying the figure was closer to 4 million.
When asked about the description of Jews in his book The Malay Dilemma, he said: “They are hook-nosed. Many people called the Malays fat-nosed. We didn’t object; we didn’t go to war for that.”
Mohamad has been accused several times of anti-Semitism for his attacks against Jews and his conspiracy theories.”
“This kind of blatant antisemitic rhetoric is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to go unanswered,” said World Jewish Congress CEO and executive vice president Robert Singer.
“The country of Malaysia is woven of a diverse cultural fabric,, he said and is a strong and significant member of the international community. As one of the leading Muslim countries in Asia, it also has great potential and opportunity to promote tolerance and acceptance, rather than xenophobia and anti-Semitic tropes,” he said. “The WJC is ready to assist Malaysia in engaging in bridge-building between religions, as can already be seen within Malaysian society, and bring this to the international stage.”
“We hope that President Mohamad will issue a sincere retraction of his hateful statements, and that Malaysian society will denounce these words,” said Singer. “It is a pity that Malaysia’s international standing is sullied by such expressions of bigotry.”