(June 18, 2019 / JNS) Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad added to his anti-Semitic record on Sunday, eliciting laughter from the Cambridge Union—the more than 200-year-old debating and free speech society in Cambridge, England, and the largest society at the University of Cambridge.
“I had some Jewish friends, very good friends. They are not like the other Jews, that’s why they are my friends,” he said in response to a question about his previous remarks that have been deemed anti-Semitic.
The World Jewish Congress condemned the prime minister’s comments.
“These new comments from Prime Minister Mohamed are reprehensible but nothing new,” said World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder. “They are merely the latest manifestation of the virulent brand of anti-Semitism that he promotes in his own country.
“Although the Cambridge Union has an extensive history of hosting world leaders and honoring the right to freedom of speech, it should have been aware of Mr. Mohamed’s past comments on Jews and the State of Israel which come uncomfortably close to hate speech,” he said.
The university’s Union of Jewish Students responded, saying “it is chilling to see a crowd of students laugh off flagrantly anti-Semitic comments. Freedom of speech is not a joke when it incites hatred against one people.”
The Cambridge Union did not condemn the comments, though it did distance itself from them.
In a statement, it said that the laughter “originated from the middle section, which was composed of the prime minister’s delegation.”
“The prime minister was scrutinised on his record throughout the event both from the moderator and the audience,” it added.
“As a society, free speech and student welfare are equally important to us. We invited the [university’s] Jewish Society to attend the talk to ask questions to the prime minister, and we allowed them to hand out flyers to the audience.”
Earlier this year, Malaysia banned Israel from participating in the Muslim-majority nation’s hosting of international sporting events, with the latter citing the choice was motivated by Mohamad’s “rabid anti-Semitism.”
Mohamad labeled Jews as “hook-nosed” last October and condemned Israel for creating chaos in the Middle East.
Malaysia was eventually stripped of the right to host a Paralympic swimming championship, scheduled for July, by the International Paralympic Committee.
The event will instead be held in September in London.