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Israel Responds To Mahathir Mohamad Remarks

Israel Responds To Mahathir Mohamad Remarks


by Richard S. Ehrlich

BANGKOK, Thailand -- The Israeli embassy has demanded "the Muslim world" and others condemn Malaysia's leader for invoking anti-Semitic ideas which enabled Nazis to kill more than six million Jews.

"We call on right-thinking people and countries, both the Muslim world and outside of it, to utterly condemn the invocation of the same anti-Semitic ideas which led to the worst case of mass murder in human history," the Israeli embassy's deputy chief of mission, Shalomi Kofman, said in a statement aimed at Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

"It is a shame that in the course of a speech, ostensibly dedicated to solving the problems in the Muslim world in the 21st century, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad could not restrain himself from resurrecting vile invectives, innuendo and outright lies taken straight from classic anti-Semitic propaganda," the Israeli diplomat wrote in a statement published in Thailand's media on Tuesday (Oct. 21).

"I have friends who are Jews," Dr. Mahathir said, defending his views in a Bangkok Post interview also published on Tuesday (Oct. 21). "We don't want to kill them."

Jews, however, are anti-Muslim, he claimed.

"Many newspapers are owned by the Jews...only their side of the picture is given now," he said.

"The Muslims, we are pictured as terrorists, unreasonable people, unable to administer our countries, unable to develop our countries. That is the picture that is being given," he told the paper.

"In dealing with terrorists, you have to find out why they want to crash a plane into a huge building," he said, referring to the September 11, 2001 attack on New York.

"Yes, you can apply military pressure, but you must also find the root cause, the political cause."

The Malaysian leader, who is also a Muslim, is due step down from the prime ministry at the end of this month.

The biggest opposition party in his Muslim-majority Southeast Asian nation, however, is even more hard-line in its pro-Islamic stance and has demanded Malaysia be ruled by 1,300-year-old "sharia" laws drawn from the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

The opposition Islamic Party, or Parti Islam Semalaysia (PAS), demands males and females be segregated in supermarket lines and other public places, while thieves' limbs be amputated and anyone convicted of adultery, rape or murder be stoned to death, in keeping with Islamic forms of justice.

"We support Hamas, because they are Palestinians who are being oppressed," the new president of PAS, Abdul Hadi Awang, told a party conference in September.

"All Israeli civilians are soldiers and all of Israeli territory is a battlefield," Mr. Abdul later told a news conference.

Mr. Abdul is to lead PAS in next year's general elections, which will be Malaysia's first national poll in 22 years without Prime Minister Mahathir heading the government's side.

In the past, while competing against PAS for votes, Dr. Mahathir has frequently whipped up anti-Jewish sentiment.

His latest outburst against Jews began on Thursday (Oct. 16) in his speech to an applauding, 57-nation, Organization of the Islamic Conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia.

"The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy," Dr. Mahathir told the Islamic meeting. "They get others to fight and die for them," he added.

"They invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so that they can enjoy equal rights with others.

"With these they have now gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power."

Dr. Mahathir cheered the Islamic Conference by predicting "1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews."

"Everyone thinks the comments were hateful, they are outrageous," U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice told reporters on Monday (Oct. 20) during an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok.

She said U.S. President George Bush perceived the Malaysian leader's statements as "reprehensible."

Dr. Mahathir responded to the international outcry by telling the paper, "they pick up one sentence in which I said, 'the Jews control the world.' Well, the reaction of the world shows that they control the world."

Mr. Bush and Dr. Mahathir, along with 19 other world leaders, attended the APEC summit which ended on Tuesday (Oct. 21).

**-ENDS-**

Richard S. Ehrlich, a freelance journalist who has reported news from Asia for the past 25 years, is co-author of the non-fiction book, "HELLO MY BIG BIG HONEY!" -- Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews. His web page is http://www.geocities.com/glossograph/

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