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Chirac Thwarts EU Condemnation of Anti-Semitism

Pres. Jacques Chirac has thwarted a European Union condemnation of a strongly anti-Semitic speech by the Malaysian Prime Minister - and Israel is considering filing an official protest against France.
First Publish: 10/19/2003, 5:11 PM

Pres. Jacques Chirac has thwarted a European Union condemnation of a strongly anti-Semitic speech by the Malaysian Prime Minister - and Israel is considering filing an official protest against France.

Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohammed, speaking at the Islamic Summit Conference (OIC) in his country last week, bemoaned the ineffectual and feeble state of Moslems and Arabs around the world, lacing his words with some of the most anti-Semitic statements sounded by a world leader in the past several decades. "1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews," he said. "There must be a way... We are actually very strong. 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them." This statement was greeted by a standing ovation.

Mahathir continued,
"We are up against a people who think. They survived 2000 years of pogroms not by hitting back, but by thinking. They invented and successfully promoted Socialism, Communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so they may 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. We cannot fight them through brawn alone. We must use our brains also. Of late because of their power and their apparent success they have become arrogant. And arrogant people, like angry people will make mistakes, will forget to think. They are already beginning to make mistakes. And they will make more mistakes. There may be windows of opportunity for us now and in the future. We must seize these opportunities. But to do so we must get our acts right..."

EU President Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, like other world leaders in the U.S., Great Britain, Australia, Germany and elsewhere, strongly condemned these remarks. Australian Prime Minister John Howard even went so far as to say, "Any suggestion from anybody anywhere in the world of dividing the world into Jewish and non-Jewish groupings is historically indefensible and wrong" - leaving even Jewish elements puzzled as to his intention.

France's Chirac, however, went to the other extreme. Italy wished the EU to sponsor a statement saying, in the words of the Italian Foreign Minister, " [Mahathir] used expressions that were gravely offensive, very strongly anti-Semitic and... strongly counter to principles of tolerance, dialogue and understanding between the Western world and the Islamic world." Chirac, however, vetoed the condemnation on procedural grounds.

Yitzchak Meir, Israel's former ambassador to Switzerland, said that Chirac had made a grave diplomatic error in permitting the European Union to allow Mahathir's anti-Semitism to go unanswered. "Aside from the Israeli government's reaction," Meir added, "I expect the Israeli public to respond: Israel's writers, journalists, rabbis, and citizens should make their voices and their protest heard against Chirac..."