Malaysia terror haven?
Malaysia terror haven?iStock

“Jews are the first but not the last.” This is a rather common expression used to warn societies at large that they are also vulnerable if there is major incitement or aggression against Jews. The statement is very general in nature. Therefore it is advisable to provide from time to time concrete examples.

Mohamad Mahathir is a powerful extreme antisemite. He was prime minister of Malaysia from1981 until 2003 and again from February 2018 until March 2020. Much publicity was given to his reaction to recent Muslim terrorist acts in France. On October 16, a Chechnian Muslim beheaded a French teacher. This was followed a few days later by a Tunisian Muslim murderer killing three people in a Nice church.

Mahathir then wrote in his blog: "Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past." Both Twitter and Facebook removed the posts containing this remark as it glorified violence.

Mahathir claimed that the text was quoted out of context and followed it up with a further statement; "I am indeed disgusted with attempts to misrepresent and take out of context what I wrote on my blog,” He said critics failed to read his posting in full, especially the next sentence, which read: “But by and large Muslims have not applied the ‘eye for an eye’ law. Muslims don’t. The French shouldn’t. Instead the French should teach their people to respect other people’s feelings.”

The pro “right to murder” statement of Mahathir fits in with a problem that commentators usually do not dare to mention, even if they understand it. While a great majority of Muslims are not violent and do not agree with violence in the name of their religion Islam also leaves place in its ranks for extreme murderous positions. Simplistically stated, there is apparently nothing like the Ten Commandments in Islam. This permits positions and statements like the one by Mahathir within the framework of his religion/ideology, as well as the de-facto genocidal callings by Iranian leaders. All of this is far from the worldviews of Christianity and Judaism.

It also has permitted the development of many terrorist organizations within the boundaries of Islam. The three leading terrorist organizations in the world in 2019 were all Muslim: ISIS, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram. There are also imams who occasionally promote murder. Some Fatwas – religious rulings -- also call for outright murder. One of the most publicized was that by Ayatollah Khomeini against author Salman Rushdie in 1989.

These murderous tendencies can occasionally be found even among young children. A French teacher at the Pierre Mendes France college in the town Saumur reprimanded an eleven-year-old child that he was not listening. The child reacted: “My father will come and behead you."

Foreign officials have reported that during discussions with Malaysian top officials they often heard hateful remarks about Israel, unrelated to the topic of conversation. Mahathir has a long record of verbal antisemitic attacks, even if they were never as murderous as the recent attack in France.

In 1986, at a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, Mahathir said: "The expulsion of Jews from the Holy Land 2,000 years ago and the Nazi oppression of Jews have taught them nothing. If anything at all, it has transformed the Jews into the very monsters that they condemn so roundly in their propaganda material. They have been pupils of the late Dr. Goebbels."

His most notorious and best-remembered anti-Jewish incitement took place at the Tenth Summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in 2003. It was attended by leaders from 57 countries. Mahathir represented relations between Muslims and Jews as a worldwide frontal confrontation, offering some new examples of a "Jewish conspiracy." His words were broadly applauded by the attendants.

The Washington Post wrote about the standing ovation Mahathir received at the OIC: “Mahathir’s clique included Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah, Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf, our guy in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, and even Russia’s Vladimir Putin, representing his country’s large Muslim minority.” When a variety of European countries criticized Mahathir, not a single leader of a Muslim country distanced himself from his speech.

In 2018, Mahathir spoke at the United Nations. About Israel he said: “The world does not care even when Israel breaks international laws, seizing ships carrying medicine, food and building materials in international waters. The Palestinians fired ineffective rockets, which hurt no one. Massive retaliations were mounted by Israel, rocketing and bombing hospitals, schools and other buildings, killing innocent civilians including school children and hospital patients. And more,” he said. “The world rewards Israel, deliberately provoking Palestine by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

In his 2019 speech at the United Nations he diversified his topic saying, among other things, that Israel was at the origin of terrorism, making the untrue statement that its 90% Arab population was [entirely]l expelled: “The first act engineered by the Western countries is the creation of the state of Israel by seizing Palestinian land and expelling its 90% Arab population. Since then wars have been fought in many countries, many related to the creation of Israel. And now we have terrorism when there was none before or at least none on the present scale.

“… Because of the creation of Israel, there is now enmity towards the Muslims and Islam. Muslims are accused of terrorism even if they did nothing.” He also added that Malaysia accepts the state of Israel as a fait accompli.

In 2018, when the Australian Liberal Scott Morrison government was considering whether to move their country’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Mahathir said that he had told the Australian prime minister that adding to the cause of terrorism is not going to be helpful. The treasurer of the party, Josh Frydenberg, mentioned Mahathir's antisemitism. He said that the Malaysian prime minister had called Jews 'hooked nose people' and has questioned the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust. Mahathir also banned the movie Schindler's List from being shown in Malaysia.

In many places where he spoke, Mahathir attacked Israel. A few examples: In 2019 he was hosted by the student union at Cambridge University. He said: "I had some Jewish friends, very good friends. They are not like the other Jews, that is why they are my friends." For those familiar with the history of antisemitism, the remark that one is not an antisemite as one has Jewish friends is often an indirect indication that one is an antisemite.

In 2019, Mahathir also spoke at the World Leader’s Forum at Columbia University. He defended his past antisemitic statements and questioned the number of Jews killed during the Holocaust. He said: “I am exercising my right to free speech. Why is it that I can’t say something against the Jews, when a lot of people say nasty things about me, about Malaysia, and I didn’t protest, I didn’t demonstrate?”

In response to a question by a student who identified herself as a member of a campus pro-Israel group, Mahathir denied questioning how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust, but then went on to do so.

At the Oxford student union in the beginning of 2019 he said: said: “We talk about freedom of speech, and yet you cannot say anything against Israel, against the Jews. Why is that so?”

Note that the above examples are but a small selection.

In an interview on BBC Hard Talk Mahathir 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.”

If there were a scientific ranking of antisemites in the world, Mahathir would be near the top. Yet his recent incitement against the Jews and Israel has been surpassed even by his hatred of the West.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is the emeritus Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He has been a strategic advisor for more than thirty years to some of the Western world’s leading corporations. Among the honors he received was the 2019 International Lion of Juda Award of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research paying tribute to him as the recognized leading international authority on contemporary antisemitism. His main book on the subject is: The War of a Million Cuts The struggle against the delegitimization of Israel and the Jews and the growth of New antisemitism.