Malaysian PM defends ban of Israelis, denies being anti-Semitic

Malaysian Prime Minister says his country has the right to deny Israeli swimmers entry for a Paralympics qualifier.

Tags: Malaysia
Elad Benari ,

Mahatir Mohamad
Mahatir Mohamad

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohamad defended his country’s right to “keep its borders closed” to Israelis while denying previous accusations of his government’s anti-Semitism, i24news reports.

Malaysia announced last week that Israeli swimmers would be barred from an upcoming competition that will serve as a qualifying event for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. The country’s foreign minister then took things a step further and announced that "Malaysia will not host any event which has Israel participation or representation."

“A country has a right to keep its border closed to certain people, that’s why borders are there,” the Malaysian Prime Minister said while speaking at Oxford University’s debating chamber on Friday night, according to i24news.

“Malaysia has no diplomatic relations with Israel at all, and we don’t think that they should come to our country because we have no relations with them. We feel that they were doing a lot of wrong things but getting away with it, because nobody dares to say anything to them,” he added.

When asked about the fairness of penalizing individual Israeli citizens for a lack of diplomatic relations between the two countries and Malaysia disapproval of Israeli government policies, Mahatir said, “Well, it is not fair to call me anti-Semitic; they should call other people anti-Semitic. I am not anti-Semitic, the Arabs are all Semitic people.”

Israel's Foreign Ministry last week condemned Malaysia's "shameful" decision to ban Israeli athletes from participating in the Paralympics qualifier.

“The Malaysian government has taken the decision to ban the participation of Israelis in official international sports events in Malaysia, including the participation of athletes with disabilities in a swimming competition organized by the International Paralympic Committee,” said a statement released by the Foreign Ministry.

“This is shameful and totally opposes the Olympic spirit,” said the statement, which added that “Israel condemns the decision, inspired no doubt by Malaysia’s PM Mahatir’s rabid anti-Semitism".

Mahatir was sworn in as prime minister last May, nearly two decades after he last held office. He is well known for his anti-Semitic rhetoric, writing on his personal blog in 2012 that “Jews rule this world by proxy.”

In 2003, speaking at the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Kuala Lumpur, he said that “1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews. There must be a way. And we can only find a way if we stop to think, to assess our weaknesses and our strength, to plan, to strategize and then to counterattack. We are actually very strong. 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million.”

More recently, the Malaysian Prime Minister said that Jews are "hook-nosed" and accused them of creating problems in the Middle East.

Last August, Mahatir defended his right to be anti-Semitic, arguing that anti-Semitism is an artificial construct created to silence critics of the Jews.