Malaysian PM cites Trump in defending ban on Israelis

Malaysian Prime Minister likens his country’s ban on Israeli athletes to Trump's border wall plan.

Elad Benari ,

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday defended his country’s ban on Israeli athletes and likened the move to US President Donald Trump's plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, AFP reports.

Malaysia announced recently 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."

Last week, Mahathir told an audience of Oxford students that he was denying visas to the Israelis because he disagreed with the actions of the Israeli state.

“A country has a right to keep its border closed to certain people, that’s why borders are there,” the Malaysian Prime Minister said, adding, “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.”

On Tuesday, Mahathir once again defended his ban on Israelis, telling a press conference in Vienna, "Every country has the right to accept or refuse entry of anybody. You can see that in America now they are erecting a very high wall to prevent Mexicans from going to America.”

"We have the same idea, that people who are undesirable for our country will be kept out of our country," Mahathir added.

Israel blasted Malaysian decision and said it was motivated by "rabid anti-Semitism" on Mahathir's part.

Mahatir, 93, 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.”

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.

On Tuesday he branded Israel "a criminal country", adding, "If their people want to compete in sport, they can go to some other country."

Israel has called on the International Paralympic Committee to challenge the decision or change the venue of the competition.

Malaysia has stopped Israeli athletes from competing in a sports event in the past.

In 2016, the Israel Sailing Association withdrew athletes from a competition in Malaysia after they were denied entry visas to the country.

Later, Israel pulled its team from the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Kuala Lumpur following a row with the Malaysian government over entry visas.

In 2017, Malaysia decided not to host the 67th FIFA Conference because an Israeli delegation was scheduled to participate.