Mahathir Mohamed
Mahathir MohamedReuters

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed told Oxford students he denied visas to disabled Israeli athletes and made comments about “hook-nosed” Jews because Israel has done “wrong things”, reports Times of Israel's Deborah Cicurel.

Dr Mohamed, 93, spoke at the Oxford Union debating chamber.

On the subject of visas, Mohamed said Malaysia had no diplomatic relations with Israel, explaining: “We feel that they were doing a lot of wrong things but getting away with it because nobody dares to say anything against them”.

“It is also unfair to call me anti-Semitic," Mohamed said when asked about his collective visa denial policy. "I’m not anti-Semitic. The Arabs are all Semitic people.”

The Malaysian PM has reportedly said Jews are “hook-nosed” and have an “instinctive” sense of money. “I cannot understand this," he said of the racism charge against him. "We talk about freedom of speech and yet you cannot say anything against Israel, against the Jews.

“Why is that so? If we are free to say what we like, we are free to say something that may be regarded as antisemitic by the Jews. That is their right to call such opinion of me, but it’s my right also to tell them they have been doing a lot of wrong things.”

Mohamed explained he used the word “Jews” because people would not understand if he used the word “Zionists”: “Most of them support the stand taken by Netanyahu against the Arabs, so when I say ‘only the Zionists’ people do not understand. What they do understand is the word ‘yehudi’ or ‘Jews’.

“We can’t do much about the Israeli government. They're very powerful. But we don’t have to show friendship towards them. We have borders to allow people we like to come to Malaysia. People who have done wrong things we consider unfit to visit.

“This is a government that doesn’t care about the opinions of others. That’s why they keep on committing war crimes all the time. That’s why I say what I say. If they don’t like it, they can say they don’t like it, I don’t care,” said Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed.