Mahathir Ten Years Ago: Jews rule the World

November 24, 2013 by Manfred Gerstenfeld
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Ten years ago in the last months of 2003, the since-forgotten yet highly instructive Mahathir Affair took place. At the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in 2003 in Kuala Lumpur, then-Malaysian Prime Minister Mohamad Mahathir, the conference host, presented relations between Muslims and Jews as a worldwide frontal confrontation.[1]

Manfred Gertsenfeld

Manfred Gertsenfeld

He stated, “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 counter-attack. We are actually very strong. 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.”

Mahathir added: “We are up against a people who think. They survived 2,000 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.”[2]

It was yet one more wide-ranging illustration of the anti-Semitic motif that Jews “lust for the domination of the world.” Mahathir was applauded by the attendants at the conference, including top leaders of all Muslim nations. An editorial in the French daily Le Monde noted that: “such words are common currency in the Arab Islamic world where they pass for evident truth…and this direct form of racism, purely and simply is practiced as a normal category of the ‘political debate.’”[3]

Reactions to Mahathir’s statement were mixed. Many Western leaders and media condemned him. As to the Muslim world, columnist Richard Cohen of The Washington Post referred to the standing ovation the summit’s audience gave Mahathir for his speech: “Mahathir’s claque 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…But what corrupts and enfeebles large parts of the Islamic world is not Jews in either New York or Tel Aviv but its own self-serving and inept leadership – in other words, some of the very people who stood and cheered the speech.”[4]

Australian Prime Minister John Howard commented on Mahathir’s OIC speech: “Any suggestion from anybody anywhere in the world of dividing the world into Jewish and non-Jewish groupings is historically indefensible and wrong and something that most Australians would regard as quite repugnant.”[5]

Later, at the Asia-Pacific Summit Australian Foreign Minister Downer declared: “We regard anti-Semitism as unacceptable and the Australian government hopes that there won’t be further comments of this kind.”[6]

The Foreign Minister of New Zealand Phil Goff said: “We’re concerned about language that brings back memories of so-called Jewish conspiracies.”[7]

Since a European Union summit was being held at the same time, it was planned to include in its 19-page final statement a few sentences condemning Mahathir’s remarks. The proposed draft stated: “his unacceptable comments hinder all our efforts to further inter-ethnic and religious harmony, and have no place in a decent world. Such false and anti-Semitic remarks are as offensive to Muslims as they are to others.”[8]

However, French President Jacques Chirac opposed the inclusion of these lines in the summit’s statement and was supported in this by then-Greek Socialist Prime Minister Costas Simitis. As a compromise, it was decided that the Italian presidency of the Council of the European Union would post a statement on its website which deplored the comments.[9] Mahathir’s reaction however, exposed Chirac’s maneuver. The Malaysian Prime Minister thanked him for blocking the European Union Summit declaration.

The importance of the now unfortunately forgotten Mahathir affair was that it exposed in a short time and a concentrated way the profound anti-Semitic viewpoints present among major elements of both Muslim elites and society. There is no shame in using the vilest anti-Semitic expressions in public, including those lifted from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This book of fallacies is regularly republished in the Islamic world.

Mahathir had thus created a wide-ranging demonstration of mainstream Islamic anti-Semitism, which analysts previously had to assemble from many different sources. The Mahathir affair can serve as the core proof of this anti-Semitism until today, while the remainder of the abundant anti-Jewish material from the Islamic world provides supporting evidence about its mainstream racism.

There is another major aspect to the Mahathir affair. His speech was given at the Islamic summit. His words were applauded and later backed by many other Muslims. These reactions show how false the claim is that problems democrats have with the Muslim world are limited to radical Muslims who preach jihad — an Arab synonym for genocide. The Mahathir Affair has demonstrated how problematic the world of ideas of mainstream Islamic society is for the West. More proof of this has emerged in the decade since. At least for those who care to see it.
Manfred Gerstenfeld is a member of the Board of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, of which he has been Chairman for twelve years. He is  recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award (2012) of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism.



[1] Manfred Gerstenfeld, “The Mahathir Affair: A Case Study in Mainstream Islamic Anti-Semitism,” Jerusalem Viewpoints, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 506, 2 November 2003

[2] News Desk, “Dr Mahathir Opens 10th OIC Summit,” The Star, 16 October 2003. (This article contains the full text of the speech.)

[3] “L’editorial du Monde, Antisemitisme,” Le Monde, 19 October 2003 [French].

[4] Richard Cohen, “Return to Wannsee,” Washington Post, October 21, 2003.

[5] Ibid.

[6] “Anti-Jewish remarks may mar Mahathir’s political swan song,” Sydney Morning Herald, October 20, 2003.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Sharon Sadeh, Yoav Stern and Amiram Barkat, “EU condemns Malaysian PM’s remarks on Jews, but no apology is forthcoming,” Haaretz, October 19, 2003.

[9] Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, [posted on website] October 16, 2003.

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