After Mahathir's anti-Semitic remarks, Jews wonder if outrage will yield change.
RON KAM P EAS
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
he only things worthy of
attention about the recent
speech by Malaysian Prime
Mohamad are his remarks about Jews
and the accolades those comments drew
from his mostly Muslim audience, lead-
ers of Jewish groups are saying.
"We were outraged by his comments,
and by the applause he received by the
leaders of the Arab world," said Rebecca
Dinar, spokeswoman for the American
Israel Public Affairs Committee. "This is
not going to go away."
President Bush's press secretary said
the president castigated Mahathir pri-
vately this week, and members of
Congress have introduced motions to
condemn the Malaysian prime minister.
Mahathir told his audience, which
included heads of state from an array of
Islamic nations, "The Europeans killed 6
million Jews out of 12 million. But
today the Jews rule the world by proxy:
They get others to fight and die for
He also said the Jews invented "social-
ism, communism, human rights and
democracy" to help them gain "control
of the most powerful countries and they,
this tiny community, have become a
After his remarks created a world-wide
uproar, Mahathir told the Bangkok Post,
"The reaction of the world shows they
[Jews] do control the world" because the
rest of his speech was ignored.
Some commentators agreed, suggest-
ing Mahathir's speech last week at the
57-nation Organization of the Islamic
Conference deserves a second reading
beyond the anti-Semitism. They say the
speech contains an important message
about Muslim self-help.
On Oct. 21, New York Times colum-
nist Paul -Krugman wrote that Mahathir's
anti-Semitism was "inexcusable" but that
other parts of the speech were "worth
Mahathir used the Jewish example to
exhort Muslims to stop blaming others
for their plight, Krugman wrote. He
quoted Mahathir as saying, "We are up
against a people who think. They sur-
vived 2,000 years of pogroms not by hit-
ting back, but by thinking."
Krugman suggested that such thinking
was behind Malaysia's relative stability.
"Malaysia is the kind of success story we
wish we saw more of: an impressive
record of economic growth, rising edu-
cation levels and general modernization
in a nation with a Muslim majority."
Krugman also wrote that Mahathir's
anti-Semitism was "almost surely part of
Mr. Mahathir's domestic balancing act."
"That was a week ago and, at this
point, I received a mixed response,"
One local leader quick to respond was
Dr. Yahya Basha of West Bloomfield,
former chairman of the American
Muslim Council. He termed Mahathir's
remarks about the Jews as "unnecessary,
inaccurate and without justification."
"Muslims cannot blame others for
their follies and plight. It's high time that
the Muslims of the world take responsi-
bility for their own failures," said Dr.
Basha in a statement.
"Finding scapegoats for our own mis-
takes will not work. Muslim leaders
should avoid making grossly simplified
generalizations about other communi-
ties, for which they themselves accuse
others of being guilty of," he added.
Victor Begg of Bloomfield Hills, who
heads Interfaith Partners of the local
National Conference for Community
and Justice, circulated an e-mail letter
condemning the remarks (see letter to the
Jewish News, page 6).
Gad-Harf said, "We also learned that
the publisher of the Arab American
News, Osama Siblani of Dearborn, who
is generally a harsh critic of Israel, when
interviewed last Friday [on radio by Paul
W Smith] denounced the Malaysian
prime minister's speech.
Bush embraced Mahathir, who is to
retire soon, for his support of U.S. anti-
terror efforts after the Sept. 11 attacks,
but cooled on him this year because of
Malaysian opposition to the war in Iraq.
The U.S. House of Representatives
likely will pass a bipartisan resolution
next week that repudiates Mahathir's
comments and "deplores the tacit acqui-
escence of those national representatives
in attendance of the October 2003
Organization of the Islamic Conference
as willing complicity in spreading a mes-
sage of hate and incitement against
"Poppycock," said Abraham Foxman,
the national &rector of the Anti-
Mahathir, for his part, was unrepen-
Defamation League. "This is what they
tant. "In my speech, I condemned all
said in the 1930s about Hitler. Hitler
violence, even the suicide bombings, and
talked about education and employ-
I told the Muslims it's about time we
ment, but first, We've got to get rid of
stopped all these things and paused to
think and do something that is much
David Harris, executive director of the
more productive," he told the Israeli
American Jewish Committee, agreed.
daily Ha'aretz. "That was the whole tone
"The fact that he urges countries to keep
of my speech, but they picked up one
their trains running on time doesn't
sentence where I said that the Jews con-
diminish the level of bigotry," Harris
trol the world."
said of Mahathir. The challenge now is
"Whether in or out of context, it
to maintain the outrage, Harris said.
needs to be denounced by Jews, non-
"This is a good test case in terms of
Jews and Muslims," said Rabbi Sherwin
international reaction to bigotry: Is it
Wine of the Birmingham Temple in
condemnation followed by business as
Farmington Hills, dean Of the
usual, or are there teeth to the denuncia-
International Institute for Secular
Humanistic Judaism, which is sponsor-
ing its Colloquium '03 this week on
"It's more than hostility to Jews, it
places the Jew in the center of world his-
tory as an evil force. And if we're turned
into Satan, we deserve to be destroyed."
"Modern anti-Semitism did not exist
—Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad
in the Muslim world but they caught it
from the Western world," Rabbi Wine
Foxman was disappointed, not only
"We were disappointed to get a nega-:
added. "One provocation, the reason it's
that leaders of moderate Arab nations — tive response from a leading imam here
there, is because of the Israeli-Arab con-
such as Morocco and Jordan — failed to in Detroit, Mohammad Elahi, who
flict. Which means the only way to
walk out when Mahathir made his
heads the Islamic House of Worship in
reduce it is to address that issue. And
remarks, but that European leaders at a
Dearborn Heights, who said he didn't
this ongoing war is not conducive to
European Union summit failed to criti-
understand why we considered the
shrinking. This war becomes the rational
for a jihad against the Jew."
"I find the response a lot more trou-
E.U. representatives noted that other
Foxman said he took some consola-
bling than the speech," Foxman said.
E.U. bodies subsequently condemned
tion in Mahathir's pending departure
Mahathir "read the world map well."
the comments. President Bush waited
from his post, and said whoeVer succeeds
Astounded by the Mahathir's remarks,
several days to respond to Mahathir's
him should not be held accountable for
David Gad-Harf, executive director of
remarks, even as other nations con-
Mahathir's sins. Still, Foxman said, "I
the Jewish Community Council of
demned them. But Bush dispatched his
think we should deliver a message that
Metropolitan Detroit, contacted several
spokesman on Oct. 20 to tell reporters
such language and ideology is unaccept-
Muslim leaders in the area and urged
that the president took Mahathir aside at able." fl
them to publiCly denounce that state-
an Asian summit in Bangkok to tell him
IN StaffWriter Sharon Luckerman
his comments were "wrong and divisive."
contributed to this report.
"The reaction of the world shows
they [Jews] do control the world."