KUALA LUMPUR, June 18 — A group of Jewish students in the United Kingdom has taken Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to task for a series of remarks allegedly disparaging to the community during the prime minister’s talk in Cambridge Union there.
The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) said it was also disturbed by the crowd made of Cambridge undergraduates, Malaysian undergraduates and Malaysians in the UK, who laughed at the alleged anti-Semitic remarks.
“As we warned would happen, the Malaysian prime minister used the prestigious platform of the Cambridge Union to spread his anti-Jewish racism,” UJS campaigns organiser Daniel Kosky wrote.
“It is chilling, particularly for any Jewish students in the room, to see a crowd of students laugh off flagrantly anti-Semitic comments used by Mahathir Mohamad.”
The remark by Dr Mahathir that was followed by laughter from the audience was him saying: “I have some Jewish friends, very good friends, they are not like the other Jews, that’s why they are my friends.”
“I have some Jewish friends, very good friends. They are not like the other Jews, that’s why they are my friends"- Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad at the Cambridge Union last night.— Union of Jewish Students (@UJS_UK) June 17, 2019
The audience laughs.
Freedom of speech is not a joke when it incites hatred against one people. pic.twitter.com/2ZRrMDtfKy
Dr Mahathir also reportedly defended his decision to call Jews “hooked nosed”: “People do generalise, in describing certain people we take some general characteristics that they have, why is it that it’s the Jews who resent this when other people don’t resent being accused of some general characteristic that they have?”
The prime minister later compared to the situation to the British, claiming that “its Jews used to say the Malays are lazy”.
The group also urged higher education institutions to consider the implications of prejudicial speech when inviting speakers.
“The decision to host the Malaysian prime minister was defended by Cambridge Union as exercise of free speech, but as we consistently make clear, freedom of expression must be balanced against incitement to hatred against a minority group, and that’s exactly what happened last night,” Kosky said.
In January, Jewish students at Oxford University had also protested Dr Mahathir’s appearance there.
In the interview with British national broadcaster BBC in October last year, Dr Mahathir said he still held the views that caused him to be previously accused of anti-Semitism.
Dr Mahahtir and the new Pakatan Harapan government has doubled down on its condemnations against Israel and Zionists while backing Palestinians amid the long-standing Middle East conflict.