Through their influence over U.S. foreign policy, Jews control the world, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told Muslim leaders yesterday in a major speech that drew a standing ovation and international outrage.
"The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million, but today, the Jews rule the world by proxy," declared Mr. Mahathir, who has made similar accusations in the past. "They get others to fight and die for them. We are up against a people who think."
Mr. Mahathir, who is due to step down at the end of this month after 22 years in office, spoke at the opening of a summit of the 57-country Organization of the Islamic Conference. It was the organization's first summit since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, on the United States.
Mr. Mahathir spoke at length about problems in the Muslim world, including failures to excel in science and technology.
He also described terrorism as futile. But it was his remarks about Jewish influence that led to an outcry.
The 77-year-old leader called on the world's 1.3 billion Muslims to unite against what he described as Jewish domination, although he also urged them to do so peacefully.
A democracy with a large non-Muslim population, Malaysia is a long-time critic of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories and of U.S. policy in the Middle East, perceived as unduly pro-Israel.
Fifty years of armed resistance have failed to solve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, Mr. Mahathir said yesterday, and he cited the Koran in calling for a negotiated solution.
His address, however, went far beyond the Palestinian cause.
Jews, he said, "invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy," and did so to avoid persecution and gain control of the most powerful countries.
"This tiny [Jewish]community has become a world power," Mr. Mahathir said, urging Muslims to use political and economic tactics rather than violence to achieve a "final victory."
Keith Landy, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, called Mr. Mahathir's accusations "an old canard" and deeply troubling.
"He repeats the oldest and most enduring anti-Semitic libel, making Jews scapegoats, blaming them for all the problems of the Islamic world," Mr. Landy said.
"This kind of hatred has brought untold suffering to the Jewish people throughout the centuries. Criticize Israel if you must. But to take on an entire faith is just totally unacceptable. . . . Bad deeds come from bad words."
As the summit began in Putrajaya, Malaysia's glittering new administrative capital, the assembled kings, presidents and sheiks struggled to forge a common position on Iraq and other issues.
Ironically, Mr. Mahathir's efforts to quell Muslim extremism at home have made him an ally in the Bush administration's "war on terror," and last year, he visited the White House.
But it is his attention-getting invective that will be remembered, said Jacques Bertrand, a University of Toronto specialist on Southeast Asia. "This was a blunder, a contradiction of his call on the Muslim world to be peaceful," Prof. Bertrand said.
"Mahathir has always been known for remarks that would stir controversy and he realizes there is deep frustration among Muslim states about the way they have been treated in the West. But this will tremendously damage the rest of what he was trying to say."
Bill Liddle, a Southeast Asia expert at Ohio State University's political science department, agreed.
"This doesn't mean we're about to get a crusade from the Islamic side, especially from Southeast Asia, because he's a predictable figure," Prof. Liddle said.
"But this gives Mahathir a very bad odour and it's unfortunate he can't hold his tongue better. This will reinforce the notion that contemporary Muslims are as anti-Semitic as the Germans were under Hitler."
The quotable Mahathir Mohamad
"The British accept homosexual minister, but if they come here bringing their boyfriend along, we'll throw them out."
"We may suspect that they have an agenda. And incidentally, we are Muslims, and the Jews are not happy to see the Muslims progress. The Jews robbed the Palestinians of everything, but in Malaysia they could not do so. Hence they do this, depress the ringgit."
Oct., 1997, amid the Asian currency crisis, which he blamed on American financier George Soros, who is Jewish.
"For (Malaysia's ethnic) Malays, working hard is a good value, but in reality they do not. It is not because they can't, but because they do not."
"Unfortunately, they are also very greedy and like to take forcibly the territories and rights of other people. Their 2,000 years of history is full of endless wars to seize territories and enclarge their power worldwide. They have rejected the institutions of marriage and family. Instead, they accept the practice of free sex, including sodomy as a right."
June, 2003, on Europeans
"The Rhine in Spine falls minely on the plyne."
June, 2001, lampooning the Australian accent before an enthusiastic domestic audience.