Grilled by BBC, Dr M stands by criticism of Israel

PETALING JAYA: Dr Mahathir Mohamad today stood by his strong criticism of Israel during his recent speech at the United Nations General Assembly, saying he was giving a “truthful” assessment of the Middle East problem.

“If you are going to be truthful, the problem in the Middle East began with the creation of the state of Israel, that is the whole truth,” the prime minister, who is on a working visit to Britain, told BBC’s Hardtalk programme today.

He also brushed aside comments by the Israeli media calling him an anti-Semite, saying the term was frequently used against critics of Israeli policies.

“There are many races in this world, I have said nasty things about them but they never accused me of being anti- this or anti- that.

“But the Israelis are special, you cannot even mention that in the Holocaust it was not six million (Jews who died),” he told host Zeinab Badawi.

Mahathir was also asked about criticism in the Israeli media, which quoted his 1970 book “The Malay Dilemma” in which he had described the Jews as “hook-nosed”.

“These kinds of things are not acceptable, are they, prime minister?” Badawi asked him.

To this Mahathir said: “Well, lots of people say nasty things about us, ‘Malays lazy’ and all kinds of things. That is an opinion and I gave them my opinion on things.”

Badawi: But why say hook-nosed and good with money, it’s not necessary is it?
Mahathir: They are hook-nosed.
Badawi: I’m sure that many people would find that very offensive.
Mahathir: Many people call the Malays flat-nosed. We did not object. We did not go to war for that.