- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2003

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia — Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad yesterday told a summit of Islamic leaders that “Jews rule the world by proxy” and the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims should unite, using nonviolent means for a “final victory.”

His speech at the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit, which he was hosting, drew criticism from the Bush administration and from Jewish leaders, who warned that the prime minister, despite his rhetorical prescription for “nonviolent means,” could spark new Islamic violence against Jews.

Mr. Mahathir, known for his inflammatory anti-Western rhetoric, criticized what he called Jewish domination of the world and the Muslim nations’ inability to respond to it adequately, as he opened the meeting of Islamic leaders from 57 nations.

“The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy,” Mr. Mahathir said. “They get others to fight and die for them.”

Jews, he said, “invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy” to avoid persecution and gain control of the most powerful countries. “1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews.” He said Muslims should employ political and economic tactics against Jews, not violence.

In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli rebuked Mr. Mahathir’s comments, noting, “It’s not the first time we’ve seen comments like this from that official.

“Let’s be clear: The remarks were offensive, they were inflammatory, and we view them with the contempt and derision they deserve,” Mr. Ereli said. However, he declined to say whether the remarks would have an effect on bilateral U.S.-Malaysian ties.

Malaysia, which has a large non-Muslim population and does not enforce strict Islamic law, has long been critical of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and of U.S. policy in the Middle East, including the war in Iraq and its strong backing of the Jewish state.

Mr. Mahathir, 77, who retires on Oct. 31, has used almost every international podium to scold the West for two decades, earning a reputation as an outspoken champion of Third World causes. “For well over half a century, we have fought over Palestine. What have we achieved? Nothing. We are worse off than before. If we had paused to think, then we could have devised a plan, a strategy that can win us final victory.”

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled expressed disappointment in the remarks but was not surprised.

“It is not new that in such forums there is always an attempt to reach of the lowest common denominator, which is Israel-bashing,” he said in Jerusalem. “But obviously we’d like to see more moderate and responsible kind of declarations coming out of such summits.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, called the speech “an absolute invitation for more hate crimes and terrorism against Jews.”

The summit is the first since the September 11 terror attacks on the United States reshaped global politics and comes at a time when many Muslims — even U.S. allies — feel the war on terrorism has become a war against them.

Staff writer David R. Sands contributed to this article.

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