WASHINGTON, Oct. 16 - The State Department Thursday condemned an ally in the war on terrorism, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, for his opening remarks at the Organization of the Islamic Conference where he said Jews run the world's governments by proxy.
"The remarks are offensive, they are inflammatory, and we view them with the contempt and derision they deserve," State Department Deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said Thursday.
Speaking in Putrajaya, Malaysia, the country's prime minister told the meeting of Islamic leaders of 57 nations that Jews invented communism, socialism and human rights and have used their influence in the most powerful governments in the world to rule by proxy.
"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," Mahathir said.
This was not the first time the prime minister, who is scheduled to leave office by the end of the month, has made anti-Semitic statements. In his 1970 book titled the "The Malay Dilemma," Mahathir wrote that Jews "are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively." In a 1986 speech to the non-Aligned Movement of the United Nations, he said, "The expulsion of Jews from the Holy Land 2,000 years ago and the Nazi oppression of Jews have taught them nothing. If anything at all, it has transformed the Jews into the very monsters that they condemn so roundly in their propaganda material."
Despite this track record, the Malaysian prime minister has earned a reputation in Washington as a solid ally in the war on terrorism. On May 14, 2002, President Bush met with Mahathir at the White House where he said, "He's been somebody with whom we can talk, we've got good relations. We share a deep concern about terror, what terror means to our respective countries, what it means to our peoples." Secretary of State Colin Powell followed up with a trip to Kuala Lumpur in July of that year.
"At the intelligence and law enforcement level (they -- the Malaysian government) have been very cooperative on the war on terror since well before 9-11," said Daniel Benjamin a special assistant to President Clinton on counter-terrorism. "One of the big problems we have is that plenty of Muslim autocrats try to burnish their credentials with reference to religion as they stoke a hatred of America and a hatred of the Jews. This plays into the terrorist hands."
In May 2002, Malaysia signed a comprehensive counter-terrorism agreement with the United States that would speed the rendition of suspected members of al-Qaida and commits Malaysia's banks and financial institutions to freeze assets associated with terrorists.
Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., the only Holocaust survivor elected to Congress and the senior Democrat on the House International Relations Committee Thursday said of Mahathir's remarks: "With this incitement to hatred, Mahathir has in effect become the first modern world leader actually to endorse the idea of a clash of civilizations. I shudder to think what is meant by his call for a 'final victory'."