(JTA) — Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad described Jews as “hook-nosed” and blamed Israel for the unrest in the Middle East, reinforcing accusations that he is an anti-Semite.
“If you are going to be truthful, the problem in the Middle East began with the creation of Israel. That is an old truth. But I cannot say that,” he said Tuesday in an interview on the BBC’s Hard Talk.
Mohamad, 93, is serving his second stint as prime minister, after previously serving in the position from 1981 to 2003.
BBC host Zeinab Badawi called him out for describing Jews in his 1970 book “The Malay Dilemma,” as being hook-nosed. “There are many races in this world, I have said nasty thing about them but they never accuse me of anti this or that,” Mohamad said.
“Even lots of people say nasty things about us, such as Malays being lazy or fat-nosed but I did not take it up against them and we did not go to war for that,” he said.
He also wrote in his book that “the Jews are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively.”
Mohamad also has questioned the fact that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, saying the figure was 4 million Jews.
He is a supporter of the Palestinian cause and called out Israel for oppressing the Palestinian people during his address last week to the United Nations General Assembly.