NEW YORK – World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder condemned the antisemitic comments made by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s at the Cambridge Union on Monday.
Responding to an inquiry from the event moderator regarding the prime minister’s history of anti-Jewish statements, Mohamed explained that he has Jewish friends, but that “they are not like other Jews. That’s why they’re my friends.” The response was followed by laughter from the audience, and a subsequent eerie silence.
Reacting to this incident, Ambassador Lauder said: “These new comments from Prime Minister Mohamed are reprehensible but nothing new. They are merely the latest manifestation of the virulent brand of antisemitism that he promotes in his own country. Although the Cambridge Union has an extensive history of hosting world leaders and honoring the right to freedom of speech, it should have been aware of Mr. Mohamed’s past comments on Jews and the State of Israel which come uncomfortably close to hate speech. It should be noted that Malaysia was recently barred from hosting a Paralympic swim tournament over the country’s ban on Israeli athletes. I commend the Cambridge Union for distancing itself from the content of the remarks, and hope that measures are put in place to ensure that like-minded individuals are not afforded the same platform presented to the prime minister in the future.”