Bush Scolds Mahathir, but Muslim Leader Maintains 'Jews Control World'

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - President Bush has rebuked Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad for his provocative speech to Muslim leaders last week. But the Southeast Asian leader is unrepentant, saying the furious reaction to his remarks merely proves his charge that Jews rule the world.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says Bush pulled Mahathir aside Monday at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum both are attending in Bangkok and told him the comments were "wrong and divisive."

Earlier, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told reporters in the Thai capital that the remarks were "hateful" and "outrageous."

Addressing last week's summit of Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) leaders in Malaysia, Mahathir claimed Jews "rule this world by proxy" and said Muslims should reassess the way they respond to the Jews.

"One-point-three billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews. There must be a way. And we can only find a way if we stop to think, to assess our weaknesses and our strength, to plan, to strategize and then to counter-attack," Mahathir said.

"We cannot fight them through brawn alone. We must use our brains also."

The speech earned Mahathir a standing ovation and was praised or defended by OIC participants from several member states, including Egypt, Yemen, Indonesia and Afghanistan.

It drew strong condemnation from some Western governments.

Malaysian officials and commentators maintained that the speech was simply an attempt to rouse the Muslim leaders from a defeatist attitude and urge Muslims to strive harder, and they said the lines about Jews were taken out of context.

Mahathir, who is due to retire Oct. 31 after 22 years in power, defended his speech in an interview with the Bangkok Post, saying "one sentence" about Jews controlling the world had been taken out of context.

Then, Mahathir added: "The reaction of the world shows that they [Jews] control the world. Many newspapers are owned by the Jews...they have a powerful influence over the thinking of many people. Only their side of the picture is given now."

In the newspaper interview published Tuesday, Mahathir took his thoughts about Jews further.

"Israel is a small country. There are not many Jews in the world. But they are so arrogant they defy the whole world. Even if the United Nations says no, they go ahead. Why? Because they have the backing of all these people."

Peace treaty

Mahathir also pointed to parts of his speech in which he condemned violence against Israel - including suicide bombings - and complained that those parts were not generally reported.

"I even quoted from the Koran, which says that when the enemy offers to make peace, you must accept. I told the Muslims you must accept even if the terms are bad. You have to negotiate. This is the teaching of Islam."

In fact, Mahathir invoked a peace treaty entered into by the prophet Mohammed, which some scholars of Islam argue is seen by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as the model for defeating Israel by stealth, by gradually weakening it while strengthening the Arabs' position.

Historians say the treaty of Hudaibiyah, referred to by Mahathir, enabled Mohammed and his forces to regather their strength for two years until they were powerful enough to destroy their enemies, which they did after discarding the treaty.

After reminding the OIC leaders of the treaty of Hudaibiyah, the Malaysian leader said the Muslim world should follow Mohammed's example when it comes to Israel.

"For well over half a century, we have fought over Palestine," Mahathir told the OIC. "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. Pausing and thinking calmly is not a waste of time. We have a need to make a strategic retreat and to calmly assess our situation."

During the 1990s, the Israeli government took Arafat to task for publicly comparing U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace treaties like the Wye Accords with the treaty of Hudaibiyah.

"Comparing agreements with Israel to the Hudaibiyah pact is tantamount to stating that they are temporary arrangements" that can be abandoned at any time, the Israeli government press office said in 1998.

See Earlier Story:
Islamic Leader's Comments on Jews and the West Condemned by Some
(Oct. 17, 2003)

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow