The Mahathir Affair: A Case Study in Mainstream Islamic Anti-Semitism

Manfred Gerstenfeld (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) At the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit, Malaysian Prime Minister Mohammad Mahathir, the conference host, represented relations between Muslims and Jews as a worldwide frontal confrontation, offering some new examples of a "Jewish conspiracy." His words were broadly applauded. Since an EU summit was being held at the same time, it was proposed to include a condemnation of Mahathir's remarks in the summit's final statement. However, this was blocked by French President Jacques Chirac and Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis. Instead, the condemnation was delegated to the Italian EU presidency. A New York Times editorial said the EU's refusal to condemn Mahathir's speech at its own summit adds "a concern that displays of anti-Semitism are being met with inexcusable nonchalance," while a Le Monde editorial noted that "such words are common currency in the Arab Islamic world where they pass for evident truth...and this direct form of racism, purely and simply is practiced as a normal category of the 'political debate.'" The importance of the Mahathir affair is that it has exposed in a short time and in a concentrated way the profound anti-Semitic thought present among major layers of both mainstream Muslim elites and society. The Mahathir affair is also an important case study for the analysis of Western reactions to Islamic anti-Semitism.

2003-10-27 00:00:00

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