Australia Treasurer Josh Frydenberg rejected Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s criticism of his country’s plan to shift its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, saying the latter’s remarks were motivated by his anti-Semitism.
The prime minister of Malaysia told the media in Singapore yesterday that he chastised Australia’s leaders at the Asean Summit over their country’s proposal to move its embassy from Tel Aviv, claiming this would fuel terrorism in the region.
Deputy leader of Australia’s Liberal Party Frydenburg called out Dr Mahathir over the rebuke, saying it was likely driven by the latter’s heavily-documented bias against Zionists and Israeli Jews, British news outlet The Guardian reported.
“Dr Mahathir does have form, as you know, he’s made a number of derogatory comments in the past about Jews being hook-nosed, he has questioned the number of people that have been killed in the Holocaust and he also saw the banning of Schindler’s List — the movie about the saviour of millions of people by righteous gentiles through that horrible period in world history,” Frydenburg was quoted as saying in Melbourne.
He also defended his country’s proposed move, saying it made sense from both a diplomatic and bureaucratic viewpoint.
Israel considers Jerusalem to be its capital but many other nations do not because the site is also contested by the Palestinians. As a result, embassies are usually based in Tel Aviv in order to avoid demonstrating bias in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The US tilted this when President Donald Trump opted controversially in May to shift his country’s embassy to Jerusalem.
“Australia already recognises Israel’s sovereignty over West Jerusalem,” Frydenburg was quoted as saying by The Guardian today.
“It’s where the Israeli parliament is. It’s where the Australian ambassador presents his or her credentials. It will be the capital of Israel under any two-state solution.”
In a separate piece published by Australia’s Herald Sun, conservative media commentator Andrew Bolt reprimanded the country’s reporters for “taking lessons from Mahathir the bigot”.
He said it was untenable to lend credence to the Malaysian PM’s remarks about Australia’s embassy move without giving these the full context of his long history of anti-semitism.
Bolt went on to list down Dr Mahathir’s documented remarks that were either openly anti-Semitic or indicative of such views tracing back to his seminal book, The Malay Dilemma.
He also pointed out that as recently as in a BBC interview last month, Dr Mahathir continued to deny the extent and significance of the Holocaust.
Dr Mahathir is a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause and openly prejudiced against Zionist Jews as a result.
He established and chaired the symbolic Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission that found Israel guilty in 2012 of war crimes in the form of genocide against the Palestinian people.
His views have also influenced the larger Malaysian population courtesy of his over two decades of power previously, with anti-Semitism both common — despite a near absence of Israelis here — and socially acceptable in the country.
A survey by the US-based Anti-Defamation League in 2014 found that 61 per cent of Malaysian respondents said they harboured prejudices against Jews or significantly higher than the global average of 24 per cent.
Jews are an ethnoreligious group but are often conflated with Zionism, which is the political movement that espouses the creation of a Jewish homeland known as the Land of Israel.