CAMERA Op-Ed: The Washington Post Plays Softball with Antisemitic Foreign Leaders

The Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor has previously warned about a “a rising tide of anti-Semitism.” Yet when the journalist sat down to interview one of the world’s leading antisemites, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, such concerns seemed to dissipate. The Post’s September 28, 2018 interview of Mahathir failed to inform readers — much less confront the Malaysian politician — about his blatant antisemitism.

Malaysia itself is a hotbed of antisemitism, as the journalist Jon Emont detailed in a 2016 Tablet article entitled “How Malaysia Became One of the Most Anti-Semitic Countries on Earth.” He noted that in the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian nation “blaming Jews for all manner of machinations, crimes, and failures is a normal part of Malaysian politics, even though very few of the country’s citizens have ever laid eyes on a Jew.” A 2014 survey by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found that more than 60 percent of Malaysians hold antisemitic beliefs.

Mahathir, who previously served as prime minister from 1981 to 2003, is far from the only Malaysian politician to traffic in hatred. But he is among its most infamous purveyors.

In a 2003 speech before the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Mahathir said that, “Jews rule the world by proxy. They got others to fight and die for them.”

He then added:

“We are up against a people who think. They survived 2,000 years of pogroms, not by hitting back but by thinking. They invented and successfully promoted socialism, communism, human rights, and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so they may enjoy equal rights with others.

With these, they have now gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power. We cannot fight them through brawn alone. We must use our brains also.”

In 2012, the Malaysian politician wrote, “I am proud to be labeled anti-Semitic.”

Indeed, his policies — and those of Malaysia itself — prove it.

Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism analyst for the US Treasury Department and the current vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, noted that Hamas “has a significant presence in Malaysia.” Hamas, which currently rules the Gaza Strip, is a US-designated terror group that calls for Israel’s destruction and the genocide of Jews.

In his July 11, 2018 testimony before a US House subcommittee on national security, Schanzer highlighted that Hamas operatives had used Malaysia for operations and training. The latter included simulating “kidnapping soldiers, anti-tank ambushes, and sniper attacks,” as well as “message encryption and computer hacking” training.

The Malaysian government has also supported censoring and banning works of Jewish art and culture, purely “on the grounds of their authorship” as the journalist Eli Meixler documented in a May 24, 2018 Tablet article. Among these works was Stephen Spielberg’s 1994 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, which the Malaysian film board called “propaganda.”

Nor are Jews the only targets of Malaysian government-sanctioned hatred. Chinese Malaysians have also been singled out for discrimination. The recently reelected prime minister has described Chinese Malaysians as “predatory immigrants,” and accused them of disloyalty.

Mahathir Mohamad’s antisemitism is well known, including to Tharoor, who wrote that its “stigma” has “lingered” in a July 27, 2016 Post article. Yet, when he sat down to interview Mahathir, the World Views correspondent failed to take him to task.

Instead, Tharoor called the 93-year-old ruler “the most venerable statesman to appear at the United Nations last week” and “the last survivor of an old guard of towering Southeast Asian leaders.” Tharoor did note, “The Malaysian leader has long been known for his sharp remarks — especially when it comes to his grievances with the United States and the West.” The Post columnist even allowed Mahathir to “push back” against any “suggestion that he was anti-Chinese.” But no mention was made of the ruler’s antisemitism or his country’s ties with Hamas — which Schanzer recently told Congress was “an important issue to watch.”

The Washington Post also allowed other antisemites addressing the UN General Assembly to get off easy.

In his September 27, 2018 speech, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas claimed that he has supported “achieving a peaceful solution between us and the Israelis” and that Palestinians “reject the use of force and violence”; but he then closed his remarks by praising those who carry out terrorist attacks against Israelis as “honorable martyrs” and “heroes.”

Washington Post correspondent Carol Morello ignored this contradiction in her interview with Riyad Mansour, the PA’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations. Morello also neglected to inform readers that the Palestinian leadership has rejected — without so much as a counteroffer — several US and Israeli offers of statehood in exchange for peace.

Nor did she ask Mansour about the PA’s refusal to quit paying terrorists or the PA’s pervasive — and well-documented — antisemitism and anti-Americanism. Indeed, on September 11, 2018 — a mere three weeks before the Post article — Fatah, the movement that dominates the PA and whose members include Abbas and Mansour, mocked the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has highlighted, Mansour has previously claimed that the Jewish state harvests the organs of terrorists — a modern day incarnation of the blood libel. But Mansour’s penchant for lies and antisemitism hasn’t stopped several newspapers from treating him as credible or acting as his stenographer.

If The Washington Post is concerned about “resurgent global antisemitism” — to which it has commendably drawn attention on a number of occasions — it can do its part to combat the virus by refusing to give softball interviews to antisemites. 

(A slightly different version of this Op-Ed appeared in the Algemeiner on Oct. 3, 2018)

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