Malaysia's former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad_311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
The world “obeys” Israel, but Malaysia does not, Malaysian Prime Minister Mathair Mohammed – who has a history of antisemitic statements – said on Monday regarding the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) decision to strip his country of the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships because of his decision to bar Israeli athletes.
“They want to cancel it, then cancel it,” Mahathir said. “I do not understand why the world must follow Israel. The world has the power, but they choose to obey Israel. We do not obey.”
If Malaysia cannot organize this sporting event, he told reporters in Putrajaya in comments carried widely in the Malaysia press, “we can organize other ones.”
The IPC announced its decision on Sunday.
When Mathair, who became prime minister last May for the second time, was reminded that Malaysia allowed the Israeli cricket team to play in a Malaysian tournament in 1997 during his first term in office from 1981 to 2003, he replied: “Yes, I did. I also allowed Israeli schoolchildren to come here. We wanted to show them that Muslims are not terrorists. That we are normal people and we behave well.
“But what do they [Israelis] do? When children throw stones at them, they shoot them,” he said.
Mahathir said that Malaysia has the right “to voice our own feelings and to have our own policies.”
The IPC, however, has a different take, saying that Malaysia’s ban on the Israeli swimmers constituted an illegitimate mixing of politics and sport.
Andrew Parsons, the IPC president, said on Sunday: “All world championships must be open to all eligible athletes and nations to compete safely and free from discrimination. When a host country excludes athletes from a particular nation, for political reasons, then we have absolutely no alternative but to look for a new championships host.”
Mahathir, in his comments, slammed Israel as a “criminal nation.”
“It has been breaking international laws without people saying anything about it,” he said.
The Malaysian leader compared his ban on Israeli athletes to US President Donald Trump’s ban on citizens from five Muslim countries from entering the US.
“Why is it that people do not complain about it?” he asked. “Some countries in Europe won’t allow certain foreigners to come into their country. But we have our own reasons. These people (the Israeli athletes) are not seeking asylum, they are not facing difficulties. But they come from a country that does not obey international laws. We have to stand by our principle.”
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