The Oxford Union has been criticised for inviting the Prime Minister of Malaysia to speak to its members, with the university’s Jewish society calling him “an open and unrepentant antisemite.”
The 93-year-old Mahathir Bin Mohamad is due to speak at the Union on Friday, with the description on the society’s website describing his “wealth of experience in the political world.”
But Oxford Jsoc President Nicole Jacobus said her society had “contacted the President of the Oxford Union with concerns" over Mr Mohamad and "several speakers" who are "well known for publicly expressing antisemitic views".
She wrote on Facebook: “Prime Minister Mohamad is an open and unrepentant antisemite, accusing Jews of ‘Nazi cruelty’ and seeking to wipe out all Muslims, has said ‘Antisemitic’ is ‘an invented term to prevent criticizing Jews for doing wrong’.”
Mr Mohamad, who served as Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003 and was re-elected last year, has a long history of antisemitic statements.
In a 1970 book, he wrote: “The Jews are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively”. He repeated his comments that Jews are “hook-nosed” in a BBC interview last October.
He has also said he is “glad to be labelled antisemitic".
"How can I be otherwise, when the Jews who so often talk of the horrors they suffered during the Holocaust show the same Nazi cruelty and hard-heartedness towards not just their enemies but even towards their allies should any try to stop the senseless killing of their Palestinian enemies?”
He has also questioned how many Jews died in the Holocaust, suggesting it was four million rather than six.
Speaking to the Associated Press last year, he said: “There is one race that cannot be criticized. If you are antisemitic, it seems almost as if you are a criminal."
He added: “’antisemitic’ is a term that is invented to prevent people from criticizing the Jews for doing wrong things.”
Last year,Oxford University's Centre for Islamic Studies was criticised for hosting a talk by the Malaysian politician, with one student telling the JC: "Jews have a right to feel safe on campus, and inviting a speaker, whatever their qualifications, who proudly wears the badge of ‘antisemite’ seems antithetical to this.”
Andrew Dismore, Labour’s Greater London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, announced on Thursday that he had written to the president of the Union, Daniel Wilkinson, criticising the decision to host Mr Mohamad.
‘Jewish Students on campus feel less and less safe”, Mr Dismore said.
“By hosting a noted antisemite, Oxford Union are propagating a hostile environment for Jews, giving a platform to a man who has denied the severity of the Holocaust, propagated antisemitic tropes, and made straightforward racist comments."
In her statement, Ms Jacobus added that the president of Oxford Union had offered to meet to hear the Jsoc's "suggestions on ways the Union can improve their safeguarding of Jewish members".
“We are taking the Oxford Union up on this new offer, and hope to meet with them soon. We look forward to addressing our concerns with the Union, and making the university a safer place for all minority students,” she said.
“This isn’t the first time that the Oxford Jewish Society has reached out to the Union or made a public statement with concerns about the antisemitic views of the speakers on their termcards.
“In previous instances, Union Presidents have responded to our concerns by saying that they weren’t aware of the speakers’ discriminatory opinions, or have ignored our communication with them.
A spokesperson for the Union of Jewish Students said: "UJS sends our full support and solidarity to Oxford Jsoc, in light of the Oxford Union’s invitation to speakers who use antisemitic rhetoric and tropes, including Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
"The spread and normalisation of antisemitic thought must never be welcomed on campuses. We look forward to seeing the Oxford Union engaging in constructive conversations with Jewish students, and taking decisive action to address concerns."