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36 US lawmakers demand apology from

The Straits Times (22 November 1997)
36 US lawmakers demand apology from Mahathir 

By Lee Siew Hua US Correspondent 

WASHINGTON -- Thirty-six congressmen have signed a letter to express
"shock and outrage" and demand an immediate retraction and apology from
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad for reportedly making
anti-Semitic comments. 

The Oct 27 letter followed a sharply worded House Resolution, tabled on
Oct 22, which rapped him for saying a Jewish agenda was behind the
financial troubles in his country. Up to now, 34 lawmakers had
co-sponsored the resolution. 

Mr Robert Wexler, the Jewish congressman who initiated the resolution,
said on Thursday he hoped Dr Mahathir would acknowledge his
"inappropriate behaviour". Otherwise, new action will be "reluctantly"

The letter was broadly representative of the will of the American people,
he said, adding that the lawmakers who put their names to it encompassed
Jews and Gentiles, white and black Americans. 

The bipartisan group of legislators said in their letter: "It is
difficult for us to accept that the head of a modern state would believe
that there is a 'Jewish agenda' to destabilise Malaysia's economy, let
alone that you would utter something as reprehensible as that." 

The congressmen also said his comments were "reminiscent of those
forwarded by Nazi Germany during their reign of terror". 

While noting that Dr Mahathir had said he was misquoted and was only
repeating what he had "been told by certain people", they went on to
argue that this was "unacceptable and in excusable", adding: "Instead of
repeating such remarks, you should have immediately condemned anyone who
would seek to fan the flames of hatred and bigotry." 

His comments strained the strong US-Malaysia relations and "the spirit of
cooperation and friendship", they said. 

In an appeal for harmony, they said: "All of us should work together to
further the human rights of all ethnic, religious, and cultural groups,
rather than continuing to further hateful, hurtful and untrue
characterisations of a certain group of people." 

Jews the world over did not begrudge any progress made by Muslims, they

"Jewish people welcome the advancements made by individual Muslims and
Muslim nations, and always look for opportunities to work together to
continue that progress." 

Some signatures on the letter were new -- over and above those in the
resolution. A congressional source said: "We wanted to get the issue out
quickly while there was some attention, raise it directly with the Prime
Minister, and say there were members of Congress who were offended." 

The source, referring to reports that the State Department had said the
resolution could be "counter-productive", said this sent "mixed signals"
to the Malaysian government. 

Another aide said there was little likelihood that the language of the
resolution would be softened as "the people who supported it are pretty

The resolution, which will not have the force of legislation and is an
opinion expressing a "sense of Congress", may not hit the House floor. It
has reached the House subcommittee for Asia-Pacific affairs, but no
hearing has been scheduled. 


The Straits Times (22 November 1997)
'Apologise and move on, Mahathir' 
By Lee Siew Hua US Correspondent 

WASHINGTON -- Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad
should allow the strong bilateral relationship between Malaysia and the
US to move on and apologise for his reportedly anti-Jewish remarks. 

If not, new action would be considered "reluctantly". 

These issues were raised by Mr Robert Wexler, the Jewish congressman who
initiated a House resolution asking Dr Mahathir to apologise or resign
for stating that a Jewish agenda was behind the economic troubles in his

Mr Wexler said in an interview that he had hoped the Malaysian leader
would acknowledge his "inappropriate behaviour". 

But, he said, "worse yet, the Prime Minister seems to be using this issue
in a manner to bolster himself in his domestic market. 

"Unfortunately, this is the classic form of anti-Semitism -- to use a
minority group as a scapegoat for the economic problems in his country.
This is very troubling." 

The Democrat from Florida said he may consider linking some American
training assistance to an acknowledgement of inappropriate behaviour by
Dr Mahathir. 

More importantly, he may look into the kind of assistance that the
International Monetary Fund may be planning for Malaysia, and condition
this to an apology, he said, adding: 

"I will do so reluctantly, because Malaysia and the US have good

He said "the whole point" of the non-binding resolution, introduced on
Oct 22, was that both sides should be able to "move on in a positive way"
after an apology by Dr Mahathir. 

He clarified that House legislators were not asking him to resign

"I don't want him to resign. I want him to acknowledge his remarks as
inappropriate," he said. 

He also said that there was a significant period of time for Dr Mahathir
to do so between now and the new congressional calendar in late January,
adding that the call for resignation will come only if he did not
apologise for his "anti-American and anti-Semitic". 

He said the resolution, plus a subsequent letter to Dr Mahathir dated Oct
27, enjoyed bipartisan support from Republicans and Democrats. 

He added: "This group is representative of the American people. Some are
Jewish, some are Gentiles. Some are white, some are black." 

Mr Wexler and the other two leading co-sponsors of the resolution are
Jewish and minority members of the House International Relations