KUALA LUMPUR, June 19 — Eight former presidents of the Cambridge Union have criticised Cambridge University’s debating society for not challenging Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s allegedly anti-Semitic remarks.
The ex-Cambridge Union presidents noted in a letter published on Jewish News yesterday that those present at the event hosting Dr Mahathir last Sunday had laughed at the Malaysian prime minister’s remarks: “I have some Jewish friends, very good friends. They are not like other Jews, that’s why they are my friends.”
“This level of febrile Jew hatred must be confronted — and that is what the Cambridge Union has traditionally done. Encouraging robust debate while not allowing minority groups to be subjected to hatred is one of the reasons why the Union has long enjoyed its prestigious reputation.
“We are disappointed that The Union representative running the event did not challenge the shameful views he allowed Dr Mohamad to share by asking him the question in the first place,” said the eight ex-Cambridge Union presidents.
They also expressed disappointment that the students present casually laughed at “racist remarks” and warned that such views legitimised hatred.
The eight who wrote the letter are Adam Cannon, Lauren Davidson, Lance Foreman, Jeremy Brier, Nick Chatrath, Gareth Weetman, George Bevis, and Joel Fenster.
The Cambridge Union said in a statement yesterday that the laughter depicted in a video being circulated on social media came from Dr Mahathir’s delegation, not from its members.
“Although we deeply appreciate the concerns that have been raised, we urge all commentators to wait until watching the complete video on our YouTube,” said the Cambridge Union.
The Cambridge Union also said its event moderator repeatedly challenged Dr Mahathir’s anti-Semitic comments, such as scrutinising the prime minister’s decision to ban Israeli swimmers from entering Malaysia for the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships that were later moved to London because of the ban.
“Additionally, given the open Q and A at the end of the speech, audience members were able to challenge the Prime Minister’s use of generalisations concerning Jews, asking why he so condemned Western generalisations of Malaysians if he himself made anti-Semitic generalisations about the Jewish community.”