Malaysias premier accuses Jews of subverting Muslims

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

In denying the comments Saturday, Mahathir again ruffled some feathers.

"I only made a statement, but the press went on to say that I was accusing the Jews. We cannot make such wild accusations," he said. "They will twist our arms."

Opposition politicians criticized Mahathir for his statements.

"He should substantiate his latest statement. Otherwise, it will be seen as the latest of a series of pronouncements that are out of place," said Lim Kit Siang, secretary-general for the opposition Democratic Action Party.

Mahathir has come under criticism — with some demanding his resignation — for the recent slide in the ringgit, which has fallen 18 percent against the dollar since July.

Observers believe that by attacking Jews he is trying to shift the blame in order to increase his support in the Muslim-dominated country.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said that Mahathir's statements were "consistent with his long record of anti-Semitism and belief in a Jewish conspiracy to bring about the downfall of Malaysia."

Approximately 20 million people live in Malaysia. More than half are Muslims.

Malaysia and Israel do not have diplomatic ties, and Israeli citizens are not allowed to visit Malaysia.