Malaysia’s Palestinian problem

Pro-Palestinian activists and supporters let off smoke flares, wave flags and carry placards during a demonstration in London in support of Palestine
Pic: Deustche Welle, Tolga Akmen

The Palestinian problem is about displacement and self-determination which has become a huge humanitarian issue as a result of war and conflict.

It is not about religion and a matter of Muslims against Jews.

Malaysia’s cardinal mistake is to think of it in the latter sense — as Islam versus Judaism — which has strategic consequences which do not serve the Palestinian cause.

From it much emotional nonsense emanates exposing many deep Malaysian ailments which in turn are comical, pathetic and shameless.

Divine power is being invoked. But God only helps those who help themselves. What thought and way out of the situation for the Palestinians have the emotionally driven Malay-Muslims given?

Then there is this going out to Gaza to fight against the Israelis bravada. This is pathetic as these “volunteers” would surely be killed if ever they got there. In any case, there was actually little fighting on the ground, rather missiles fired by Hamas mostly missing Israeli cities against Israeli aerial and artillery bombardments many times more lethal.

So what about humanitarian help for Palestinian victims men, women and children always caught in the middle? Here the issue arose about monies collected in the past not handed over or getting to Palestine.

Never mind, an ulama said. No need to make big of that. More important is to make a donation with sincerity for which you will be rewarded in the afterlife. Good God, what about condemning those who may have spirited away the money, an illegal and corrupt act? Or a call for transparency and accountability? None.

This has become a most serious and embedded attitude in Malaysia which is now reflected for all to see in international humanitarian assistance. Even when caught those with influence, primarily Malay-Muslims, are still okay to be supported. The leader of Malaysia’s leading Islamic party has said as much.

It is bad advertisement for Malays and Muslims, and places Malaysia on a par with so many other Muslim countries in the world, countries informed by hypocrisy and double standard. How can they even talk about international law when they follow no law? When they are, and have been, killing fellow Muslims for years on end.

The domestic audience, mostly non-Malay-Muslim, repressed by religious and racial extremism, are increasingly losing interest in the Palestinian cause, when framed as an Islamic Jihad, because they see how abominable those proclaiming it are.

On the international scene, let us not forget Israel too would like the conflict to be depicted as a religious one, because they can get people in the West who associate Islam with terrorism to do so in the Palestinian struggle.

In the section on Palestine of my book 9/11 and the Attack on Muslims I related how Israel jumped on the Islam equals to terror bandwagon to snuff out Palestinians and their hope for a homeland. Now we see again how, with our stupid help, Israel is deploying the same tactic.

In addition, Israel cleverly hides behind the excuse of anti-semitism, especially with the guilty West — and we fall smack into the trap.

All this does not help the Palestinians, already fighting against great odds. We cannot help them militarily. We don’t deliver humanitarian assistance after monies are collected with great fanfare. Then we also do not help by the misconstruction of the conflict, with due excitable chest-thumping, as a religious one of Muslims against Jews.

To repeat, the Palestinian struggle is a fight to have their own homeland. A fight, in fact, against displacement and for self-determination.

Much water has flown under the bridge since Israel was established in 1948, however unjustly for displaced Palestinians. Many opportunities for a Palestinian state, alongside Israel, have been missed. Four wars have been fought with countless, punishing operations by the Israelis in, now, a truncated “Palestine” and, each time, a victorious Israel has got stronger, and the Palestinians weaker.

In the 12 years of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Israelis have become emboldened with audacious settlements on the West Bank. In this last round of the conflict, the Israelis descended upon Gaza like a tonne of bricks, using missile attacks from there as justification and cause for their heavy bombardment — whereas it all started after heavy-handed and Gestapo-like action on the West Bank by Israeli police in Sheikh Jarrah and Al Aqsa in the holy month of Ramadan.

Somehow it has all been twisted to make Israel the victim. What Hamas was trying to achieve militarily from Gaza with its ineffectual missiles was to show the Palestinians were not totally helpless. What they did achieve, on the contrary, was to show that they were.

Hamas has done this many times before with innocent Palestinians suffering each time. What is this for? We should also not froth at the mouth, for what will that achieve for the Palestinians?

Malaysia should be more creative in its Palestine policy, instead of being angry with ineffective threats, with the routine lines on the need for Muslim unity which does not exist — why waste time — and condemnation of Israel with no call on Hamas not to put at risk the lives of innocent men, women and, particularly, children.

We must emphasise, again and again, the Palestinian right to self-determination and the need for a two-state solution.

US President Biden now talks about it whereas Trump gave carte blanche to Netanyahu to do what he will, including erasure of that two-state solution. Nevertheless America has not been even-handed again in this round, vetoing twice a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire, before getting Egypt to broker one as US supplicant.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (China is president of the Security Council this month) actually offered his country’s good offices to bring about a ceasefire which neither Israel nor Hamas responded to. If not Hamas, at least the PLO should have responded to this gesture and get American knickers in a twist. Did they? No, they were consumed by unthinking emotion and passion.

Malaysia should, if it wants to have a credible Palestinian policy at all, work to get China more involved in the conflict so that the US does not alone, with Israel, play with Palestinian lives with impunity, while securing every single precious Israeli life.

We have to get smart, not get worked up and play to the domestic gallery. We also have to clean up our act if we want any country to bother with what we have to say, and not be exposed as another of those Muslim countries with no credibility.

We should speak out as a country, not as a Muslim country, which wants to see an end to the cycles of violence and suffering of the Palestinian people. We should state clearly that Israel’s right to exist must once and for all not be an issue, just as we call for establishment of a Palestinian state living side by side with it in peace.

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