ON Tuesday (Oct 31), Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim told Dewan Rakyat that Malaysia had received three démarches from the US because the country refused to brand Hamas as a terrorist organisation.
In one of these occasions, the US State Department summoned Malaysia’s ambassador to Washington Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz on Oct 18 to state Malaysia’s stance on the Israel-Palestine issue.
As a matter of fact, it was unnecessary for Washington to issue these three démarches as we have for years maintained a cordial relationship with the Palestinian Authority and have no diplomatic relationship with Israel.
While we don’t support any form of violence, we do not also think that Hamas fits into the definition of a terrorist organisation.
Moreover, Palestine has been effectively divided into two separate administrations – the Gaza Strip controlled by Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)-controlled West Bank.
PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas asserted on Oct 15 that Hamas did not represent the Palestinian people and that PLO was the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
He also opposed the killing of civilians because of the conflict between Israel and Hamas and urged the release of all hostages held.
Not taking side
So, we can see that even within Palestine itself, there is division. While outsiders like us can support righteousness and reject violence, we need not complicate things further by organising a so-called “Palestinian Solidarity Week” at schools, for instance, while allowing our school pupils to wield toy guns and feign as jihad fighters.
As a matter of fact, the historical background of the conflict between Israel and Palestine has been highly intricate and is nothing as easy as who have robbed whom of their homeland. Is it appropriate to instill such hostility in children whereas even the adults find it hard to get a clear picture of what has actually been going on?
In neighbouring Singapore, while they have official diplomatic relationship with Israel, they also maintain good relationship with the Palestinian Authority.
After the onset of the conflict in Israel, Singapore has repeatedly condemned the violence, calling the killing of innocent civilians a major human tragedy, and has urged both sides to move towards truce through negotiation.
Singapore has its own position for that matter, of course, but due to ideological differences prevalent in our two countries, we cannot force anyone to support any side.
Today, countries around the world have varied definition for Hamas. Among the countries that see it as a terrorist organisation are Israel, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the UK European Union and Japan while UN Security Council, China, Russia and majority of Middle Eastern and Muslim countries see Hamas as “resistance fighters”.
As the international community is itself divided over whether Hamas is a terrorist organisation, we feel that there is absolutely unnecessary for us to tear up our Malaysian society just because of our different positions in the Israel-Palestine issue.
Anwar has reminded Malaysians not to politicise the Israel-Palestine conflict and not to let the issue divide our society.
Don’t skip APEC
The PM’s position is that the multi-cultural Malaysian society should see the conflict as a historical and humanitarian issue in which the Palestinian people yearn for liberation from Israeli occupation.
At the same time, Anwar also urged all parties not to exploit the Palestinian situation for their own political gains. He urged Malaysians to remain calm over the issue.
Anwar is currently gathering feedback from other countries on the positions of Asian leaders attending the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in San Francisco. He said whether he would attend the summit depends on the information he gathers.
Anyway, APEC has been for years committed to promoting an open multilateral trading system – not allowing the body to develop in the direction of a trading bloc – but to establish a new, open international economic forum.
The informal leaders’ meeting will be held in San Francisco from Nov 12 to 18 with the slogan “Innovation, Sustainability, and Inclusion” and the theme “Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All”.
Simply put, this is going to be an informal leaders’ meeting on economic cooperation and has absolutely nothing to do with the Israel-Palestine conflict.
It is hoped that PM Anwar will attend the meeting for the sake of the country and interact with other world leaders because Malaysia is now in the midst of an economic recovery and we indeed need more investment inputs.
Over-enthusiasm in international conflict and skipping the APEC summit will not do the country any good, and may even deprive ourselves of an opportunity to voice up for Palestine. – Nov 3, 2023
This opinion editorial by Sin Chew Daily was first published on Nov 2, 2023.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.