MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku



Monday, November 20, 2023

Political class weaponising Palestinian trauma


“Therefore, as responsible and concerned Members of Parliament from Malaysia, we demand the following:…..”

Anonymously signed letter by opposition MPs, 2021

A young Malay grab rider who routinely communicates with me texted me recently, worried that the threat of boycotts would affect his livelihood.

He wanted to know who these people calling for boycotts on social media were and wondered if they were rich people because only rich people could care about something happening so far away.

I told him nothing would come of these boycotts because, eventually, whatever homegrown economic issues would trump the fervour of the political class to gain mileage from the Palestinian issue. Not in those words, of course, but close enough.

Who are these people calling for boycotts, anyway? To the best of my knowledge, nobody from the political class has openly called for boycotts of local business enterprises.

Indeed, the political class has remained more or less silent on the issue of boycotts but has engaged in various controversial tactics of their own.

This is not to say that the current batch of political operatives have called for a boycott when they were not in power. In 2021, a group of opposition MPs anonymously signed a letter calling for an end to the Israeli aggression and upholding Palestinian rights. One of the “demands” were as follows:

Boycott products/services of, and/or mobilise institutional pressure to divest from Israeli and international companies and banks that are complicit in Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Calling for the boycott without having the gumption to carry out such policies (for oftentimes logical reasons) merely makes a mockery of the plight of Palestinians and provides ammunition for those who claim that supporters of the cause are insincere.

What this means is that those MPs who signed this letter would be judged on their fidelity to the Palestinian cause by how they carried out this agenda in Parliament, but more importantly, how they advocated redefining international and local partnerships based on the agenda of ending Israel’s apartheid policies.

Of course, since the letter was signed anonymously, we will never know if these political operatives have the courage of their convictions.

According to Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil, there have been complaints by netizens that TikTok is censoring “Palestinian” content but Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim recently boasted that he secured a proposed investment by TikTok, which was “…. quite big”.

So on the one hand, a big tech company is accused of censoring Palestinian content but on the other, it is welcomed into the Malaysian economic landscape with open arms.

Grab and McDonald’s had to make donations to the Palestinian cause to demonstrate that they were not pro-Israel in what sounds more like extortion and not a humanitarian concern.

We see all these political operatives donning the Palestinian keffiyeh and shouting about the plight of the Palestinians but the reality is that the political class understands how boycotts would affect the majority polity, which is why they are too pusillanimous to call for boycotts when they are steering the good ship Malaysia.

So, what do they do? They allow the aggrieved mobs on social media to attack businesses accusing them of being pro-Israel or pro-US by being silent and these businesses have to bend the knee and make all sorts of excuses as to how they support the Palestinian cause. And you wonder why nobody takes us seriously on the international stage.

Take ZUS Coffee - or whatever it is called - for instance. I have no idea why there is a boycott call against them but what struck me was this bit from an interview with ZUS Coffee vice-president Stephy Foong, who said the company is “deeply saddened” by the boycott call, especially because all its outlets are certified halal by Jakim.

Here we have a company that complies with the religious requirements of the majority so it could offer its products to all Malaysians and yet it is targeted by online mobs and the government remains quiet.

Mind you, I am not calling for the government to sanction anyone who calls for boycotts for whatever reason but what amazes me is that the Madani government is silent when it comes to business in the country that serves Malaysians come under attack.

Or how about when Wealth Link Freedom Sdn Bhd CEO Mohd Sobree Ali said this about his fear of boycotts: “I am a Muslim and when Malays come, they will ask ‘halal or haram?’. That is becoming an issue so I have to declare that I am Muslim and I am local. If not, we cannot survive. We want to survive, we don't want to get boycotted, otherwise, we will suffer losses.”

And there it is. Racial and religious divisions eventually turn on themselves. Here we have Muslims targeted for something they have nothing to do with.

We have Muslims having to defend their business against the agitations of online mobs who claim to act on behalf of oppressed Muslims.

What is the point of these boycotts? It is certainly not for the sake of the Palestinian cause. What we are dealing with here, is that after years of indoctrination, some people are using the Israel-Palestine conflict to further highlight racial and religious divisions in this country.

The longer the Madani government is silent on these boycotts, the stronger the dividing calls will get and eventually it may end in violence. - Mkini

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. Fīat jūstitia ruat cælum - “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.

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