MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Saturday, November 18, 2023

The blind spot in supporting Palestine


Lately, more and more people are demonstrating various acts of solidarity with Palestine.

For the past month, I have been noticing more flags raised in residential areas, shops, mosques, and vehicles.

Newsreaders on our public television network have begun to wear the Palestinian keffiyeh or the chequered black and white ‘desert scarf’ around their necks. Politicians are doing the same.

Many are boycotting pro-Israel products, brands, and celebrities.

People have also started to wear green outfits to demonstrate unity with the Palestinian people.

Others have taken part in peaceful demonstrations and protests around our country.

It is almost admirable to see Malaysians standing together, expressing themselves, and rejecting violence and oppression.

Yet, I cannot help but wonder. How much do we know about the cause we seem to care so much about?

Do you know?

I recently visited my grandaunt’s home and was surprised to see a big Palestine flag in front of her house. To the best of my knowledge, she doesn’t even raise Jalur Gemilang during the Merdeka celebrations.

I asked her about the flag, to which she simply shrugged and said she knew very little about it, claiming it was her children’s doing.

To be honest, I wasn’t surprised by her answer. The last time I met her, she couldn’t even name the current prime minister of our country.

I bumped into her daughter shortly after, and once again asked about the flag.

“The flag is to show support for the Palestinian people. They are at war with Israel and the Jews are killing them! So kasihan (pitiful),” she replied.

“Currently, Israel is at war with Hamas, not Palestine,” I explained.

She stared at me for a few seconds before asking, “Who is Hamas?”

You must take a side

A friend recently asked me what my stance was regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict. Apparently, she scrolled through my social media and thought I wasn’t expressing myself enough regarding the matter.

I smiled and didn’t bother to give her an answer.

I refuse to simplify the complex conflict by taking simplistic stands just to generate a few likes and back-patting.

Many of my friends and acquaintances have been quite expressive in their social media posts about the war. These knee-jerk social media posts do not bother me much as compared to the idea that not posting is somehow wrong.

This idea, that the most righteous among us must make our thoughts publicly known, is quite flawed.

I don’t think there is a need to speak or express ourselves all the time. Sometimes, shutting up and listening allows us to process events better in our minds. It also allows us to gather more information before pronouncing a judgment.

“You must take a side. If you don’t speak out, you too will have blood on your hands,” she stressed, insisting for an answer.

“Fine,” I replied, annoyed. “But first, allow me to Google a blank map of the world. I need you to point at the location of the war. Can you do that for me?”

There was a long pause. She didn’t know where Palestine was.

What are you advocating?

I think it is commendable that people are showing support for a good cause. But doing so because it is in-trend or simply blindly following others is an insult to the cause itself.

Our voices are powerful and we must be encouraged to speak up and express our thoughts. But what is the point of making our voices heard and our actions seen when it is carried out without a thought process?

How can one say they are in solidarity with the Palestinian people when they don’t even bother to find out essential information about Palestine, Israel, and the conflict itself?

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has emphasised over and over again regarding Malaysia’s firm stance in advocating for the Palestinian people.

Unfortunately, despite so many political speeches condemning Israel, so little has been done to educate Malaysians on what we are actually advocating for.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim

As far as most Malaysians are concerned, Israel is at war with Palestine for its land. And that is all they know about the conflict.

Keep it simple

A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine who teaches history at a public secondary school, rang me up to share his frustrations.

Apparently, his school launched the Palestine Solidarity Week and organised a few activities including solat hajat (prayers), talks during assembly, and donation collections.

As a teacher, he felt it was equally important to educate his students about the conflict from a historical perspective and not merely show solidarity towards Palestine by condemning Israel.

So, he dedicated a lesson time for his Form 3 to Form 5 students to talk about the Israel-Palestine conflict. He encouraged his students to ask questions and share their own views on the matter.

He was very pleased with the students’ engagement in those special classes. They asked a lot of factual questions and he was happy to see them hungry for knowledge.

However, two days later, my friend was summoned to the principal’s office. There had been a few complaints made against him by a couple of religious teachers at the school.

According to the ustad and ustazah, when they were reciting prayers for the Palestinians during agama classes, they received information from the students, claiming their history teacher sounded very much pro-Israel.

My friend had to clear the air that he wasn’t pro-Israel. He explained that he merely informed the students that Israel is one of the economically strongest countries in the world and has one of the world’s most powerful military forces.

Despite his effort to educate the students on the realities of the world, he was ordered not to ‘confuse’ the students with ‘wrong messages’.

“Stick to simple messages that can be easily digested,” he was told.


“There is no space for our students to grow in our spoon-feeding culture, Fa.”

I share my friend’s frustration.

Like his students, a big part of our society has also been through this spoon-feeding culture. They have been accustomed to having everything simplified for easy digestion.

There is no need to think too much of anything. After all, following blindly is so much easier.

Having everything easy is what most Malaysians strive for.

It is easy to raise a flag, wear the keffiyeh, put on a green shirt, and boycott a product.

Finding out why you do all that is much harder. - Mkini

FA ABDUL is a multi-award-winning playwright and director in the local performing arts scene, a published author, television scriptwriter, media trainer, and mother. Her ultimate mission in life is to live out of a small suitcase.

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

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