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Why prioritise Palestine?

(© Peter Mulligan / Flickr)

WHILE many are passionate in voicing their disgust at Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, I’m feeling an equal amount of disgust for all the parties involved.

I’m looking within our borders and noticing that these very parties so outraged at Israel are hardly outraged with other issues affecting Malaysians.

How is it that there was a special parliamentary sitting to discuss whether to condemn Israel, while there is not even a single mention of helping 7,000 Malaysians suffering from a flood in Sarawak?

(© Dmitry Kutlayev, Rob Wilson / Dreamstime)
We have our nation’s blood bank raising a red flag on the shortage of blood supply, but I don’t see any Malaysian civil society leaders answering this with fiery and emotive comments.

And all this talk of boycotting American products is just daft. I put forth the question: If you’re going to actually boycott all American products, then why exactly are you using the internet?

Obviously some Malaysians do not understand the concept of franchising. Otherwise they would understand why Coca-Cola (Malaysia) is coming out with a statement of nonalignment to any party involved. But then, knowing the mindsets of certain Malaysians, they would probably label it as propaganda by the Jews.

And why is Coke being boycotted and not Pepsi? Are they both not American?

It is great to note that there are intelligent Malaysian businesspeople who can state that we should be aware of exactly what we mean. Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim was quoted in an article as saying we need to beware of harming local investors and bumiputera owners. He also mentioned focusing on the need to stop investing in banks and weapons dealers that may be linked to Israel.

This was, of course, a more rational suggestion compared with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s call to simply boycott the greenback.

So it was actually great that Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob, of all people, both went on record saying that this boycott is up to individuals, not the government.

Facts about boycotts

Some facts taken from the State Department of the United States website:

In 2007, our nation’s largest investor to the sum of $15.7 billion was the United States of America.

The US contributes 10.8% ($16.632 billion worth) to our local imports, and takes back 15.6% ($28.86 billion worth) of our exports.

Do you really think we can cope with such a loss of income?

That’s not all. Now with talks of Seagate, a US company, wanting to cut down on jobs, and Western Digital already closing a plant in Kuching, do we really want to talk about boycotting US products and letting our largest foreign investor leave?

Parti Sosialis Malaysia’s Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj says a realistic poverty line is RM2,000 per month per family, not the official RM720. So I ask these boycotters, should the US corporations shut down their industries here, putting thousands out of work and on the streets, would they be willing to give up that amount every month to support the poor?

Yes, Palestinians are dying and suffering, but so are Malaysians. How can we preach international solidarity when our own nation’s people are stuck at the bottom of the barrel?

There are some who are calling for the shutting down of the United Nations for not doing anything. On the other hand, Christian leaders in Pakistan are calling for the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) to do something. What should a nation like ours do?

We should do what many Malaysians are admittedly sceptical of doing now: leave it to the government to handle. With Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim acting quickly to get a UN resolution on this issue, it is already being handled through diplomatic channels.

Accordingly, if we must put our money where our mouths are, Mercy Malaysia is always looking for funding of their humanitarian cause, and provides its bank details for donations.

(© Lorna / Dreamstime)
Pray for peace

And of course, there’s always the power of prayer. I don’t agree with some mosques that have started making this a holy war and have included prayers for the destruction of the Jews. Still, I believe there is a place for prayers for peace.

It would be nice if mosques also organised prayers for Malaysian minds to become more rational, starting with those who want Starbucks and McDonald’s employees to stop working there in protest of the crisis in Gaza.

And what about asking the police and universities to stop being hypocrites when they arbitrarily allow some pro-Palestinian protests but ban others?

I will personally remain nonaligned. It is the collective stubbornness of Israel, Hamas and Fatah that is the very reason this is happening.

I also believe we Malaysians should look to clean up our own act first. It’s fine to give out humanitarian aid to those who suffer all over the world, but not at the expense of fellow Malaysians who are suffering.

Ahmad Hafidz Baharom is a paradox. He’s an anti-smoking chain smoker, an environmentalist who leaves his office lights on, a centrist who’s a lalang, and a twentysomething yuppie who dreams of being a slacker. Basically, he’s a lovable moron.

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14 Responses to “Why prioritise Palestine?”

  1. justitia says:

    It made me mad that they convened Parliament just to pass a motion to condemn Israel’s actions when we couldn’t even table and debate a motion of no confidence on the PM. And what about the dire situation in Burma?

  2. Kamal says:

    Absolutely agree with you, except that last bit on who is to blame, I think it is more complex than simply the persistence of collective stubbornness amongst Israel, Hamas and Fatah. We shouldn’t ignore the role of the US and other non-Middle East allies, and of course Middle Eastern allies to the immediate parties. Anyways, such is the way of wars.

    But I agree that we need to look at ourselves first. Calling for a blanket boycott of all things American (and Israeli) when the world is plunging into an economic turmoil may not encourage companies to stay; especially those who already have thoughts to pull their operations out. This will mean many thousands unemployed. And as many people have said, who is going to pay the salaries?

    Also, on the human rights front, people should have a right to raise social conscience and moral protest to any struggle that has disproportionate and possible abuse or over-use of force. We shouldn’t just be following the majority’s interests. The strength of any modern government its her ability to accommodate minority expressions as well.

    Then there is the recent reports that alleges Malaysian officials being involved in human trafficking. Malaysia has for a few years now been on the wrong end of the stick on the issue of human trafficking. This is something those in power can actually do. Why do we continue to hear about it? Is there any truth to it? What is the government doing to address these allegations?

    Also, I thought that I had read somewhere that Kemas had collected either several hundred thousand, or over a million ringgit to donate to the Palestinian cause. A noble gesture, but Kemas is a government agency aimed at rural development and poverty eradication. Shouldn’t any money they collect go first to locals in need, like those made victims by the flooding in Sarawak?

    And finally, of course the use of school children by the Ministry of Education to protest against Israel actions in Gaza. Personally, I think if the children organised the rallies themselves, that is fine and perhaps we may want to encourage social awareness and responsibility, but being led by the authorities doesn’t sound right. And what if some children or people feel that Israel has a right to self-defense?

    That is the position many people are taking all over the world, and we cannot say simply that they are Zionists or racists, etc. If we want to raise social consciousness we need to be able to talk about it and accept that others may not share our views. But the point is, are we using the children to raise our political stakes or is this truly an educational process and one where their voices are heard? What then if one child asked us about the sufferings caused to children who are kept from their parents because of the ISA? How do we answer that question?

  3. johnny alpha says:

    Dear Ahmad,

    I am totally in agreement with your logical and succinctly put argument.

    The stench of hypocrisy exhibited by those who deign to assume the mantle of leadership in this country has once again shown a total disregard for the realities of our country’s needs ahead of their own personal self-aggrandizement.

    Much as I personally think that the Israeli state is becoming much like the Nazis they, and indeed the world at large, once abhorred, I am constantly sickened by the bandwagon jumping of Malaysia’s current and past political heavies.

    Why did we spend trillions on Mig29s and helicopters despite the ongoing genocidal atrocities being inflicted by the Russians on the (Muslim) Chechens? Why did Malaysia not bray so loudly at the equally if not more so barbaric horrors being perpetrated in Sudan’s Darfur by the Arabic Khartoum regime on their fellow African Muslim brothers? Dare we ask Petronas? If these people were so principled where were their voices on any number of “smaller” issues such as the acid-throwing attacks on women and girls in Afghanistan?

    And that’s before, as you so rightly say, we are even looking to resolve our own surmounting social problems. As we are all Malaysians, I shan’t burden you or my fellow readers with the sad long list of things of which we are all more than aware of some dire and urgent fixing in our own country.

    How easy it is for Mahathir to say “quit your jobs”. If I had a generous retirement package, well, perhaps I could afford to quit my job on principle.

  4. I’ve just been informed that the flood in Sarawak is the worst so far and that it’s still ongoing.

    Yet, I don’t see any news in the papers, other than good news. Only the Eastern Daily Express mentioned how 15 houses were swept away.

    The Edge Daily also has an article stating that they are going to pour money in.

    And according to the Star, the flood is receding and conditions are getting better in the span of one hour this morning. Sigh…

  5. hamba pun hamba says:

    “I don’t agree with some mosques that have started making this a holy war and have included prayers for the destruction of the Jews. Still, I believe there is a place for prayers for peace.”

    Dear sir,

    Please refer to the holy Quran before publishing.

    Best regards.

  6. Hobbes says:

    When I read this, amazingly my heart feels warmth. I think, at least there’s people across carrying the same label as us — Malaysians actually care about us. No offense, but it’s true.

    All those politicians who keep talking about condemning Israel and so on. None of them actually pay attention to what the people of Sarawak have suffered due to the flood. Do they have any idea how many houses were flooded? How many families were evacuated? How many students could not go to school because schools were closed?

    It really saddens me to see the government paying more attention to people who are across the borders and seas, and paying no attention to the rakyat here who are suffering. After all, aren’t Sarawak and Sabah part of Malaysia, too? Still, I thank you for this message to remind people. Thank you so much.

    I do agree with the war between Gaza and Israel. When I see some people getting others to protest and so on, I think that these people are just adding trouble to others.
    Imagine, if 1,000 were to have a rally calling for an end to the war in front of the Palestinian embassy, what would happen to the traffic? Others have lives that must go on.

    So, as supportive and sensible citizens of Malaysia, we should not interfere with what’s going on but instead lift them up in our prayers, give support in the form of money and volunteers, rather than having rallies and demonstrations that just waste people’s time.

    After all, it’s a problem between them, not us. We ourselves don’t even know the true story, so to me, it’s best I leave to God and the foreign minister together with the UN to settle the matter.

    Once again, thanks for the caring. Just to update you all, the flood in Sarawak is decreasing and the situation is improving. Not only do I thank God but also the hearts you all have.

  7. Shepherd says:

    Your argument trivialises the Palestinian issue. I am not sure whether by your convictions or lack of knowledge. If it is the latter, then I suggest that you research further after which you will find that not a single one of the domestic political issues you mentioned can come even close to a shade of what the Palestinians are suffering.

    The Palestinians have been colonised and oppressed for 61 years by the Zionists. The present day holocaust in Palestine is more despicable than that of Hitler’s as it has lasted 61 years, with the collusion of USA and Europe.

    So, you can see why we should be so outraged about events in Gaza. That of course is not to say that we can excuse our politicians for the domestic issues but the time and context of that is different. Don’t get fooled by the Israeli propaganda!

  8. tini zainudin says:

    Finally, someone is saying what reasonable, intelligent people should be advocating for! Phew…I thought there was something wrong with me and was frankly afraid of being labelled ‘unIslamic’ or a traitor.

  9. Shepherd,

    While the domestic issues come nowhere near the Palestinians suffering, they are, after all, DOMESTIC issues, which should be handled first and foremost by a DOMESTIC government.

    Also, I do not trivialise their suffering. I just highlight ours in comparison. As Malaysians first, we should care and heal the suffering of our own before going abroad. And even if we were to go abroad, may I remind you that we are still head of NAM, which means we do not align ourselves with anyone.

    And finally, if we had an Israeli ambassador, I would have agreed with his expulsion as a sign of protest as was done in Venezuela and Bolivia. Unfortunately, we don’t even have that.

  10. Hamba pun hamba,

    Thanks for the advice. Can you point out which verse actually allows a mosque to ask its congregation to pray for the destruction of the entire Jewish race?

  11. Zedeck says:

    Hello Shepherd:

    I do not think that Hafidz is trying to make our domestic woes equivalent to Palestine’s long nightmare — he is merely asking why that tragedy gets priority, whereas tragedies closer to home receive nearly no attention.

    Sarawak deserves some interest and aid, at least. And, while Burma’s military regime is not as actively destructive as Israel’s, it may be argued that they are as vile — and receive the same tacit collusion from Asean as Israel does the UN.

    If I may speak frankly, I find what you insinuate — that it is right, or imperative, for us to consider some human suffering more important than others — somewhat thorny. Proportionality is an exercise of practicality. It is not moral.

  12. Shepherd says:

    Hafidz & Zedeck,

    I get a sense that you guys expect governments, politicians and NGOs etc to be preoccupied and concerned with just about every problem in this world. For a start, not everyone agrees that a ‘problem’ or an ‘issue’ is indeed a problem or issue. Thus, the reason why some choose to pursue one issue instead of another. And even if all agree that we need to do something about an issue or problem, you just have to prioritise and there’s nothing immoral about that. Also note that we are not the keeper of the world or for that matter someone else, and as a country we need to choose the international issues that we want to pursue.

    As for the domestic issues that you mention, there are enough of other people and organisations kicking the dirt on these and there will continue to be time and occassion to tackle these.

    And I say again, let’s not get distracted and dilute the debate on the Palestinian issue.

  13. You mentioned there are other people to care for our nation, so aren’t there the same “other people” to care for this issue?

    Let’s compare, shall we?

    You have the OIC, NAM, ASEAN and the United Nations looking into the Palestinian agenda.

    How many international organisations of such magnitude do you have looking at the floods in Sarawak, the landslide in Miri which buried two people today, the 1,300 unemployed workers in Kuching who worked for Western Digital?

    Considering that the red alert from the blood bank is no longer in the news, I’m guessing it’s no longer an issue.

    As leaders elected by the people of THIS nation, the focus and attention should be prioritised accordingly.

    And FYI, there is no “debate” on the issue of Palestine.

  14. Hobbes says:


    Forgive me for my ignorance or lack of knowledge on the Palestinian issue but all I know is if a government can’t even take care of domestic issues, they should not go barge in and try to meddle with world affairs.

    You may not understand what Sarawakians have gone through all these years. When tragedies or disasters happen in Peninsular Malaysia, you always see ministers here and there but when you see Sarawak and Sabah in distress and hardship, do you see any politicians flying in to give us aid or comfort?

    Life is Sarawak is very different in case you have not noticed. Floods in Sarawak aren’t just normal floods. People’s daily lives and their ability to survive are affected.

    Well, I do not wish to say more since whatever has happened has already happened. Harping won’t do much difference. Still, I want to give my gratitude to those who raise this situation and have a heart for Sarawakians. I’m just saddened to see some Malaysians do not really care for the sufferings of their brothers and sisters who carry the same title as Malaysian.

    I guess the true vision of Bangsa Malaysia will only come alive when both sides finally care for each other. Hope I can see this coming in my time.

    As leaders elected by the rakyat, they should always be reminded that any matter, either big or small, domestic or international, is vital and should be taken up for consideration and resolved.

    Many didn’t do well in the recent general election because many leaders take notice of the big things but lose focus of the small things. And it’s because of the small things that make them lose their seats.

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