The writer is chief executive officer of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.
Displaying items by tag: Israel
While the massive bombing of Gaza may seem like ‘a specter from hell’, if that word can even describe anything more insidious than the carnage. Do not expect Israel to apologize for the use of heavy bombing in the near future; excessive or otherwise. Why?
For what it is worth, something did gravely go wrong under the administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir well before its debacle on October 7 2023. The enemies of Israel brought Tel Aviv to its knees. Not for several hours potentially 2 days as the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) needed just as much time to make sure the Israeli settlements were all safe. October 7 2023 did result in untold casualties to Israel with many of its own soldiers was taken captive.
But as the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guiterres did say that such "events do not emerge out of a vacuum." Decades of oppression and persecution of the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have triggered this ‘unexpected’ explosive turn of event.
The weaknesses of Israel were too many to be mentioned. Be they institutional checks and balances, Israel simply has to be eternally vigilant. Tel Aviv was caught flat footed for hours without end.
The belief in the superiority of the Israel technology proves to be prone to a decommissioned all the surveillance that were active, not merely savvy "surveillance state," it is also a highly admired "start up" nation. Granted that any start-ups only has a 4.17 chance to reach the book value of USD 10 Billion in any stock markets around the world.
That said, these achievements pale in comparison to what the IDF is doing. Conducting the war in an urban environment is bound to be difficult. It is also the fate of Israel to be with - the Middle East. The birth place of not one but two other versions of the Jewish faith; each of which traces their roots to Abraham and his ancestry too; albeit with different theological interpretations and practices.
However, while Christianity and Islam each has expanded far and beyond, to the degree that the Jewish believers have tried fan northward, to Eastern Europe and Russia, only that have been subjected to Pogroms and eventually Holocaust mainly by Nazi Germany in Poland during World War II.
Due to the confluence of these two demographic trends, Israel somehow was created in 1948 to give it a proper space of "co-existence". Somehow or rather there would be other groups to do them harm irrespective of whether they are in. Be it Eastern Europe or Russia, the people of Israel did go through some of the sternest tests in life.
This has led to a siege mentality--when they are all converged together, side by side, with the Palestinians. Indeed, original historical records have shown that Jews and Palestinians did try to co-exist together. With the end of World War I in 1919, however, leading to more emigration to the Arab Levant, to escape mass persecution in Europe.
By 1937, the number of Jews had almost equalled with that of the Palestinian Muslims and Christians. Paradoxically, while the Muslim world, could allow Muslims to find their roots in at least 57 member states.
All of which are embedded in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Therefore Israel exists right in the midst of quite a few Arab states that do grudgingly admire its achievements. Yet there are sub-state actors that continue to spawn into more and more organizations with the goal of destroying Israel.
To the degree Israel knows how to neutralize the threat, land swaps have become an ideal equation. Yet Israel believes fully in hard power too, and is not afraid to wield it especially against Iran. If anything, Iran has the means and will to sponsor an endless number of religious groups that have tried to pivot to Tehran; especially since the founding of the Islamic Iranian republic in 1979.
In this context, the national pride of Israel, if one must, the arrogance of Israel is rather strong. Too strong. It leaves no room for almost non Jews to co-exist with it.
That said, it has taken the Jewish believers at least 3000 years to reach the current form of Israel; this despite the fact that there remain quite a few Jewish groups in Israel that do not recognize it in the current form. These are the ones who averred that a Jewish state cannot by established by anyone until the mysterious Last Messiah himself.
As things are, the butchery of Gaza will continue on a day-to-day basis between 6 weeks to 6 months as reported by Bloomberg. Even one day is too long. Israel's namesake would be affected, as would the US.
Still one may note that the likes of Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and his previous cabinet that was responsible for the bold attack by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have to date failed to offer any apology for the massive intelligence failure under their watchful eyes. If anything else, this war would be pursued with total vengeance to give Israelis the necessary relief.
However, as and when the people of Israel were to get tired of Prime Minister Netanyahu, he would have to be booted out as the head of the War Cabinet. Contrasted with Japan and South Korea, for example, such an colossal failure would have led to the fall of the government almost immediately.
That being said, Israel has had four elections in the last five years. For the lack of better expression, Israel is a hyper competitive electoral polity where every vote seems to count.
Thus, Israel is now politically divided not between the left and right but seemingly absent of any centrist majority to keep everyone in check. It was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who stitched together 8 small fringe Jewish coalition parties from the far-right.
Invariably, this marked the dawn of what is essentially the most ultra xenophobic government where Arabs and Palestinians alike were constantly viewed with total suspicions and condescension.
The fact that this war in Gaza is launched with total conviction that the self defense of Israel should never be compromised is the by Thomas Friedman's view, a seasoned columnist of New York Times, to "out crazy" Hamas and all other adversaries out there.
The defense and offensive doctrines of Israel is almost one and the same in practice. Even Likud has a charter that does not acknowledge any two state solutions. Yet, until today, Israel has no solution to solve the Palestinian issue.
If anything, it is not without some sense of irony and tragedy that Israel has had to launch the war into Gaza, once again. Only this time, it is the one and only occasion that Israel will have the window to destroy Hamas and Islamic Jihad, from the tunnel to the ground up. Only that the prospect of saving any hostages and limiting Israel's own casualties would also be dimmed.
On obliterating Hamas and Islamic Jihad, how does one destroy an idea that has broken through an otherwise impenetrable state like Israel? Hamas and Islamic Jihad, rightly or wrongly, have stirred up a global debate on the very legitimacy of Israel to subject Palestinian to various lower hierarchy of human rights.
This war against Gaza is of Israel's own making, especially due to the incompetence of the Likud Party and Jewish Power. The two will never be penitent. As they reject a two-state solution as much as most Palestinian does too. There in the inability to climb down from the spiral of mutual recrimination. Indeed it will be a long, bloody war for both Israel and the Palestinians.
The writer is chief executive officer of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.
The conflict between Israel and Gaza has stretched on for ten long days, and the toll is heart-wrenching. Al Jazeera's reports reveal a staggering toll on human lives: Israeli air raids have claimed the lives of over 2,670 Palestinians, with approximately a quarter of them being children. Meanwhile, Hamas's military operation has claimed the lives of 1,400 Israelis, including 286 soldiers.
The recent actions taken by the Israeli government signal a more ruthless path ahead. Only last week, after days of bombardment, the Israeli government ordered nearly 1.1 million civilians residing in northern Gaza, which includes Gaza City, the most populated urban area, to evacuate to the south.
We all know that such a gesture by Israel is only to facilitate its imminent ground offensive with a pretext to wipe out the “top political and military leadership of Hamas”, and more importantly, to establish a minimal legal justification for the anticipated civilian casualties that may occur. This is despite the warning heeded by the US President, Joe Biden, that Israel’s decision to reoccupy Gaza would be a “big mistake”.
Such instruction drew sharp condemnation from the International Committee of the Red Cross, which deemed it "not compatible with international law". The UN Commissioner for Human Rights, in a strong statement, urged its immediate "rescission”, but unfortunately, to no avail.
Following Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel on Oct 7, the international community rushed to voice its concern about the escalation in tensions. However, many statements only noted the atrocities committed by Hamas, while disregarding the blatant violations of international laws and human rights committed by Israel in the aftermath of the attacks.
It is only very recently, as Israel intensified its bombardment of Gaza and attacked Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, several governments have started to turn critical of Israel’s actions. Last Sunday, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has condemned Israel’s actions for going “beyond the scope of self-defense” and called for an end to the violence. He further reiterated that “(Israel) should listen earnestly to the calls of the international community and the UN secretary general, and cease its collective punishment of the people of Gaza.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a warning last Friday that civilian casualties will be "absolutely unacceptable" in case of an Israeli ground operation in the Gaza Strip and pointed to the U.S. for contributing to the escalation. Both China and Russia have been criticized by Western officials for not specifically naming Hamas in their statements on the Israel-Gaza conflict.
Even the U.S. government has shifted its tone from its earlier statement. In an interview for CBS aired on Sunday, President Joe Biden, reaffirmed US foreign policy position that “there needs to be a path to a Palestinian state”, while insisting that Israel’s reoccupation of Gaza is a “big mistake”. “The vast majority of the population of Gaza,” he added, “deserve dignity. They deserve safety and security.” It remains to be seen whether these words will translate into meaningful action to restrain Israel's military operations.
But clearly, calling out Israel for their recent aggression and highlighting the need for a ceasefire on both sides is not enough. This recent violence did not appear from a void. Every atrocity, every death, and every act of vengeance has a history and context that must be understood if every party involved is serious in their pursuit of peace.
Therefore, one may ask, what is the underlying political backdrop to this war? It is multi-layered but one stark truth is often overlooked; the Palestinians have been occupied for over half a century, blockaded for nearly two decades, and subjected to periodic massacres and systemic violence under the Israeli apartheid regime. The people of Gaza have experienced a sixteen-year blockade that tightly controls nearly everything in the region --- resulting in frequent shortages of vital necessities like electricity, water, medicine, food, and construction materials.
Unfortunately, only a handful of countries have recognized this fact in their official statement. Malaysia, among others, is among the few that has explicitly highlighted the “root cause” of this conflict, invoking the term “politics of dispossession”, famously used by the late Palestinian-American intellectual Professor Edward Said. This term underscores the Palestinian struggle against settler colonialism led by Israel and supported by major Western powers.
The first serious step towards getting out of this cycle of violence between Israel and Palestine is to come to terms with this fact. The world community should be mobilized based on a mutual and resolute recognition that for the cycle of violence to stop, the Israel’s illegal occupation must end, their violations of human rights and international laws must be addressed, and the rights of all citizens must be respected.
The Gaza conflict has been a long-standing and deeply sensitive issue for Muslims worldwide. As the world watches the crisis unfold, the need for strong, vocal leadership to champion the Palestinian cause is more crucial than ever. In this context, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia has emerged as a prominent and unifying figure, using his voice and influence to galvanize support for the Palestinian people among the diverse population of Malaysia.
As a leader of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation, Anwar Ibrahim faces the challenge of striking a balance between expressing solidarity with the Palestinian cause and uniting his country’s diversity.
Anwar has continuously proved his commitment to advocating for the rights of Palestinians. His unwavering support for Palestine has made him a prominent voice in the Muslim world and beyond. He consistently asserts that the Palestine-Israel issue should be viewed through the lens of the ‘politics of dispossession’, a concept propounded by Edward W. Said, a Palestinian-American academic, highlighting Israel's institutionalized method of expropriating landed assets from their Palestinian owners.
In contrast to other ASEAN countries' leaders who have used broader language to urge an end to violence and concentrate on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Malaysia's Prime Minister has displayed a distinctively stronger tone in his official statements and measures. This is what Julia Lau and Francis E. Hutchinson of the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore, have concluded.
The Prime Minister, in Parliament on October 16th, firmly rejected what he described as "pressure" from "Western governments" to condemn Hamas, highlighting that the organisation had been elected democratically by the people of Gaza and, therefore, has the right to lead the nation.
The following day, Anwar engaged with Hamas' political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, and announced Malaysia's commitment to providing humanitarian relief. Additionally, he pledged RM100 million in humanitarian aid.
With a strong show of solidarity, Anwar led a massive rally of 16,000 pro-Palestinian supporters in Kuala Lumpur on October 24, 2023, to condemn what he termed as Israel's "barbaric" acts in Gaza. He urged the international community to intervene immediately to end the violence in Gaza and establish a humanitarian corridor to aid the besieged territory.
Anwar's efforts in raising the Palestinian issue extend to the international stage. He has used his diplomatic clout to engage with other world leaders, international organizations, and regional powers. During the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Saudi Arabia on October 18, Anwar expressed Malaysia's unwavering support for the Palestinian people and called for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor and an immediate ceasefire with Hamas.
In his meeting with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Prime minister during the summit, he underlined the importance of the Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia to stop the ongoing war between the Israeli army and Palestinian factions.
Anwar also met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on October 25
and discussed the ongoing conflict in Gaza and the need for a ceasefire. He then met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and discussed the opening of the Rafah crossing to allow the channelling of food, water and medicines to Palestine.
Anwar faces not only external pressures in his public support for Palestine, which he explains has taken place three times, especially from the US but also internal challenges. One of these significant challenges stems from the issue of polarization among Malaysians.
In response to the criticisms that his approach towards the Palestinian cause is too vocal and disregards the non-intervention principle, Anwar stated in his concluding speech for the National Budget on Nov 30, that the Palestinian issue is not exclusive to Muslims but a matter of justice and human rights. According to Anwar, Russia, China, Ireland and Brazil have adopted the same human rights approach.
Anwar Ibrahim's leadership in the Gaza crisis extends beyond religious lines. Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country with a predominantly Muslim population. His ability to bridge religious and ethnic divides will strengthen the country's collective support for the Palestinian people. Balancing foreign policy with domestic sensitivities is a delicate task, and the Prime Minister has diligently navigated this fine line to maintain unity within Malaysia.
Regardless of their religious and racial backgrounds, Malaysians should wholeheartedly support the Palestinian cause, as it has transcended into a humanitarian crisis, with Israel's collective punishments and genocidal attacks on the people of Gaza.
As the world continues to grapple with the complexities of the Middle East conflict, Prime Minister Anwar's leadership exemplifies how a nation's leader can serve as a unifying force for a just and compassionate cause, transcending religious and ethnic divides for the betterment of all humanity.
Dr. Ahmad Badri bin Abdullah is the Deputy CEO of IAIS Malaysia
02 NOV 2023
WHEN emotions run high, as is the case where the carnage of Gaza has seen up to 8,000 fatalities to date, there is a need to stay focused on the observance of international humanitarian laws, ultimately, the Geneva Convention of 1959.
What happened on Oct 7 will defy the explanation of many. Some called it "pure and unadulterated evil", as did United States President Joe Biden, a committed defender of Israel, while those who believe that the circumstances leading to the military operations of Hamas "did not emerge in a vacuum".
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also believes that the retaliatory measures by Israel was akin to actions consistent with a "genocide"— the systematic killing of a whole nation or a group of people.
The latter is the view of United Nations' Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, whose remark caused the supporters of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call for Guterres' "immediate resignation".
Indeed, others who root for blood and revenge against Gaza spoke of the need "to teach the UN a lesson".
Meanwhile, Dennis Ross, the former Middle East envoy of former American presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, wrote in the New York Times on Oct 28, that while he believed in a "ceasefire", he now does not believe in one.
The reason? As long as Hamas is in Gaza, Israel will always feel existentially threatened. For lack of a better word, Israel will never believe that it can exist in total harmony with its neighbours such as Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, plus Gaza.
Ross sought to further qualify his opinion by affirming that the leaders in the Arab world, whom he had spoken to, all claimed to believe in the ending of the likes of Islamic jihad and Hamas, without which they too could not feel the peace and security in the Middle East.
However, the likes of Ross, experienced as he may seem to be, do not understand that a sub-state actor cannot destroy another state completely.
Especially one that has the option of resorting to its nuclear weapons. This is precisely why many Western and Asian powers have never seen it proper to relinquish their nuclear weapons. No one wants to be destroyed completely.
More importantly, Ross seems to echo the view of the Biden Administration that there cannot be a "ceasefire" until all the 225 hostages are freed.
Yet, the majority of the member states in the UN General Assembly do want a "ceasefire". Even if the United Kingdom (UK) and France were to ask for a "humanitarian pause", the fact of the matter is that they believe that there is such a thing as going beyond all red lines.
While UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak once again called the attack of Oct 7 "sheer evil", one notes that French President Emmanuel Macron has announced in Tel Aviv that while there can be "no mercy, there cannot be no rules".
War is by implication the failure of diplomacy as the German military strategist Claude Von Clauwitz once said. But, war is also a total failure of humanity. The world, to be fair, was not paying that much attention to the issue of Israel and Palestine.
As recently as Sept 29, 2023, the National Security Adviser to the Biden Administration Jake Sullivan had penned an article in the printed version of Foreign Affairs, that "there has never been a time when the Middle East was more stable".
Although elsewhere, while being interviewed by Susan Glasser of The New Yorker on Oct 3, 2023, Sullivan added the word "for now" to clarify his view on the Middle East, the fact goes to show that no one cared about the Israeli-Palestine issue until it erupted again in all its fury.
Only when the conflict risks becoming global did the world sit up and listen.
In fact, despite the horrible conditions under which the Palestinians of all faiths and creeds live, there have been at least four countries in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) that have signed up on the Abraham Accords in Sept 2020.
This happened a mere two months before Donald Trump lost the presidential election on Nov 20, 2020.
What the world wants, especially Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim , is "a stop to the complete insanity" where the whole of Gaza is subject to the collective punishment of a war cabinet in Israel formed of only five people.
Whether this is ironic or otherwise, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has explained again and again that the "world is beyond five". Turkiye was referring to the absurd situation where world affairs continued to be run along the lines of what was agreed at the end of World War II in 1945.
This is the date when the likes of China, Russia, the US, the UK and France instituted the veto and continue to wield the veto on any important decisions in the UN Security Council according to their interests.
To be sure, the crux of the matter is that the fate of Palestine has been shut out to them since the creation of the League of Nations in 1919 and further reinforced in 1948 with the creation of Israel.
As things are, more than 7,000 targets have been bombed without any discrimination or proportionality that is so vital to the laws of war, and by extension, international humanitarian laws.
Be they schools, churches, mosques or medical centres, the bombing campaign over the last three weeks has not stopped. More ridiculously, the whole of Gaza remains deprived of food, water, electricity and fuel.
When Palestinians who live north of Khan Younis were asked to evacuate to clear the way for a ground invasion of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), up to one million people from a population base of 2.2 million, were asked to evacuate to the Rafah Crossing in the southern section of the Gaza Strip.
The deadline given by Israel was within 24 hours of Oct 10, 2023. As and when more time was given, the residents of Gaza, half of whom were children, were given barely half a day more — that is 12 hours extra — to get themselves out of the vicious Israeli bombing campaigns.
As things stand, the bombs that had been dropped on the northern sector of Gaza have now reached more than the total number of explosives and ordnance that had been put to use in the first year of the US-led coalition against the Taliban on Oct 3, 2001 in response to 9/11.
In rallying for the Palestinians, Malaysians of all backgrounds must not lose sight of the concept of just war and international humanitarian law.
The latter is non-reciprocal. In other words, if the likes of Israel had been raided, Tel Aviv cannot resort to its whims and fancies to consider civilians and combatants as one of the same as retaliation
Therefore, in allowing any street demonstrators or activists who disclaim the narratives of 9/11 altogether, this plot is trying to draw Iran into their own game.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation must ensure that all sides exercise self-restraint; leading to a ceasefire, and this is what Malaysia and its various counterparts in Asia want.
If anything, they must warn the Middle Eastern countries and all other actors, that all military campaigns must observe international humanitarian law — without which any outcome would present a lose-lose situation for all.
The writer is chief executive officer of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.
Published in: The New Straits Times (online), Thursday 02 November 2023
OCTOBER 7, could have been just any other day in Israel. After all, the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, also known as the Ramadan War by the Arabs, had just come and gone.
Yet, due to more than 20 months of internal demonstrations of the people of Israel against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the internal unity of Israel had become splintered and frayed.
What makes Netanyahu more unpalatable to the people of Israel was not merely his association with the extremist Jewish National Front, to form a government, but the corruption that Netanyahu is accused to have committed.
Instead of backing down, granted that Netanyahu had indeed served as a prime minister on three previous terms, totalling almost 13 years in all, Bibi as he is known thought it proper to consider the prime minister's office of Israel as his personal right.
Beyond the three counts of corruption with which he had been charged, Netanyahu, in line with his minister of national security, Itamar Ben-Gvir of the Jewish National Front, decided to amend the laws pertaining to the Israeli Supreme Court too.
Israel, not unlike the United Kingdom, is ruled by Common Laws, but does not operate on checks and balances. Therein the elected representatives try to counter check the influence of the judicial and legislative arm.
What happens in Israel clearly cannot stay in Israel: it was not merely the Israeli citizens that rose in uproar against the government of Israel but the whole world of Jewry too.
Even United States President Joe Biden, who seems to be extremely supportive of the current Israel, actually met with Benny Grantz, the opposition leader of Israel thrice in the White House over the last two years.
As for Netanyahu, his own appointment was delayed and kept open until the end of 2023.
The 27 European Union (EU) member states were no less upset by Israel's "most right wing government ever".
Leader after leader did not see the importance of working with Netanyahu. Under the likes of the Likud Party, of which Netanyahu is the head, the number of Jewish settlers had topped more than 750,000 people. This is against international laws as no country is allowed to seize the land of any country.
The fact of the matter is that Netanyahu has been trying to subvert the legal system of Israel; as if the lawfare and the hundreds of rules and regulations that were put in place over the last 75 years were not enough to render the Palestinians as one of the most persecuted groups in the world.
The Israeli prime minister and the Jewish Ultra Front were both complicit in creating an Israeli Supreme Court where lawyers and judges would be decided by the executive arm of the Israeli government.
While Israel likes to see itself as the only democracy in the Middle East, the depth to which the Likud Party and the extremist Jewish National Front, established by the ultra radical preacher the late Meir Kahane, amply showed that Israel was very adept at many diabolical schemes.
Whether it is the flagrant use of its military power or its sharp powers to intervene in the affairs of another country, Israel has done it. Unit 8200, for example, allows young teenagers to work under the purview of the Israeli government.
These kids would be given 3 hours or less to hack into the political system of any country to test their hacking abilities.
Obviously, this has helped a whole generation of Israelis believe in their own invincibility. Many members of Unit 8200 did become multi millionaires and billionaires and help the perception along.
This mentality of self entitlement has contaminated its thinking before or after the events of Oct 7.
Instead of investigating the breaches in Israel's security, Netanyahu's first reaction was to impose a complete blockade of Gaza to prevent food, fuel and water from reaching the besieged area completely.
To make matters worse, Israel began bombing Gaza in more than 700 areas or targets within a day of Oct 7.
Collective punishment is a war crime, but Netanyahu and the Jewish National Front did not pay heed to a severe global recrimination.
When United Nations secretary general Antonio Guiterres said in a speech that what ever that had happened in and to Israel did not occur "in a vacuum", Israel's UN Representative Danny Ayalon, immediately asked for the resignation of the UN chief.
Netanyahu's administration has basically compromised the security of the people in Israel.
The latest polls show that up to 56 per cent of Israelis want Netanyahu to be removed from office, perhaps charged for corruption and any dereliction of duties too, the moment the military operation against Gaza is stopped.
Even when the UN Security Council, as presided by Brazil, sought to have a "humanitarian pause" for a few days to allow more aid to reach hospitals and critical infrastructure in Gaza, Israel enlisted the help of the United States to veto it on Oct 22.
By so doing, the soft power of the US as a country that believes in the importance of human rights is now in tatters.
Even the option of negotiations to release hostages is taken away from those member states in the UN that are pro peace and anti violence.
The only conclusion that one can reach about Israel and its far right movement is that it is gone completely unhinged. This psychological, invariably, pathological behaviour is now being understood by some of members of the UN Security Council, not least the UK, France, China, Russia, indeed, Japan and Malta too.
As this is written, the number of bombs with which it has used on the 2.2 million residents of Gaza, half of whom are under the age of 14, have exceeded the munitions dropped on Afghanistan in the first year of the war on terror by Oct 7, 2002.
Indeed, even President George W. Bush, took three weeks to go over all sources of intelligence and information before starting his military campaign against Al-Qaeda.
Israel sees the events of Oct 7 as its own 9/11. But within a week after Oct 7, it had massed 187,000 troops in a menacing manner against the population of Gaza, now awaiting an order to invade.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the daily murder of Palestinians by Israeli settlers — averaging at 3 to 1 a day — had gone up by 300 per cent and still on the uptick.
Yet, Israel has done nothing to stop all these heinous practices — only to insist that it has every right to self defence, when this right, as enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter, does not allow war crimes.
Israel is dragging the whole world into total ignominy. Indeed, Israel has violated every clause of the UN Charter.
Published in: The New Straits Times (online), Saturday 28 October 2023
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be described as colonialism rather than occupation, to illustrate the gravity of the situation.
Renowned expert in Sociology and Anthropology, Professor Dr Syed Farid Alatas, from the National University of Singapore (NUS), underscored the pivotal role of intellectual discourse in shaping our understanding of the Isreali government's treatment of Palestinians.
He contends that it is fitting to categorise Israel as a colonial state, a designation that resonates with the wider global discourse surrounding this complex and enduring conflict.
"The dominant narrative in the west, in the media and even in Malaysia that there is an international conflict in Palestine as if there is an independent Palestine and Israel.
"Its as if there are two entities which is Palestine and Israel in conflict with each other, but that is not the reality.
"The reality is that the whole of what we called Palestine is a colony with three forms of colonialism taking place - settlers colonialism, semi-colonialism and exploitation colonialism," he told an international conference "Settler Colonialism: Analysing the Israeli Occupation of Palestine" today.
Another prominent figure on the panel was senior representative of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, Usamah Hamdan.
Usamah acknowledged the formidable challenges that confront the Palestinian cause, and stood by the belief that their struggles, though arduous, would eventually yield positive results.
He said the emergence of what he terms as "new global powers" on the horizon, suggest a shifting landscape that may provide a ray of hope for Palestinians in their enduring quest for justice and self-determination
"I have to say that we understand that our struggle is not easy. Israel is being supported by the so called 'international community', but awe understand now that the powers are changing," he said.
The conference host, International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia chief executive officer Dr. Syed Azman Syed Ahmad Nawawi,echoed the sentiments expressed by Prof Syed Farid, and emphasised the need for Malaysians to not merely extend their support to the Palestinian struggle but to also delve into its historical underpinnings.
"If you ask any young Malaysians, they won't even know what the historical background of the conflict is. This is what is important and I think the connotation of colonialism instead of occupation that was mentioned throughout the whole conference," he told New Straits Times after the conference concluded.
The conference delved into into the complexities of Palestine's colonial past and post-colonial present, while shed light on the historical, ideological, and economic dimensions of the issue, and highlighted the relationship of Malaysia and Southeast Asia towards the struggling nation.
Among the distinguished speakers were former Foreign Affairs Minister Tan Sri Dr. Syed Hamid Albar, IAIS chairman Professor Dr. Maszlee Malik and Ledang MP Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, who is also the Palestine Parliamentary Caucus Chief.
Also present at the conference were Asia Middle-East Centre founding member Dr Muslim Imran, Hashim Sani Centre for Palestine Studies director Professor Dr. Mohd Nazari Ismail and a senior lecturer of Sociology and Anthropology based in Jerusalem, Dr. Areej Sabbagh-Khoury.
Published in The New Straits Times on Thursday, 21 September 2023.
The recurrence of violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, during the holy month of Ramadan year after year, has become a predictable pattern.
Last week, Israeli police attacked the mosque compound for two consecutive nights (April 6 and 7), injuring dozens of Palestinians (including children) and arresting over 300. In response, militant groups from Gaza and Lebanon launched rocket attacks and Israel retaliated with airstrikes, resulting in minor injuries.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has strongly condemned the Israeli violence and urged the United Nations Security Council to hold Israel accountable and liable for their "heinous crimes", as well as to demand the immediate release of all Palestinian detainees.
He also urged Israel to halt any aggressive acts that violate the status quo of the holy site and endanger regional peace and stability, highlighting Malaysia's unwavering support for the Palestinian cause.
The Israeli incursion into the holy mosque and Palestinian national symbol is not an isolated episode, but rather a symptom of the larger Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Al-Aqsa lies at the heart of the contention between Muslim and Jewish religious claims, and its current administration reflects the delicate power balance (or imbalance) between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Therefore, addressing this issue could be a leverage point—a place where a small shift can produce significant changes all around—for advancing peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The legal status and access of the compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, is governed by a delicate arrangement known as the "status quo". This agreement, dating back to 1967, stipulates that Israel is responsible for security, while Jordan's Islamic Waqf oversees religious affairs. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit but not pray at the site.
However, this status quo has been repeatedly undermined and violated by Israeli actions and policies, such as raids, restrictions, settlements, excavations and provocations. These have provoked anger and resistance among Palestinians and Muslims around the world, and have often led to violence and conflict.
One of the more recent major events sparked by the attack on Al-Aqsa was the 2021 war, which was triggered by Israeli raids during Ramadan and whuch escalated into an 11-day conflict between Israel and Gaza that killed over 250 people.
Other notable events include an Australian Christian extremist setting fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1969, Jewish fanatics attempting to lay a cornerstone for a new temple on the Temple Mount in 1990, which resulted in the deaths of 20 Palestinians and injuries to over 150 others, and Ariel Sharon's visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque in 2000, which sparked the second intifada lasting until 2005.
The ongoing issue of the Israeli incursion into the Al-Aqsa Mosque has not only political and historical implications but also ethical and moral ones from both human rights and Islamic perspectives.
In a March 23, 2023 letter to the International Criminal Court, UN Special Procedures mandate-holders highlighted the worsening situation in Palestine.
The letter, addressed to Karim A. A. Khan QC, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, expressed concern over widespread impunity and the deterioration of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories as a result of alleged violations of international law by various actors. Evidence of intentional and systematic human rights violations since June 13 2014 was also disseminated.
Alternatively, from an Islamic standpoint, resolving this issue is consistent with the higher objectives of Islamic law (maqasid al-shariah), which seek to promote and protect human wellbeing by enhancing welfare (maslahah) and preventing harm (mafsadah).The Israeli incursion violates the traditional five fundamental rights of: religion (din), life (nafs), intellect (aql), lineage (nasl), and property (mal), along with additional maqasid such as dignity (karamah/muruah), justice (adl), and freedom (hurriyyah).
In numerous ways, resolving the problem of Israeli incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque could act as a leverage point for the larger Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is of great cultural and religious significance to Palestinians and Muslims worldwide. Addressing the issue of Israeli intrusions in a way that these groups regard as fair and just could perhaps serve to relieve tensions and create confidence among the parties involved in the larger conflict.
It can build momentum for larger negotiations and diplomatic efforts to end the conflict. If the parties concerned can successfully reach an agreement on this matter, it may help to boost confidence and faith that progress on other concerns may be accomplished as well.
It could assist in reducing the possibility of additional unrest and conflict in the region. Addressing this specific issue may minimise the possibility of additional occurrences and contribute to a more stable climate for larger discussions and diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.
Furthermore, the question of Israeli incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque is one of human rights and international law, as well as religious sensitivity and historical relevance. Addressing this problem could improve the prospects for peace and justice in the region, as well as the lives and dignity of millions of people.
In conclusion, the problem of Israeli incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque is difficult to solve, but it is also a key leverage point for achieving lasting peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The frequent raids by Israeli forces and settlers into the mosque compound, often accompanied by violence and violations of Palestinian rights, have sparked widespread anger and resentment among Palestinians and Muslims worldwide.
The recurring clashes in the mosque are not only a security threat but also a source of religious, ethical, and human suffering. Therefore, finding a solution to this issue is not just a political imperative but also a moral and humanitarian necessity.
Published in New Straits Times on Friday, 14 April 2023.
Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was a leading media voice since the intifada or uprising in Palestine in 2000. For over two decades she reported fearlessly on human rights abuses in the occupied territories. She wrote with anguish at the 74-year old genocide raging in Palestine and the Western world’s callous indifference to the dehumanisation and brutalisation of the Muslim and Christian population of the occupied territories.
But on May 11 her voice was silenced for ever when she was shot and killed while reporting on an Israeli raid on a Palestinian house on the West Bank city of Jenin.
Much sorrow has been expressed around the world about her killing. We, the members of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), in solidarity with the global outcry against her assassination, wish to add our condemnation of her cold-blooded execution. To be silent would amount to complicity with the atrocity of her killing and the degrading and inhuman treatment meted to her in death by the belligerent behaviour of the Israeli forces at her funeral. As the casket was being carried to the Christian cemetery, Israeli police attacked the mourners with batons and stun grenades almost causing the pallbearers to drop the coffin!
For such targeted and senseless killings to cease, a high-level independent and international investigation is called for. Besides the atrocity of Shireen’s killing, the wider aggression against Palestinian journalists must be investigated. It is noteworthy that the International Federation of Journalists filed a complaint against the State of Israel with the International Criminal Court (the ICC) in April. One also notes that Shireen’s targeted killing follows the fourth anniversary of the death of Palestinian journalist Ahmed Abu Hussein who also fell victim to an Israeli sniper while covering the “Great March of Return” in March 2018.
A bleak reminder of this type of systematic aggression against journalists is recanted by Reporters without Borders which registers the number of journalists who have been killed while covering the plight of the Palestinians. The number of killings is more than 40 since 2000. This is despite the protection afforded to journalists by international humanitarian law.
We note with sorrow that though a multitude of international organisations have voiced condemnation over Shireen’s killing, there is deafening silence from certain states that preach human rights to the rest of the world.
We wish to stand in solidarity with the family, friends, colleagues and the people to whom Shireen Abu Akleh gave her voice. We are adding our small voice to a larger call for justice.
We wish to reiterate that though the global attention these days is focused on the Russia-Ukraine war, the world needs to recast its attention and conscience to the genocide, protracted aggression and injustices in the illegally occupied territories of the West Bank. Shireen’s assassination underlies the daily reality of apartheid in occupied Palestine, the systemic violence against innocent civilians, and Israel’s aggression against anyone reporting these crimes. Preventing the media from conducting its duty is one of the messages behind this atrocity.
Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, Vice President, International Movement for a Just World
Dr Jaspal Kaur Sadhu Singh, Asst. Secretary-General, International Movement for a Just World
Published in: Astroawani.com, Thursday 19 May 2022