WHILE lauding Malaysia for its record of strong support for the Palestinian cause, foreign activists are calling upon Malaysia to lose the “Muslim-only” problem label on its advocacy efforts and re-frame it as one that affects humanity as a whole.
Speaking at a forum held in Kuala Lumpur last week, European Palestinian (EuroPal) Forum chairman Zaher Birawi said Malaysia can do more in its aid to Palestine, from its geopolitical relations to how it puts forth the Palestinian narrative at home.
“We need to reach out to all sectors regardless of their religion,” Birawi told the “Advancing the Palestinian Cause: Advocacy and Activism in the Malaysian Context” forum.
Efforts at home, through civil society and its education system, tend to label the struggle for Palestinian independence from Israel’s illegal occupation as a problem limited to Muslims, according to Birawi.
Malaysia is a long-time Palestine ally and does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel. Last year, it was one of the four countries in the United Nations’ Security Council to put forth a resolution demanding an end to “all settlement activities” in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, which was later adopted following a surprise abstention by the United States.
While Birawi lauds this, the British-Palestinian journalist said more can be done on the geopolitical front by Malaysia, especially through its diplomatic relations with other Muslim countries. For example, its Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be playing a more active role among the Organisation of Islamic Cooperations – a coalition of 56 countries in the Muslim world – to mobilise support for the Palestinian courts in international forums.
“Malaysia can do a lot more,” Birawi said, urging locals to lobby the Malaysian government on this.
Apart from reducing the cause to one based on religion only, another panelist, Muslim Imran who chairs the Palestinian Cultural Organization Malaysia (PCOM), argued that there are areas where Malaysian non-governmental organisations (NGO) can improve its advocacy.
Imran called for these NGOs to cover all bases and reach as big an audience as possible..
“We don’t want 100 NGOs in one country that do the same function and role. No, we want them to complement each other,” Imran said.
While pro-Palestine support is commonplace in Malaysian society, its campaigns to show support have sometimes missed the mark, in terms of efficacy and accuracy.
In 2014, several Malaysian Muslim organisations held a month-long ban on buying products from companies which they deemed were in support of a Zionist regime, such as McDonald’s and Coca Cola, although many of them were later found to be unverified claims.