On Facebook, student owns up to ‘I love Israel’ post with apology, plea for forgiveness

Screengrab of Jonathan Ong Ujang’s Facebook page, December 26, 2015. — courtesy of Facebook
Screengrab of Jonathan Ong Ujang’s Facebook page, December 26, 2015. — courtesy of Facebook

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 26 — Jonathan Ong Ujang, the Sarawakian who sparked protests online with his “I love Israel” Facebook post, has apologised for the gaffe and said he will bear full responsibility for any hurt he may have caused those who took offence his comments.

The Kuching-based Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) student also said that he had acted of his own volition in issuing the comments and that he had no intention to shame his university.

He noted that his remarks on the issue of Israel pulling out their windsurfing sports team from the Langkawi meet had gone viral on social media and created quite a stir, especially as he had shown his backing of Israel, a nation that does not share diplomatic ties with Malaysia.

“Unlike what some might have thought, I will not deny that I have posted that comment. Through this statement, I am owning up to that comment,” Ong wrote yesterday on his Facebook page.

“I am aware of the government of Malaysia’s stand, and the sentiments of many of you, on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. I personally believe in a two-state solution, i.e. Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace.

“However, the basis for the comment of apology was only over the fact that there was injustice and the lack of sportsmanship on the part of the Malaysian organisers of the mentioned competition,” he explained in the note posted in both English and Bahasa Malaysia.

Ong also directly addressed the outrage over his “I love Israel” comment, explaining that loving Israel means to love Palestine as well.

“Here is my answer: to love Israel is to love Palestine; and to love Israel and Palestine is to love peace. Peace comes when all sides cooperate. Most of you will certainly disagree to that, but it is fine, everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” he said.

Ong went on to state that his actions should not be in any way linked to the “We Love UPSI” body with which he once competed during the campus elections earlier this year, or to any other student body he is a part of.

“No one is to be blamed for the comment which I have posted on my own will,” he said.

“Therefore, as an individual who seeks to live in peace with all man, I hereby do ask your forgiveness for offending so many of you with that comment, and the university as a result of being mentioned in the online news article,” he added.

He pledged to never again compete in future campus elections, adding that he will take full blame for his actions.

Ong then added that he would understand if there are those who no longer wanted to be associated with him because of the incident, saying: “I will not blame you.”

“This too has been a great lesson for me personally to be careful in posting things online. Apologies once again for lacking sensitivity towards you all. Any official action taken against me I will graciously accept,” he said.

Ong had on Thursday offered an apology on behalf of Malaysia and said “I love Israel” on the Facebook page of The Jerusalem Post after the Middle Eastern nation’s sports body accused Putrajaya of being difficult with its guidelines for Israel’s participation in the international windsurfing tournament in Langkawi, forcing it to withdraw its two athletes.

“On behalf of Malaysia, I would like to sincerely apologise for causing Israel much humiliation and burden. You are an national entity and have the right to be proud of your nation and national symbols. It is too bad that the government policy dictates that they do not recognise the State of Israel. Once again, deepest apologies to Israel. I love Israel,” he had written in the Israeli news portal’s page.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Israel Sailing Association chairman Gili Amir had blamed Malaysia for delaying the visa application and putting “unacceptable” restrictions on its two athletes Yoav Omer and Noy Drihan who were set to defend their titles at the Langkawi youth windsurfing tournament to kick off tomorrow.

Gili claimed Omer and Drihan would not be allowed to compete under the Israeli flag, nor would they be allowed to wear any symbol to identify them as Israeli, or even have their national anthem played if they should win the gold medal, as is customary.

He reportedly added that Israel is considering suing Malaysia and and the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) for not allowing its athletes to participate.

Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told Malay Mail Online yesterday that Malaysia accepts Israel’s withdrawal, and that the country was guided by its existing diplomatic policy when contacted for comment on the case.

Malaysia and Israel do not have diplomatic ties.