DECEMBER 11 — According to Article II of the United Nations Genocide Convention, genocide is defined as “any of the following acts commitment with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such”:
a. Killing members of the group;
b. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
c. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
d. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
e. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The actions by the Israeli government and its defence forces to deny the provision of water, food, and electricity to the two million Palestinians in Gaza should not be interpreted in any other way except genocide. This is becoming increasingly clear to the global community.
What can or should we do in Malaysia in response to such atrocities being carried out against the victims in Gaza which includes the killing of women and children by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and the Israeli government?
Here is a list of proposed action items which we can do as individuals, which we can and should do together with the government, and what the government of Malaysia can do as part of the international community.
As individuals, we can and should:
1) Educate ourselves on the history of the occupation and of the region
Knowledge is power and the more we educate ourselves on the history of the occupation of the land which once belonged to and was settled for millennia by the Palestinians, the more we are able to speak with greater conviction and persuasion, especially with those who still refuse to acknowledge the many years of brutal treatment of the Palestinians by Israel’s government.
Reading the following books, recommended by The Economist, would allow us to understand the complexities of the region and the challenges which other countries in the Middle East have in terms of their treatment of the Palestinian refugee community, their views of Hamas, and their diplomatic engagements with the Israeli government over time.
• A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East by David Fromkin. Holt, Henry & Company
• Enemies and Neighbours: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917-2017 by Ian Black. Atlantic Monthly Press
• The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood by Rashid Khalidi
• Hamas: The Islamic Resistance Movement by Beverley Milton-Edwards and Stephen Farrell. Wiley
• The Rise of the Israeli Right: From Odessa to Hebron by Colin Shindler. Cambridge University Press
• It’s Easier to Reach Heaven than the End of the Street: A Jerusalem Memoir by Emma Williams. Olive Branch Press
I would also add the following books from my own bookshelf — Thomas Friedman’s From Beirut to Jerusalem, David K. Shipler’s Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land and Bernard Wasserstein’s Divided Jerusalem.
2) Donate to credible institutions who have a track record of doing good work in Gaza
It is very difficult to get aid into Gaza at the moment because of the strict border controls imposed by Israel at the Rafa crossing. The other crossing in southern Gaza, Kereem Shalom, has been closed by the Israeli government. I would put my trust in donating to institutions which have a good track record of doing good work in Gaza and the West Bank. These include Doctors without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS).
I have donated RM500 to Doctors Without Borders and I have confidence in their outreach programmes including among the displaced people in Sudan, which the world has forgotten because of what is happening in the Middle East.
3) Advocate for this issue not only as a Muslim issue but one involving all communities at the local and international level
I am proud that many of my party colleagues who are Members of Parliament including Steven Sim, Howard Lee, Syahredzan Johan, Young Syefura, Syerleena Abdul Rashid and others have spoken out on the current conflict in Gaza.
This is a good example of how this issue should transcend race and religion. Individuals who are familiar with international law including former Deputy Minister Hanipah Maidin and law professor, Professor Gurdial Singh, have also written and spoken about this issue from an international law perspective.
We should continue to advocate for this issue on a cross communal basis in Malaysia.
As individuals working together with the government of Malaysia, we can and should:
4) Support the Palestinian diaspora community in Malaysia
The Palestinian diaspora has spread far and wide across the globe and many are staying in Malaysia because they find it a welcoming place for them, visa issues aside.
Many have started businesses in Malaysia often with local partners. Many also bring in products from the Middle East such as kurma and other food items to sell to the local market.
We can support these businesses so that some of the profits they make can be used to help their friends and families in Gaza, the West Bank, and other parts of the Middle East.
The government can also assist in this area. Matrade, an agency under Mida, can organise the business matching session involving Palestinian and other businesses from the Middle East with potential customers in Malaysia and the region.
Social enterprises such as PichaEats, which aim to provide income earning opportunities to the refugee community in Malaysia should also be involved.
State and local governments can organise bazaars specially for traders from the Middle East to operate with special licenses and with assurances that such markets will not be disturbed by authorities from the immigration department.
This will also be helpful to communities from other parts of the Middle East including Syrians and Yemenese, who are refugees in Malaysia.
At the higher education level, private and public universities can consider bringing in Palestinian and other researchers from the Middle East on short term fellowships so that they can conduct relevant research and build academic ties with the local academic community.
Ibrahim Rabaia, who obtained his PhD in political economy from the University Malaya (UM) and whom I got to know when he was doing his internship at the Penang Institute in KL (before it was shut down), is now a lecturer at Birzeit University.
I hope that I can facilitate his return to Malaysia as a fellow at Taylor’s University, to teach students for the not yet approved Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) undergraduate programme at my university.
5) Treat refugees in Malaysia better
I am not calling for the Malaysian government to immediately ratify the International Convention for Refugees although this would be a positive thing for a progressive government to undertake.
What I am calling for is a more humane treatment of the refugees amongst our midst including those from the Palestinian community.
Many of them can’t legally work and many of them frequently get harassed by the authorities. A better system of recognising those with UNHCR refugee cards and allowing some of them to work would be a good start.
On a private basis, we can also stop our personal discriminations against the refugee community whom we may encounter in different settings, both private and public.
I think one proud moment for Malaysia was the way in which the Covid-19 vaccination programme was rolled out by then Minister Khairy Jamaluddin where undocumented migrants were given the same right to vaccines as citizens. But after that, their plight in Malaysia seems largely forgotten.
As a government, we can and should:
6) Consider acceding to the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court (ICC)
The decision by Pakatan Harapan to pull back our decision to accede to the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2019 because of pressure from the then opposition (PAS and Umno) meant that the Malaysian government cannot refer Benjamin Netanyahu to the ICC for war crimes.
Although this issue is currently in the ICC (it’s complicated), there is no harm for Malaysia to consider accession so that we can have our voice in the international community pertaining to those like Bibi Netanyahu and others in his government who are responsible for the current genocide in Gaza.
7) Keep pressuring the United Kingdom and United States in the international arena
The governments of the UK and US are coming under tremendous domestic political pressure because of the increasing public disapproval of the actions of the Israeli government towards the residents of Gaza and the humanitarian disaster that is taking place there.
The very rare decision by the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to invoke Article 99 of the UN charter, which allows him to raise to the UN Security Council matters that “in his opinion, may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security” shows the severity of the situation among the international community.
President Biden is facing growing pressure from within his own Democratic Party, to take a much stronger position against what the Israeli government is doing in Gaza. This kind of pressure should continue with Malaysia working together with the international community to ratchet up this pressure.
8) Consider taking steps to push for international sanctions against Israel
Strong consideration should be undertaken to put Israel in the same category as apartheid South Africa leading to the international community to impose similar economic and trade sanctions against Israel.
This is a very serious action and can only be undertaken with the support of the EU, the United States and China, the three major trading partners of Israel.
The international community has not brought up this option as of yet but as the situation becomes increasingly dire in Gaza, this option must be discussed nationally and more importantly, internationally.
Finally, I want to make a point about what we shouldn’t do. I am not in favour of a consumer boycott of certain brands which are associated with the United States.
These actions directly hurt the employees and also people who are part of the supply chain of these companies, most of whom are Malaysians and many of whom are in the B40 and M40 communities.
These include lorry and truck drivers, the servers at the restaurants and the workers at the factories, and they number in the tens of thousands.
Even if let’s say local brands benefit from these actions, it would not be easy for the Malaysians who have trained to be baristas at certain coffee chains to switch to serving coffee at the local mamak stores.
Let’s not shoot ourselves in the nose to spite our face and focus on more productive ways of playing our part to end this genocide in Gaza.
*This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.