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Over 16,000 in Malaysia including PM Anwar stage yet another show of support for Palestinians

KUALA LUMPUR: More than 16,000 people including Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim turned up at a rally on Tuesday night (Oct 24) as Malaysia staged another show of support for the Palestinians amid the ongoing conflict in the Middle East that has claimed thousands of lives.

Participants from all ages and from all walks of life, including students, professionals, refugees, religious leaders and politicians, gathered at a rally organised by the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim) at an indoor stadium in Kuala Lumpur.

Among the rally-goers – many wearing white and chanting for Palestine to be free – was graphic designer Anisah Zahirun, 23, who travelled alone from Puchong, Selangor to attend the event.

She said she has been deeply affected by what is happening in Gaza and that she could not bear to watch videos and news of the conflict. 

“I wonder where is the humanity. I am so afraid to even watch the news because I will get very shaky and anxious,” she told CNA.

She hoped that Malaysia would be able to exert more pressure on the international community to stop the conflict once and for all.

“Every time Gaza is bombed, there is noise but then it dies down. And the same thing repeats over and over again,” she said.

The Israel-Hamas war was sparked after the Palestinian militant group’s cross-border assaults on Oct 7 that killed about 1,400 people in Israel.

Since then, at least 5,000 Palestinians have been killed amid Israel’s heavy air strike bombardment of the Gaza strip, with a ground offensive looming.

Another Malaysian, 36-year-old Sharifah Fatimatiz Zahra, said she wanted to be at the rally since she is unable to physically fight with the Palestinians.

Mrs Sharifah, who is from Negeri Sembilan, had come to the rally with her husband and two children.

Mrs Fayrouz said she still had dreams of going to Palestine one day, and that her daughter was named Yafa, the ancient name for the city that is now known as Tel-Aviv or the capital of Israel. 

“All of humanity should be with Palestine. It has brought together the whole world, except the governments and powers that be,” she said.

While most of the rallygoers were Muslims, there were also non-Muslims like Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Julian Leow, who said he wanted to express solidarity with other Malaysians for the conflict in Palestine.

“As a person of faith, I am pleading for this war to stop immediately because every life is precious,” he told CNA, adding that he hoped that the necessary aid would reach civilian victims of the war.

STRING OF PRO-PALESTINIAN GATHERINGS

The rally was the latest in a string of gatherings organised in Malaysia to show support for the Palestinians, although it was the first that Mr Anwar has attended.

“Malaysia is a fiercely independent country. We decide what is right. We understand the meaning of freedom. We are with the Palestinian people in their struggle. Yesterday, today and tomorrow,” Mr Anwar said at the rally.

He added that all Malaysia wanted was for Palestinians to be treated as human beings.

“Where is the justice? Where is the humanity? Where are the democratic ideals and human rights that the West has been talking about?

“We are not asking for anything extra. We want the Arabs, Palestinians and people of Gaza to be treated as human beings. Nothing more, nothing less.”

On Oct 13, thousands including former prime ministers Mahathir Mohamad and Muhyiddin Yassin along with politicians from across the spectrum gathered at the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur to protest against Israel.

Dr Mahathir was also among about 1,000 people who gathered outside the US Embassy on Oct 20 after Friday prayers, with news outlets reporting that several protestors attempted to cross a police barricade formed to block access to the embassy. 

On Oct 22, a rally organised by non-governmental organisations (NGO) Viva Palestina Malaysia (VPM) and Humanitarian Care Malaysia (MyCARE) also saw thousands gather at the Dataran Merdeka.

With Gaza’s population running short of basics, the United Nations has called for a “humanitarian pause” in hostilities so aid could reach them.

A US special envoy is negotiating with Israel, Egypt and the United Nations to create a “sustained delivery mechanism” to get aid into Gaza after aid convoys began crossing into the strip from Egypt, the US State Department said on Monday.

The UN said desperate Gazans also lacked places to shelter from the unrelenting pounding that has flattened swathes of the enclave.

Gaza is a 45km-long strip of land located next to the sea that is home to 2.3 million people.

It has been ruled politically since 2007 by Hamas, an Iran-backed Islamist group, but faces a blockade from Israel.

Hamas has been designated as a terrorist group by the United States and the United Kingdom, among others.

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MALAYSIA’S STANCE

Mr Anwar had told the parliament on Oct 16 that Western and European countries have repeatedly asked Malaysia to condemn Hamas in meetings but that he didn’t agree with this.

The Malaysian government has always advocated a two-state solution to the conflict based on pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalam as the capital of Palestine and for a right for the displaced to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced.

Malaysia does not have political relations with Israel.

Observers say that Malaysia’s position on the Palestinian cause is not unusual, reflecting the position of the majority of the people, where Muslims make up almost two-thirds of the population.

Top Hamas leaders in the past have visited Malaysia and met with its leaders.

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak in 2013 defied Israel’s blockade on Gaza, crossing into the Palestinian enclave following an invitation from Hamas.

On why Mr Anwar is pro-actively fronting the Palestinian cause and attending the rally, political analyst Ibrahim Suffian of the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research said it dates back to the premier’s youth.

He added that the Palestinian issue is one that has always been championed by Mr Anwar, going back to even when he was with ABIM and hadn’t joined politics. Mr Anwar was one of the ABIM’s co-founders in the 1970s.

“It is an issue close to his heart and something that he feels strongly about. It is also part of his credentials that he has built as a Muslim leader over the decades,” Mr Ibrahim told CNA.

He pointed out that Mr Anwar also took the time during his recent trip to the Middle East to speak to various leaders from the region about the issue.

Among others, Mr Anwar had met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Cairo and Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman in Riyadh to discuss the issue. 

“The issue has always been an important aspect of Malaysia’s foreign policy and over the years Malaysian leaders have continued to speak about the issue,” said Mr Ibrahim.

Related:

Malaysia does not agree with Western pressure to condemn Hamas: PM Anwar

Malaysia urges UN Security Council to take prompt action to end violence in Israeli-Hamas conflict
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