Malaysia to continue supporting Hamas in Gaza conflict
Southeast Asia & Pacific Team
Global Human Rights Defense
After weeks of holding Pro-Palestine rallies and demonstrating his unwavering support, Malaysian Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, has stated that he will not condemn Hamas. On Tuesday, responding to the pressure from U.S lawmakers to sanction and cut ties with Hamas, the Malaysian Prime Minister responded by stating that “I will not accept any threats. This action is unilateral and not valid, because we as members of the United Nations only recognize decisions made by the UN Security Council.” Furthermore, the Prime Minister strongly urged Malaysians to unanimously support the Palestinian cause.
Malaysia, a majority-Muslim nation, has demonstrated its longstanding support for the Palestinian cause. Moreover, Malaysia will continue to not recognize Israel diplomatically until a two-state solution is realized. Additionally, he has called on the U.S and other Western nations to stop supporting Israel. To date, some Western nations have criticized Israel’s tactics but have not imposed any sanctions as of yet. Furthermore, other Southeast Asian nations have come out in support of Palestine. Both Indonesia and Brunei have voiced their opinions on the matter with an unequivocal pro-Palestine stance, which received praise from the Malaysian Prime Minister. The three nations have called for a ceasefire in the Gaza strip. Further stating that the conflict can take a serious toll on the global economy and that countries must act as a unit, as they refer to the conflict as a clear humanitarian issue.
The Malaysian Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, has been protesting for the Palestinian cause since his university days. He stated that now that religious conservatism is growing in Malaysia, he must take a strong stance in support of the country’s religious convictions. Moreover, in a recent rally the Prime Minister has urged media outlets to not label Hamas as militants, but rather as freedom fighters, comparing Hamas to African National Congress which sought to end apartheid in South Africa. Additionally, he added that both the African National Congress and Nelson Mandela were initially labeled as terrorists, stating that standing against the central government is part of an essential revolution, meaning that the outcome will dictate how Hamas is perceived in the future. Consequently, the Malaysian Prime Minister has faced criticism from many due to his choice of hosting Hamas leaders on many occasions. After the attack on the 7th of October, the Malaysian Prime Minister stated that the long standing support of Hamas will continue. Furthermore, he stated that Hamas won the election in 2006, referring to the last time Palestinians voted on elections.
In 2014, the Israeli military arrested and questioned a Hamas member that claimed to have been trained in Malaysia. Hamas allegedly uses PCOM, a cultural center in Malaysia as its “unofficial embassy,” this claim has been denied by many. A Malaysian government analyst said that PCOM is used as a center to operate with the Palestinian embassy in Kuala Lumpur to balance the relations between Malaysia, Hamas and Al-Fatah, an archrival group of Hamas.
To date, the Malaysian Prime Minister refuses to condemn Hamas despite pressure from Western countries, as he sees their cause as justified. Polls show that the majority of the Malaysian population is in agreement with the Prime Minister’s stance.
Sources and further readings:
- The Sun, ‘PM Anwar says glad that Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia adopt common stand on Gaza’ (18 October 2023) https://thesun.my/world/pm-anwar-says-glad-that-brunei-indonesia-malaysia-adopt-common-stand-on-gaza-HB11763499 accessed 19 November 2023.
- Kelly Ng, ‘Israel-Gaza: Malaysia will maintain ties with Hamas, says PM Anwar Ibrahim’ (BBC News, 8 November 2023) https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-67353188 accessed 19 November 2023.
- The Sun, ‘Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia issue own statement in APEC, call for immediate ceasefire in Gaza’ (18 November 2023) https://thesun.my/world/brunei-indonesia-and-malaysia-issue-own-statement-in-apec-call-for-immediate-ceasefire-in-gaza-GB11762400 accessed 19 November 2023.
- James M. Dorsey, ‘Hamas puts Malaysia in a bind’ (Modern Diplomacy, 23 October 2023) https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2023/10/23/hamas-puts-malaysia-in-a-bind/ accessed 19 November 2023.
- Bloomberg News, ‘Why Malaysia recognizes Hamas and what it means for US ties’ (Bangkok Post, 11 November 2023) https://www.bangkokpost.com/world/2682989/why-malaysia-recognises-hamas-and-what-it-means-for-us-ties accessed 19 November 2023.