Viva Palestine: Long live the Palestinian fightHASSAN ABDUL KARIM
At each recurrence of Ramadan, I remember the land of Palestine. Often times, during this fasting month, the Israeli regime aggressively harrass the Palestinians especially at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The latest developments in Palestine are a reminder that things haven't changed.
Indonesia is next door to our country. Today, FIFA had cancelled the Under-20 World Cup in Indonesia, a week before its official draw was supposed to take place, due to many protests over Israel's participation in the competition.
Malaysia and Indonesia, a country with the largest Muslim community in the world, strongly support the Palestinian liberation struggle against Israel's grip.
In a situation where Israel is expanding its territory in Palestine, I would like to record what I had experienced in the past two weeks about this Palestinian issue.
On March 13, 2023, which was ten days before Ramadan, I had received a message from the Private Secretary to the Yang di-Pertua Dewan Rakyat Parliament Malaysia. The message mentioned Yang di-Pertua Dewan Rakyat (Speaker) invited me to a dinner hosted by the Tuan Yang Terutama Palestinian Ambassador on March 20, 2023 (Monday) held at the official residence of the Palestinian Ambassador.
I responded via WhatsApp that I will attend the dinner. However, I was still wondering why I was invited by the Speaker? Or are all parliament members invited to the same dinner? On Monday March 20, before Maghrib, I arrived at the residence located in a residential area of foreign ambassadors at Jalan U-Thant, Kuala Lumpur.
I was the first Member of Parliament (MP) to arrive where I saw some Malaysian Parliament officials from the Speaker's office had arrived ahead of me.
I was invited and greeted by the Palestinian Ambassador warmly. We exchange business cards per usual. He gave me his card and only then I found out his name was Walid Abu Ali who is the ambassador of Palestine to Malaysia, the Republic of Maldives and Brunei Darussalam.
The Dewan Rakyat Speaker and other parliament members hadn't arrived yet. I was thinking of what topics of conversation to talk with him so that our meeting wasn't awkward and cold. Then, I finally recalled the old stories of more than 50 years ago, around 1973 and 1974.
I told Walid Abu Ali that I knew the first Palestinian Ambassador to Malaysia. His name was Abu Yaakob who I had met when I was a student at Universiti Malaya (UM).
"Where is Abu Yaakob now?" I asked him as we converse in English.
"Abu Yaakob has passed away," he replied.
We were silent for a while. I remember how Abu Yaakob had a large figure, eloquent and debated with a brave front.
"We student leaders of Universiti Malaya were close to Abu Yaakob and the Palestinian fight," I continued. Then he said Abu Yaakob had served in Karachi, Pakistan after his service in Malaysia.
I nodded in understanding. In my mind I was thinking about Hishamuddin Rais and Yunus Ali, two UM student leaders and also my good friends who used to stay at Abu Yaakob's house in Karachi, Pakistan for some time while they fled abroad to seek political asylum.
After talking about Abu Yaakob, I continued the conversation with a story about another Palestinian Ambassador in Malaysia that I knew of. I asked him about Ahmad Al-Farra, the ambassador after Abu Yaakob.
He looked me straight in the eyes when I mentioned I knew Ahmad Al-Farra. He invited me to come closer so he could show me Ahmad Al-Farra's photo in his phone.
"Yes, this is Ahmad Al-Farra that I know," I said.
The Speaker and other MP hadn't arrive yet at this time. Walid Abu Ali was showing interest in my story. He seemed more friendly when he found out I was involved, to some extent, with the Palestinian struggle since I was young.
I told him I knew Ahmad Al-Farra around 1986 when I was Parti Rakyat secretary-general where its headquarters were located in Johor Bahru.
I told him I was with Parti Rakyat deputy president Abdul Razak Ahmad at that time to mobilise a public protest in Johor Bahru in a massive demostration to oppose the Israel president Cham Herzoq's visit to Singapore.
From this massive protest, we got to know the Palestinian Ambassador to Malaysia at that time which was Ahmad Al-Farra.
Walid Abu Ali also knew that after the protest the late National Laureate Usman Awang together with the late Abdul Razak Ahmad and many other respected figures in Malaysia had formed Palestinian Malaysian Friendship Association.
After telling these stories, the atmosphere felt more relaxed as we became closer friends, Walid Abu Ali then told me about the latest situation in Palestine and the Middle East.
Not long after that, several MPs arrived namely Ledang MP Syed Ibrahim bin Syed Noh; Sri Aman MP Doris Sophia Brodie; and Sungai Petani MP Dr Taufik Johari.
When it was time for Maghrib prayers, we performed our Maghrib prayers with Walid Abu Ali as the imam.
The friendship between Malaysia and Palestine was evident as soon as Dewan Speaker Datuk Johari Abdul arrived. The Speaker who was an administrative and diplomatic officer had stimulated the conversation and political discussion related to politics in Palestine, the Middle East and Malaysia.
Soon after, we were invited to enjoy a traditional Palestinian dish of rice with lamb.
As I enjoyed the delicious meal, I was reminded of the millions of Palestinians' fate who were colonised in their own land under the oppression of Israel. I was reminded of those millions of people who lived in refugee camps in neighboring Arab countries.
While eating, I asked Walid Abu Ali a question that has been haunting me. "What is the main reason that hinders the efforts of Palestinian independence from Israel terrorism?" I asked him frankly.
Walid Abu Ali, the Palestinian Ambassador did not hesitate in his answer. He gave a clear and complete answers to my questions to those who were in the meeting that night.
From his answer, it was clear to me that the support from international countries including Malaysia and Indonesia was very important in the fight for independence to free sovereign Palestinian state.
Long live the Palestinian Fight.
Hassan Abdul Karim Pasir Gudang March 30, 2023 (Thursday)