Reflection on the Gaza aggression and its ripple effects in Malaysia

11 Nov 2023 08:43am
 Participants of the Malaysia together with Palestine gathering moved to tears after offering prayers at the Axiata Arena Bukit Jalil on Oct 24, 2023. (BERNAMA PHOTO)
Participants of the Malaysia together with Palestine gathering moved to tears after offering prayers at the Axiata Arena Bukit Jalil on Oct 24, 2023. (BERNAMA PHOTO)

They say “All is fair in love and war,” which means that people are not bound by the rules of fair play in matters of love and war. Another idiom states that “Love is blind,” suggesting that when you are in love, you are unable to see the faults or flaws of the person you love.

What about hate or fury? In William Congreve’s play “The Mourning Bride,” he wrote, “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned."

This is not a literary lesson but a reminder that when it comes to love and war, we must not be blinded by emotions of love, anger, or hatred.

We have had decades of hate politics on the local front, whereby social media facilitates narratives, optics, and contents that promote anger and hatred. As a result of this literature and propaganda, Malaysians were nearly destroyed by a scourge of anger and a hate plague.

My topic today is about the anger and emotions of Malaysians over the genocide happening in Gaza. The Israeli occupation of Palestine has witnessed a sharp spike in hate speech, violence, and discrimination against both Palestinians and the Jews. This has also created a deepening polarisation and caused greater social fractures across the globe.

The world is now witnessing Israel's intense aggression on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in a bid to crush Hamas, they have killed civilians - women, children, the elderly and the sick – who are just existing in place. This attack was said to be in retaliation for the Oct 7 surprise operation in Israel by Hamas that supposedly caused 1,400 Israeli deaths. Since then, more than 10,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s military offensive.

Back on homesoil, we are not spared from the impact of this crisis. The global surge of Islamophobia and antisemitic harassment has led to a multiplying effect. The inflammatory attacks and hate speeches are getting more vicious, toxic, and hateful, and social media has unfortunately aggravated the situation.

Feeling helpless and frustrated, some individuals and organisations are reacting actively or violently by hitting out at perceived and reachable targets without consideration for fairness to their targets. Some wrongly targeted or attacked for the flimsiest reasons, statements, or innocent reactions. There’s no room for deliberation or discourse on the actions and damage inflicted on the target, who could be as innocent as the civilians and children in the Israeli occupation.

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On another front, politicians and politician-wannabes are riding on the bandwagon of a global movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel. The movement on social media sites such as X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, TikTok among others are naming brands with Israeli ties for their boycotts. McDonald's and Burger King, have been targeted for boycotts after an Israel-based franchise announced free food for members of the Israeli military, prompting a global consumer backlash.

Any form of action, statement, or condemnation, or the lack thereof, by politicians, political parties, or corporations will be interpreted as for or against Israel. Similarly, any lack of expression of sympathy or support for Palestinian civilians will be seen as pro-Israel.

Even our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim claimed that he was threatened by some European parliamentarians for speaking up for the Palestinians. On the local front, he was accused of being soft, and his statements condemning Israel were taken to be too mild and did not reflect the gravity of the situation in Gaza.

A picture of Anwar Ibrahim with the Israel flag is good enough to damage the Prime Minister optically. Thus, his warning that action will be taken against any attempt to link him to Israel in response to a recent Harakah Daily’s report, when there was a photo of the Israel flag published with a report titled "Malaysia di bawah Anwar ragu-ragu sokong Palestine?"—which is Malay for "Malaysia under Anwar, not sure of its support for Palestine?".

Now here is the point: Are we going to be blind, deaf, and play dumb to how all these are impacting us negatively on the home front? Genuine Muslim businessmen, employees, and related industry workers and their families are made to suffer or are punished first in this “emotional siege” against anything American or Jewish.

Our local workers at McDonald's are also victims of this situation. They have been subjected to mental and emotional abuse. They have been harassed, verbally insulted, and called Jews. Aren’t they innocent victims of our siege mentality for anything or anybody related to the Jews or Israel? Is this fair or inhuman to them too?

Our franchise holders are also 100 per cent Muslim-owned. Many of the affected employees are Muslims too, some of whom are deaf or disabled and have families and kids that are dependent on their income.

Chloe Tong in her Instagram Stories shared that she “fell completely in love with Israel” after visiting the country twice this year and was “praying.” This could have been another personal social media posting by an individual, but in this instance, she is also the wife of Grab Chief Executive Officer Anthony Tan. This post went viral on social media, and Malaysians have since begun uninstalling and calling for a boycott of the Super app.

The damage caused can be unthinkable, and there’s no time allowed to think or discuss whether the “mob” reaction is fair to those targeted or related to the industry. The lashing out and damage done are so real and immediate to innocent victims of the industry. No one seems to be looking at the bigger picture or to think through what is happening and the fairness of it all.

However, Grab delivery rider Mohd Afie Ikmal Jalam said that riders who boycotted on social media may not be real.

“So far from the rider’s side we don’t feel the boycott around us, just the social media we do see some riders themselves are boycotting the service but we do not know if it’s authentic or not. We do not know if its just mere provocation.

“In terms of orders, we do feel there has been a decrease in orders because there has been a boycott on Grab itself and the food joints we service. Our customers may have moved to another delivery service,” he said.

Another Grab driver, Muhamad Firdaus Abu Bakar said the impact on his income because of the boycott is about of 10-15 per cent. He, however, remains optimistic that business will soon be as usual as many are used to Grab delivery services. Where’s the humanity in us when we are effectively punishing our “own” people and industry who are innocent in this war?

Our people are also human and entitled to rights, liberties, and dignity. Should we discriminate, harass, or pressure them just because another country or entity? Isn’t this akin to cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face, which means that we are pursuing revenge by overreacting and damaging ourselves more than the object of our anger?

Having said all that, I truly pray and wish that we can all contribute to the peace process and contain the destruction in Gaza. Let’s pray that we do not aggravate or expand their conflicts to the rest of the world.

Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker is Senator, MCA former vice-president and former Deputy Youth and Sports Minister.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Sinar Daily.

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