Be consistent, BDS Malaysia tells government on stance against Israel

Despite Malaysia's non-recognition policy and prohibition of all trade activities with Israel, trade data reveals significant discrepancies and robust links between the two countries.

28 May 2024 01:30pm
Protesters wave a Palestinian flag as they demonstrate outside the venue hosting the shareholders' 2024 General Meeting of Thales held in Paris, on May 15, 2024. - (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP)
Protesters wave a Palestinian flag as they demonstrate outside the venue hosting the shareholders' 2024 General Meeting of Thales held in Paris, on May 15, 2024. - (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP)

SINCE 1966, Malaysia has maintained a non-recognition policy towards Israel, refraining from establishing diplomatic relations.

This stance was reinforced in 1974 when all trade ties with Israel were prohibited.

In addition, Malaysia has consistently condemned Israel's actions against Palestinians and advocated for an independent Palestinian state on various international platforms.

However, despite Malaysia's non-recognition policy and prohibition of all trade activities with Israel, trade data reveals significant discrepancies and robust links between the two countries. United Nations Comtrade data spanning the past 29 years, from 1995 to the present, showcases notable figures.

In 2018, Malaysia's imports peaked at USD 304 million, while Israel's exports to Malaysia reached a high point in 2013 at USD 1.46 billion.

Mineral fuels, oils, and distillation products constituted a significant portion of Israel's exports to Malaysia, totalling USD 48.24 million, while animals, vegetable fats and oils, and cleavage products comprised the highest imports from Malaysia, amounting to USD 9.73 million.

In addition, several existing and recent instances are causes for concern:

Delegation met with Google and Microsoft in San Francisco to discuss strategic collaborations and investment plans in Malaysia: Both tech giants are open supporters of the Israeli government and have also pledged funds for the IDF.

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Involvement of Siemens Energy in Controversial Projects: The Prime Minister recently visited Siemens Energy in Berlin, the same company that is the main contractor for the EuroAsia Interconnector. This submarine electricity cable will connect Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory to Europe.

Supply of Machinery by Tractors Malaysia: Tractors Malaysia, as the exclusive Caterpillar dealership under Sime Darby Industrial Sdn. Bhd. (PNB), has maintained a partnership with Caterpillar for over 80 years. Caterpillar machinery, distributed by Tractors Malaysia, is frequently used in the illegal demolition of Palestinian property and the construction of hundreds of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, on land unlawfully seized from the Palestinians.

Participation of Arms Manufacturers at NATSEC Asia 2024: The inclusion of Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems as exhibitors and platinum sponsors at the recent NATSEC Asia 2024 exhibition, held at MITEC, is concerning. Both these companies are complicit in the manufacturing of arms used in the atrocities against Palestinians, including the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

Joint Venture Involving Khazanah Malaysia, EPF, and Blackrock: This joint venture allows Blackrock entry into the management and ownership of 39 airports in Malaysia, which are strategic national assets. Blackrock is heavily invested in defence companies, weapons manufacturing and its shareholders not only support but contribute to the state of Israel.

In contrast, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has been clear in his support for Palestine over the past several months.

He has called for Palestinian statehood, unequivocally condemned the attack on Gaza, called for an immediate ceasefire and urged that humanitarian assistance be made available unhindered.

This unwavering solidarity from our leadership must now be reflected across the spectrum.

BDS Malaysia proposes the following measures to government ministries and other stakeholders to ensure that Malaysia consistently upholds its commitment to Palestine across all levels of administration:

Align Malaysia’s Foreign Policy with Economic Activities: Ensure that Malaysia's foreign policy towards Israel is consistent with its economic activities. This alignment should involve the Investment, Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) and other relevant ministries and government agencies.

Implement a comprehensive prohibition on all direct and indirect trade with Israel.

Enhance Monitoring and Enforcement: Strengthen monitoring and enforcement mechanisms to ensure comprehensive due diligence is conducted by regulatory bodies, enforcement authorities, and all government ministries and agencies. Require Malaysian stakeholders to provide a Letter of Undertaking, ensuring they avoid any involvement with Israel in their supply chains.

Advocate for Collective Action: Promote a more systematic and strategic approach to boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) in beginning with Asean.

The Malaysian Government must take the lead in both regional and international advocacy efforts for collective BDS against Israel.

Public Awareness and Education Campaign: Launch a comprehensive public awareness and education initiative to inform Malaysian citizens about the reasons behind Malaysia's non-recognition policy towards Israel, the implications of economic engagement with Israel, and the importance of supporting the Palestinian cause.

This campaign could include workshops, seminars, social media campaigns, and educational materials distributed in schools and universities.

Support Palestinian Businesses and Initiatives: Develop programs and initiatives to support Palestinian businesses and entrepreneurship, including trade partnerships, investment opportunities, and capacity-building programmes.

Establish trade agreements with Palestinian businesses, provide financial assistance, and offer technical support for Palestinian startups.

Facilitate exchanges between Malaysian and Palestinian entrepreneurs to foster collaboration and mutual growth.


Malaysia's adherence to its non-recognition policy towards Israel must be reinforced with decisive action to align its economic activities with its diplomatic policies and the stance taken by the Prime Minister.

Ministries and government-linked companies must cease all engagements with Israel-related businesses, including weapons manufacturers.

Failure to do so will not only undermine our position but also weaken our solidarity.

The above proposals will position Malaysia as a stalwart advocate for the Palestinian cause, setting an example in global efforts for Palestinian statehood.

With its unwavering commitment to justice, peace, and equality in Palestine, Malaysia is poised to lead in standing in solidarity with Palestinians and in finding a lasting solution that ensures peace and justice.

BDS Malaysia is an NGO that calls for boycott of Israel and complicit companies.

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

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