Tuesday, October 31, 2023

As war rages between Israel and Hamas, Palestinian children are dying in staggering numbers as world leaders watch on

As war rages between Israel and Hamas, Palestinian children are dying in staggering numbers as world leaders watch on

By global affairs editor John Lyons

Children are being killed and injured at alarming rates in Gaza. (AFP: Mohammed Abed)

Is the killing of almost 1,000 children a week self-defence?

That's a question that leaders around the world are going to need to contemplate in coming days as the war between Israel and Hamas continues — or indeed escalates.

It's a confronting question. It's one that may pit Israel and its strong supporters against others. It's a question that Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese may be asked at some point.

Organisations such as Save the Children and UNICEF are examining the figures provided by the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health and are saying the civilian death rate is staggering.

These agencies believe that the number of Palestinian children who have been killed since the war started three weeks ago is close to 3,000, although they say it could be much higher as hundreds of children are missing, possibly buried under rubble.

Imagine if 1,000 American children were being killed a week. The world's response would be completely different.

The reason this question is looming is because the current war between Israel and Hamas is presenting the world with something it has rarely seen, if ever: a large number of civilians in Gaza being killed every day while many leaders — including Anthony Albanese — refrain from calling for a ceasefire.

Usually, leaders instinctively call for a ceasefire. The end of the violence of war is always a good thing. Usually. Or at least restraint on both sides.

Images that stay with you

In Israel, where I'm writing this from, there's an overwhelmingly common answer when I ask Israelis whether the killing of 1,000 children a week is self-defence: the deaths of civilians, particularly children, they say, are regrettable. But what can we do? Hamas hides itself among civilian populations, they argue, and unfortunately, many civilians will die as a consequence. Hamas is responsible. And they killed our children in their October 7 slaughter, and now have 30 children and babies kept hostage in some dark tunnels in Gaza.

For Palestinians, there is also an overwhelmingly common answer: the killing of these 3,000 children in the first three weeks of this war is a war crime. This is collective punishment of the 2.3 million people in Gaza, they argue, for the actions of Hamas on October 7. The Israeli army and its political masters are responsible. Why is an army that stresses that it tries so hard to avoid killing civilians killing so many?

It's worth remembering what triggered this latest war — the atrocities committed by Hamas when it invaded Israel on October 7.

Often, when Israelis realise you are a foreign journalist, they pull out their phones to show you pictures they've been sent of many of the victims of those atrocities. They are truly awful. The images of that spree of savagery will live with Israelis.

Just as the memories of those 3,000 children will live in the collective memories of Palestinians.

But herein lies the crunch for leaders around the world.

Israel has two aims with its military assault on Gaza, on top of rescuing hostages: the first is revenge for October 7, the second is to destroy Hamas. Never again should Hamas be strong enough to be able to inflict this sort of terrorism on Israelis.

For Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak, Emmanuel Macron and Anthony Albanese, this presents a dilemma. All four have declared "Israel's right to defend itself". But as the bodies of babies and children continue to be lowered into the ground, these leaders will come under increasing pressure to call for a halt to Israel's assault.

In this war between Israel and Hamas, we are in unprecedented territory. I can't remember a war where the civilian death toll has become so heavy, so quickly, and yet none of the four leaders above are giving any real support to a ceasefire.

For these leaders, to utter that word at the moment would be directly challenging Israel's stated aim: to take as long as necessary to move methodically into Gaza City and destroy Hamas's network of tunnels, military infrastructure and leadership.

Which brings me to the next stage of this war. Short of any pressure for a ceasefire, Israel is currently beginning a ground invasion. They're not calling it a ground invasion — "ground incursions" sounds much less dramatic.

Perhaps sensitive to growing world opinion against the mass killing of civilians, the Israeli army has now engaged in three "ground incursions". The world's media can't run the headline "Ground invasion begins". After all, Mr Macron of France has strongly opposed a major ground invasion, saying it would be "an error".

What we're currently seeing is the ground invasion you have when you're not having a ground invasion.

Palestine-Israel: blood on our hands as well – Vinod Sekhar


Palestine-Israel: blood on our hands as well – Vinod Sekhar

World must act more swiftly, aggressively to prevent more bloodshed in Gaza

What is happening in Palestine is not a religious matter: both Muslim and Christian Palestinians suffer. And it’s not a war, regardless how much Israel would like to call it one. – AFP pic, October 30, 2023

WHAT is happening in Palestine is not a religious matter: both Muslim and Christian Palestinians suffer.

And it’s not a war, regardless how much Israel would like to call it one.

What war takes the lives of more than 3,000 innocent children in a week? What war calls a toddler a terrorist?

When will the West stand up and take responsibility for allowing these crimes against humanity?

Are they not white enough? Do they not speak with an acceptable accent?

Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet are criminals; they are now blatantly committing acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

But let’s be clear here: the blood is on our hands as well.

The world’s governments must act and must take responsibility. And the longer we take to act, the more blood we will all be responsible for.

What is the point in fighting against climate change, or for cleaner oceans, if we are not even more aggressively fighting for the lives of children – the same children we hope will live in a cleaner environment and swim in cleaner oceans?

It’s time to get global priorities right. All countries must live by international law and by the United Nations’ resolutions.

We cannot have one country continuing to believe they are so special that they can skip the laws they find inconvenient.

All civilisations are judged by how they treat their children.

The children represent the future.

What does this say about our future? – The Vibes, October 30, 2023

Datuk (Dr) Vinod Sekhar is chairm
an and chief executive of PETRA Group

Why Fadhlina is not fit to be education minister

P Gunasegaram

COMMENT | In 1975, following university student demonstrations led by none other than Anwar Ibrahim, the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA) was amended to stop undergraduate involvement in all political activity.

That draconian move by then-education minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad killed all thought and political discussion within local universities for the next half century and led to the reduction of societal awareness among students.

It helped produce a generation of self-absorbed, unthinking but “educated” adults interested only in their own well-being, devoid of idealism and lofty ambitions for doing good.

This came from people who were politically very active during their own student days - when they fought against concepts such as the Malayan Union in the late 1940s and 1950s.

They were allowed to by the British colonialists but our own political leaders, when they came to power, shut down the development of student awareness after independence! Why?

I was a student at Universiti Malaya then and remember well how we used to call ourselves high school students.

Some of the braver ones among us even wore T-shirts proclaiming “High School Pantai” across the chest in bold letters protesting the forced withdrawal of rights.

Fast forward to present times, the UUCA has only been amended slightly in 2019 to allow students to participate more in politics but the promise by Pakatan Harapan in their manifesto from 2018 to abolish the Act has still not been fulfilled.

In fact, Deputy Higher Education Minister Mohamad Yusof Apdal told Parliament in March that the government has no plans to abolish the UUCA as it remains a relevant law.

Geopolitics for kids?

Curiously, Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek has now decided to take it upon herself to introduce even primary school kids to controversial international politics, starting with the intractable Palestinian problem which is now three-quarters of a century old.

In her “wisdom”, Fadhlina decided to introduce Palestinian Solidarity Week from Oct 29 to Nov 3 in schools where the age of students ranges from seven to 19 years.

There was, however, no such effort at the university and college level because her authority does not extend to them and comes, strangely, under a separate ministry - for higher education.

Why this anomaly has not been rectified and education put under one ministry is a mystery but that’s a topic for another day.

We all know what happened - even before the solidarity week started, eager beavers were at work.

Israeli flags were stomped upon by fresh-faced primary school children, young students brandished imitation guns. Someone shot a flaming arrow at an Israeli flag, causing it to burn.

Fadhlina promised an investigation and said such actions were not sanctioned: “That’s why we organised Palestine Solidarity Week within a limited period, specifically from Oct 29 to Nov 3, which allows us to control and monitor it. Any school found violating these guidelines will face appropriate action.”

An event in school featuring an unidentified man holding a toy gun

It was supposed to be controlled - by the state- but it went out of control.

It’s something she should have anticipated - there was great potential for things to go wrong and be exploited by extreme sectors for their own purposes.

But why control such things? To get young students involved in such serious politics which they are not capable of understanding, and which the government does not feel that even students in universities should get involved in, is simply astonishing.

It’s making use of kids for propaganda and puts us on par with some of the most authoritarian regimes.

Schools should be places for education. Inculcation of good societal values such as honesty, respect for others, consideration, care and compassion should not include issues in the domain of adulthood - which young students are not mature enough to fully understand and make choices over.

How can an education minister think that highlighting a serious issue such as the Palestinian problem to immature, developing students will help in improving the quality of their education?

Fadhlina should not be concerned with politicising students. Her only concern should be the quality of education that students are receiving and improve them so that they become useful members of society and have the skills to earn a decent living.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim

It’s not her fault though - it's Anwar’s for choosing her. She is totally out of depth with what educating a nation is all about with absolutely no background in education.

Fadhlina was a senator in 2021, resigning in November 2022 to contest the Nibong Tebal parliamentary seat in Penang.

Despite being a first-time MP with no experience as an educator, administrator or even a politician of note - she was shockingly chosen to be education minister, the largest ministry in terms of budget and arguably the most important.

Fadhlina is a total lightweight. Before she became education minister, she was described as an activist and a lawyer specialising in Islamic family law and child welfare.

How such a background qualifies a person to be an education minister with huge responsibilities is simply unfathomable.

Anwar’s critics point to the fact that her father was the late Siddiq Fadzil, former president of the Islamic Youth Association of Malaysia (Abim) with which Anwar was very closely associated.

This lends credence to the belief that her appointment was because Anwar wanted someone whom he could trust to follow the policies he wanted to implement.

Failing education system

That Anwar heavily promoted the Palestinian cause, and came in for some criticism for self-glorification here, further reinforces this thinking.

Our national education is in shambles - declining standards have seen outflows from it by those who can afford it.

Chinese-medium schools have seen enrolment skyrocket. So much so the entire education system is terribly polarised. This calls for drastic but reasoned solutions by competent experts leading teams, not Fadhlina.

There is the huge problem of declining quality standards, including the continued sidelining of English which caused major hurdles for those seeking further studies and employment.

These need urgent, immediate attention to reverse years of decline. For more things that need to be done, please refer to my column where I highlighted the badly needed changes in education.

In one year at the helm of the Education Ministry, Fadhlina has done little or nothing in these vital areas.

Her crass use of impressionable children, so young they can’t understand the issues involved in championing the Palestinian cause simply shows how unfit she is to solve the nation’s serious educational issues.

Her heart and mind are in the wrong place to make the major, gut-wrenching changes that are needed to put education back on its feet.

Right now, education is like a young child - on its back squalling and kicking - but going nowhere.

We need someone with far greater depth and understanding of education than Fadhlina will ever have to put the education system back on its feet and running again, eventually. Fadhlina is simply not fit for the job - but it’s not her fault.

P GUNASEGARAM says that getting the right person for the job is more important than almost anything else.

Nasi kandar babi: Mufti says non-halal notice can clear confusion

Nasi kandar babi: Mufti says non-halal notice can clear confusion

Penang mufti Wan Salim Mohd Noor sees nothing wrong with selling nasi kandar with pork as long as there is a clear notice for Muslims about the ingredients.

Since non-Muslims are not tied to Islamic laws, which forbid the consumption of pork, he said they are free to prepare and sell non-halal food to other non-Muslims.

"However, premises that sell non-halal food have to advertise it or put up a notice on the food's status so that Muslims do not consume it.

"The authorities must ensure that premises selling non-halal food do this," he told Malaysiakini.

Salim was asked to comment on the remark by Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) Jawahar Ali Taib Khan who disagreed with the posting of a video clip about the dish on social media.

According to Jawahar, it could cause confusion to customers and give a negative image to the much-loved menu.

Nasi kandar with pork dish

Earlier, former Selangor executive councillor Teng Chang Khim dismissed the claim as illogical.

“If that were the logic that Muslims could be so easily misled and confused, then all Muslims should stop selling dim sum, yong tau fu, chee cheong fun - which literally means pork intestines (referring to the name, not ingredients) - and all other Chinese foods, (that) largely contain pork and lard to avoid Muslims being misled and confused," he said on Facebook.

Meanwhile, Wan Salim said the Quran prohibits Muslims from consuming pork as it is considered "unclean."

In addition, he said pork meat could also contain a type of parasite called “Trichinella”, which can pose health hazards to humans.

Trichinella can lead to Trichinosis, which can be contracted by consuming raw or undercooked meat from animals infected with the parasite.

This includes meats from pigs (particularly when raised in unsuitable conditions), wild boar, bears, foxes and deer.

The infection may be prevented through hygienic food handling practices, particularly by ensuring the meat is sufficiently cooked to kill the parasite.

Don’t make mountains out of molehills, tourism minister tells Mas Ermieyati

Don’t make mountains out of molehills, tourism minister tells Mas Ermieyati

Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing has defended his actions in a ‘drinking’ incident that was widely shared on social media. — Borneo Post Online pic

Tuesday, 31 Oct 2023 5:58 PM MYT

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 31 — Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing has defended his actions in a ‘drinking’ incident that was widely shared on social media recently.

He said there was nothing with him consuming alcohol as he is not Muslim.

“We are a multiracial country. In any state, there must be a clear SOP (standard operating procedure) for all races and religions, and most importantly, for tourists from abroad.

“I would like to take this opportunity to offer my opinion... We are MPs. We must work hard to find ways to grow the country’s economy.

“Don’t raise nonsensical issues or be like the MP from Masjid Tanah who said I was drunk. I am not Muslim. What’s wrong with me drinking?

“I went to Pelangai for the Lantern Festival. I was teasing the children. What’s wrong with that? That’s Chinese culture. There are no issues with that. Don’t make up stories,” Tiong told Parliament during his winding-up speech for the Supply Bill 2024 debate.

He took another jibe at Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, who is the Masjid Tanah MP, implying that remarks made against other races could damage the country’s harmony and unity.

Tiong’s statement was in reaction to Mas Ermieyati’s remarks in Parliament on October 16 in which she questioned the former for drinking and dancing with a group of people in a viral video.

He was also responding to DAP’s Jelutong MP RSN Rayer who raised the matter of a recent no-shorts rule in some states and whether this would deter international tourists from visiting Malaysia.

However, Mas Ermieyati’s remarks were withdrawn as requested by Deputy Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Ramli Mohd Noh who reminded lawmakers to refrain from mentioning the behaviour or traits of any minister or government officer other than matters related to their role as parliamentarians.

PM Anwar confirms Nazri called up by Washington over Putrajaya's Palestine stance, notice sent by US Embassy to Wisma Putra

PM Anwar confirms Nazri called up by Washington over Putrajaya's Palestine stance, notice sent by US Embassy to Wisma Putra

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim says the demarche from the United States over the country's refusal to consider Hamas as a terrorist group was received on October 13 and the latest, yesterday. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana

Tuesday, 31 Oct 2023 11:47 AM MYT

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 31 — Pressed over alleged intimidation over Malaysia's stance on Palestine, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today confirmed that the United States Department of State called up its ambassador in Washington over the matter.

His office also confirmed with the press that Putrajaya had received a démarche notice from the United States on the Palestine-Israel conflict on October 13, while the US Deputy Chief of Mission to Malaysia, Chargé d'Affaires Manu Bhalla, had called on a deputy secretary-general of Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday.

“Despite the possibility of being faced with reprimands or warnings from any party, Malaysia will not succumb to any form of intimidation. The elements can come in various forms and ways, either written or implied.

“For example, our ambassador in Washington was called by the US State Department and pressed about the country's position on the Palestinian issue," he told the Dewan Rakyat during the Prime Minister Question Time session, referring to Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz.

“In addition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also received a 'demarche' from the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur for Malaysia to use diplomatic channels to ask one country not to take advantage of the conflict situation by using proxies to get involved in the fighting in Gaza,” he said, referring to Iran.

The US State Department defined a démarche as a "formal diplomatic representation of its official position, views, or wishes on a given subject" which seeks to "persuade, inform, or gather information from a foreign government", or to "protest or object to actions by a foreign government".

Anwar insisted that Malaysians do not need to feel worried and afraid of any form of external pressure, as its firm stance was also shared with 119 member countries of the United Nations (UN) during the Emergency Meeting of the UN Security Council on October 27.

He also expressed support for the Education Ministry’s Palestine Solidarity Week initiative, despite recent concerns brought up over some events glorifying violence and extremism after teachers and students were pictured with replica firearms.

“So I hope we take this opportunity to disclose information to the people. That is why I support the education minister's call to encourage students, not force them, but encourage students to follow the developments that are happening.

“Of course, we have guidelines so that we don't seem to encourage acts of violence or hatred towards their friends, but enlightenment, understanding of what is happening, what is the meaning of cruelty, what is the meaning of oppression, what is the meaning of dispossession," he said.

He stressed that Malaysia is championing the issue from the viewpoint of defending human rights.

“Yes, Malaysia advocates the principle of neutrality, but not neutrality in tyranny, when thousands of children are killed and bombed, not neutral when it comes to human justice.

“Therefore, I urge Malaysians, do not allow this issue to be divisive or boxed. Yes, this issue is rightly close to Muslims, but this issue is close to humanity too. That's why we see countries like Ireland, Brazil apart from Russia and China taking a stand on humanitarian principles,” he said.

Earlier this month, Nazri said Malaysia’s commiseration is only for Palestine and any sane government would never ever sympathise with the oppressive Israeli authorities, after the United States Department of State informed him of its displeasure with Malaysia's stance.

Last week, Islamist party PAS labelled claims made by Anwar that he had been threatened by certain European parliamentarians after speaking up for Palestinian rights in the Middle East as “strange” and “laughable”.

Its secretary-general Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan said Malaysia’s firm stance supporting the Palestinian cause and criticising Israel is well known and is not new as former prime ministers were also very vocal on this issue.

UN warns current aid system for Gaza ‘geared to fail’

UN warns current aid system for Gaza ‘geared to fail’

Unicef chief Catherine Russell told the council that her agency believes ‘the true cost of this latest escalation will be measured in children’s lives — those lost to the violence and those forever changed by it.’ — AFP pic

Tuesday, 31 Oct 2023 7:44 AM MYT

NEW YORK, Oct 31 — The UN agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) warned yesterday that the limited number of aid trucks entering Gaza were insufficient to meet the “unprecedented humanitarian needs” in the territory.

“The handful of convoys being allowed through Rafah is nothing compared to the needs of over two million people trapped in Gaza,” UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini told the UN Security Council, referring to the sole border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

Israel has unleashed a massive bombing campaign on Hamas-run Gaza after gunmen stormed across the border on October 7, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and seizing 230 hostages, according to Israeli officials.

The strikes have flattened thousands of buildings and, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, killed over 8,000 people, also mostly civilians.

According to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, 33 trucks carrying water, food and medical supplies entered Gaza through Rafah on Sunday.

Prior to the war, some 500 trucks carrying aid and other goods entered Gaza every day.

“The system in place to allow aid into Gaza is geared to fail unless there is political will to make the flow of supplies meaningful, matching the unprecedented humanitarian needs,” Lazzarini said, calling for the Security Council to demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

He said that 64 of his UNRWA colleagues had been killed in just over three weeks, “the highest number of UN aid workers killed in a conflict in such a short time.”

He added that a UN worker named Samir, as well Samir’s wife and eight children, had been killed just hours before the meeting.

“My UNRWA colleagues are the only glimmer of hope for the entire Gaza Strip... but they are running out of fuel, water, food and medicine and will soon be unable to operate,” said the Swiss-Italian official.

“An entire population is being dehumanised,” he warned.

Unicef chief Catherine Russell told the council that her agency believes “the true cost of this latest escalation will be measured in children’s lives — those lost to the violence and those forever changed by it.”

The UN General Assembly adopted a nonbinding resolution last week calling for an immediate humanitarian truce, but the Security Council has thus far been unable to reach agreement on any text related to the war.

With permanent members Russia, China and the United States applying their vetoes to previous resolutions, the Security Council’s 10 elected members have begun working on a new draft they hope will garner consensus.

“We have the means to get something done and yet we repeatedly and shamefully fail,” said Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira, whose country currently holds the Security Council’s rotating chair.

“The eyes of the world are staring at us and will not move away from our distressing inability to act,” he added. — AFP

Monday, October 30, 2023

The ‘Genocide Moment’

Volume 28, Number 297 — Monday, October 30, 2023

The ‘Genocide Moment’

Gaza’s utter devastation and masses of civilians facing death from bombardment and deliberate starvation already presents the world with a spectacle of mass murder of unspeakable proportions, writes Gareth Porter.

Palestinians in the ruins after an Israeli airstrikes in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza strip on Oct. 8. (Mahmoud Fareed, Palestinian News & Information Agency or Wafa, in contract with APAimages, CC BY-SA 3.0)

By Gareth Porter
Special to Consortium News

Israel’s systematic and wanton destruction of Gaza has raised long-standing issues of its political and legal culpability over the treatment of Palestinians to a new level of seriousness.

It obviously poses familiar issues of Israeli war crimes, and Amnesty International had already clearly designated it as such after just the first week. The human rights organization also asked the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to “urgently expedite” its investigation of the aims of all parties.

But this Israeli campaign now poses the even graver issue of genocide of Palestinians as a nation. The utter devastation of Gaza and the vast numbers of civilians facing death from bombardment and from deliberately engineered starvation and sickness already presents the world with a spectacle of mass murder of unspeakable proportions.

The Israelis should face accountability for its crimes.

A panel of nine distinguished independent experts on human rights who investigated the Gaza emergency for the United Nations’ Human Rights Council has just warned that the Israeli campaign of destruction of Gaza poses “a risk of genocide against the Palestinian people.”

And there is a long history of genocidal thinking and action behind this “genocidal moment”. It should be recalled that during the previous Gaza crisis in 2014, an equally extremist Israeli government openly threatened genocide against the Palestinians.

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked declared on Facebook that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and said:

“All of them are enemy fighters and all of them are bleeding from the head. Now it also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow in the footsteps of their sons, there is nothing fair about that. They have to go, and so does the physical house where they raised the snake. Otherwise, more small snakes will grow there.”

That same year, the Likud deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Moshe Feiglin said:

“Gaza is part of our Land and we will remain there forever. Subsequent to the elimination of terror from Gaza, it will become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews. This will also serve to ease the housing crisis in Israel.”

The present Israeli government — whose extremist right-wing politics resemble those of the 2014 government — has made no effort to hide its political, genocidal contempt for the 2.3 million Palestinians living in Gaza.

Nor has it hidden the proximate objective of the present campaign, which is to eliminate Palestinians entirely from Gaza.

Al Aqsa Flood

Interior view of the Al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem. (Aseel zm, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The official reason for the murderous new Israeli campaign against Gaza Palestinians was Hamas’s “Al Aqsa Flood” operation of Oct. 7, in which Palestinian commandos invaded kibbutzim near Gaza for the first time, taking the Israeli security system completely by surprise and inflicting a humiliating defeat on the government in the eyes of its own citizens.

Hamas said it was retaliating for hundreds of Israeli settlers who three days earlier had stormed the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem/al-Quds, the third holiest site in Islam. Ultranationalist Jews want to rebuild the Roman-era Jewish temple, destroyed around 70 AD, on the mosque’s site.

The Hamas operation clearly resulted in the deliberate killing of innocent civilians by Hamas. But surviving residents say it was the police — not the Hamas raiders — who destroyed many houses to ensure that everyone inside, both Hamas gunmen and hostages, would be killed, according to a standard Israeli procedure.

So the Israeli claim that Hamas killed more than 1,400 civilians in the operation must now be regarded with skepticism as part of the preparation for the massive murder to be inflicted on innocent Palestinian civilians in the weeks that followed.

The Israeli initial strategy for accomplishing its objective in Gaza appeared to be to carry out such heavy bombing on civilian targets throughout Gaza that the Palestinian population would be forced to leave Gaza for Egypt through the Rafah exit.

But that plan quickly ran into a serious obstacle that the Israelis apparently had not anticipated: the Egyptians have adamantly refused to open the exit for a Palestinian exodus.

The primary reason for this Egyptian resistance to the Israeli plan is that appearing to collaborate with an Israeli policy of pushing the entire Palestinian population out of Gaza would be extremely unpopular with the Egyptian public, which passionately supports the Palestinian cause.

Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was extremely harsh in his denunciation of the Israeli Gaza strategy in his joint press appearance with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Oct. 15, declaring that the Israeli air war “went beyond the right to self-defence, turning into collective punishment for 2.3 million people in Gaza.”

Meanwhile, el-Sisi was insisting that the Israelis allow the trucks containing international assistance for displaced Palestinian families to enter the war zone, while Israel continued to delayed approval for any humanitarian assistance day after day and to allow only a trickle to enter Gaza.

At the same time, the Israeli government took the position that Palestinian civilians have no legal right to protection whatsoever, on the ground that Hamas is a terrorist organization. That was the import of remarks by former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in an interview with Britain’s Sky News Oct. 12.

When asked by a journalist what Israel planned to do about the Palestinian civilians in Gaza hospitals after it had cut off all fuel supplies on which the hospitals depended for power, Bennet shouted angrily, “Are you seriously asking me about Palestinian civilians? What is wrong with you? Have you not seen what’s happened? We’re fighting Nazis.”

No Legal Limits

By reducing the issue to Israel vs. “Nazis”, the Israeli government has sought to reject its legal and moral responsibility for humane treatment of civilians, or to abide by international law regarding its conduct of a war.

Seizing on the Hamas raid on the kibbutzim, the Israelis hoped to convince their key foreign allies — the United States and the major European states — that the Palestinian civilian population has forfeited all right to protection from Israeli bombing.

Thus it has made no commitment whatever to any such legal or ethical limits on its war in Gaza, which should have been recognized immediately as a threat to the entire civilian population there.

The Israeli government has not uttered the phrase “collective punishment” in this phase of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nevertheless Israel has carried out systematic punitive home demolitions as a means of punishing entire communities because of individuals who were involved in resistance activities.

That has long been the central Israeli method for dealing with Palestinian resistance activities, as Human Rights Watch concluded last February.

Israeli leaders have presented their current war of destruction as a further application of the same principle, aimed at punishing the Palestinian population in Gaza for the military operation by Hamas on Oct. 7.

Blaming that operation on the entire Palestinian population on Oct. 12, the president of Israel, Isaac Herzog, declared,

“It is an entire nation out there that is responsible. It is not true this rhetoric about civilians not being aware, not involved. … They could have fought against that evil regime which took over Gaza in a coup d’etat.”

When a reporter asked Herzog if he was arguing that the failure of the civilian population to overthrow the Hamas government made them “legitimate targets”, he answered, “No, I didn’t say that.” But then he clearly contradicted the denial by arguing, “When you have a missile in your goddam kitchen and you want to shoot it at me, am I allowed to defend myself?”

There has never been any evidence, of course, that Hamas missiles have been hidden in civilian dwellings, nor would it make any military sense for Hamas to do so under the present circumstances.

The constant Israeli invocation of “the right to defend ourselves” is obviously paired silently with the unspoken belief in the right to inflict suffering and even genocide on the Palestinians. Israel has also been dropping leaflets in the northern Gaza Strip warning the population.

“Whoever chooses not to leave north Gaza to the south of Wadi Gaza might be identified as an accomplice in a terrorist organization” clearly implies that they are indeed being treated as legitimate targets for bombing as punishment for the actions of Hamas.

No less than the former attorney general of Israel has declared unequivocally that in order to destroy Hamas, “you have to destroy Gaza, because almost every building there, is a stronghold of Hamas.”

Targeting hospitals in Gaza poses additional political risks of provoking media and even potentially U.S. government censure, so Israel has turned to an obvious disinformation operation to smooth the way.

When a missile struck the parking lot of the al-Ahli Arab Baptist Hospital, causing casualties among some of the more than 3,000 people who had sought refuge in that area, the IDF quickly blamed the explosion on a Hamas rocket that it claimed had misfired.

The IDF cited a video supposedly showing the misfired rocket exploding at the Baptist hospital, as well as what it called an intercepted conversation between a “former Hamas operative” and a Gaza resident that acknowledging that a misfired Hamas rocket had landed on the hospital grounds.

Counting on the US

Joe Biden as vice president visiting Israel March 2016. (U.S. Embassy, Tel Aviv)

The U.S. National Security Council announced its official position that Israel was innocent of the rocket attack, and the intelligence community obliged by expressing “high confidence” that it was an errant Palestinian rocket that had caused the blast.

But then the Israeli case began to fall apart. BBC reported they could find no cemetery anywhere near the location from which the IDF claimed the errant rocket had been fired.

And The New York Times reported that its own more thorough study of the relevant videos did not support the U.S.-Israeli case. Instead it showed that the Palestinian rocket that misfired was “most likely not what caused the explosion at the hospital,” because it had “actually detonated in the sky roughly two miles away.”

Nevertheless, Israel could count on the backing of the Biden administration, which has provided political-diplomatic cover for Israel to carry out its scorched earth policy in Gaza since before the visit of President Joe Biden in mid-October.

Biden and Blinken were reduced to the role of virtual appendages to the Israel government mouthing the Israeli propaganda slogan that Israel has “the right to defend itself”, while adding a reference to the “laws of war” to which the visitors from Washington should have known perfectly well the Israelis were not paying the least attention.

That Biden administration’s craven support for the Israeli destruction of Gaza makes the U.S. complicit not only in Israeli crimes in Gaza but in the crime of genocide.

Although the genocide issue has not surfaced yet in the international politics of the Palestine issue, there is now good reason to expect that it will be raised both by Arab governments and by human rights organizations in the coming months.

This is certainly the historical moment to press the case against Israel genocide as called for by the Genocide Convention itself. The legal requirement for such an accusation is not proof of the mass murder of millions as was carried out by Hitler.

It is sufficient to prove that a state has the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group…” and that it is

“[d]eliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

The war imposed on the Gaza population by Israel obviously qualifies under those two crucial provisions of the convention.

The Genocide Convention also provides for finding that a state is guilty of the crime of “complicity” in genocide, which accurately describes the behavior of the U.S. government under the Biden administration.

Again it is not necessary to show that the complicity was motivated by the desire for the genocide in question but only that genocide could be a foreseeable result of the actions in question.

The legal question of genocide will ultimately be decided by the International Criminal Court or a national court with universal jurisdiction, such as Spanish courts have assumed in the past. The ICC would no doubt also investigate Hamas’ actions on Oct. 7. The Observer State of Palestine is a member of the ICC and the prosecutor of that court has an open file on Israel and Palestine.

Both the United States and Israel are parties to the Genocide Convention, which makes a campaign to hold them accountable for their respective roles in the present genocide even more of an urgent moral obligation for people and organizations of good will.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian writing on U.S. national security policy. His latest book, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, was published in February of 2014. Follow him on Twitter: @GarethPorter.

Solidarity Week not doing justice to Palestinian cause

S Thayaparan

“The childhood of tens of thousands of Palestinian youngsters is being lived from one trauma to the next, from horror to horror. Their homes are demolished, their parents are humiliated in front of their eyes, soldiers storm into their homes brutally in the middle of the night, tanks open fire on their classrooms. And they don’t have a psychological service. Have you ever heard of a Palestinian child who is a ‘victim of anxiety’?”

- Norman G Finkelstein, author of 
‘Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of 
Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History’

COMMENT | As someone who has been on the receiving end of the muzzle of an automatic weapon pointed at him by a child soldier in Sri Lanka, the sight of school children walking around with toy guns proudly sanctioned by adults was, to put it mildly, distasteful.

Adults in conflict zones all over the world put guns in the hands of young children. They exploit the bodies and minds of young children with drugs, or worse, and give them the feeling of control, with a loaded weapon in their hands.

So, to see young children dressed in the symbols of occupation and resistance play-acting is the worst form of propaganda and demeans Palestinian children, living under occupation. In other words, their trauma is fodder for propaganda.

As a parent, if you want to buy your child a toy gun, that’s up to you. But this is different. What these adults did was put toy guns in the hands of children for a specific cause, teaching them that a violent solution is the only solution for Muslims in the Middle East or elsewhere.

Now, does anyone really think that Palestinian parents want guns in the hands of their children? Do you really think that Palestinian parents want their children to live in a world where they have to carry guns to kill their occupiers?

Missing from the outrage of the debacle of Solidarity Week are the Palestinians themselves. Lost in the outrage of young Malaysian school children being taught to “hate” is the trauma young Palestinians in occupied zones face every day.

What does this say about adults in Malaysia, who view the Palestinian experience as only that of violent, head scarf-clad combatants? What this does to the Palestinian cause is to reduce their experience to that of a propaganda video.

Watching these children parade around with their toy guns is akin to watching a propaganda video by an extremist group. This is not about the Palestinians but rather about indoctrination.

Think about that for a moment. Rational people disavow violence especially when the victims are children from both sides of the conflict. Palestinians who have not voted for a government for over a decade want freedom, not carnage.

They do not want to be represented as violent scarf-clad-wearing combatants and they certainly do not want their children fighting against occupiers who have demonstrated a cavalier attitude when it comes to using lethal force.

What they want is for their stories heard, especially in the Western press, but more importantly, they want their children to be safe and not out in the streets engaging with well-trained professional soldiers, which is what the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is.

But Solidarity Week is not about them, is it? It is about 
flag burning and championing nihilism as martyrdom.

Reality of Palestinian children

Think about it this way. You are a Palestinian parent. You want your children to go to school. But the school has been destroyed and you have to make do with what is available.

Your children, like most children everywhere, just want to play with their friends. However, because this is an occupation, for some of the older children, this is not a playground but a battlefield. These children have to worry about their security.

They could be influenced by other older children who have been radicalised. I do not mean radicalised like how some folks are radicalised in this country.

I mean radicalised by the fact that their family members have been killed by bombings or imprisoned (in some cases for throwing stones), or died from lack of medicine, or shot by mistake, or even killed by the very people who claim they want to liberate them from their Zionist oppressors.

Aid which was meant for children has been siphoned off for other purposes. This is the reality for these parents and children.

But did you get any of that from what these adults did in Malaysian schools? What you got was self-aggrandisement, extremism informed by religiosity, and a carnival atmosphere far removed from the trauma experienced by Palestinians.

Indeed, the Palestinian experience was nowhere in these displays of solidarity.

‘Much-needed revised relationship’

The response from this administration has been juvenile from the beginning. Indeed, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim could have taken a page from former prime minister and current jailbird Najib Razak when he addressed the UN with regard to Israel during the Temple Mount tensions.

As reported in The Times of Israel:

“Given the Rosh Hashanah violations of al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and aggression against its worshipers three weeks ago, I call on the Israeli government to live up to Judaism’s highest ethical principles, and the essential message of the Torah as succinctly expressed by the first century BC sage Hillel.

“When asked to describe the Torah in a soundbite, [Hillel] said: ‘That which is hateful to you, don’t do to your fellow human being,’” Najib said.

“This dictum, known universally in all religions as the Golden Rule, could herald the dawn of a much-needed revised relationship between Muslims and Jews.”

The Palestinian Solidarity Week is not about the Palestinians. This is about galvanising a polity in support of a cause but using the cause as a stand-in for something else. The same could be said of the march organized by Perikatan Nasional this weekend.

Palestinian voices are missing in mainstream media, especially Western mainstream media. They are missing in the Solidarity Week and all these performative rallies too.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. Fīat jūstitia ruat cælum - “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”

“Tough times ahead for you when Johor ruler becomes Agong next year,” TMJ warns Anwar

“Tough times ahead for you when Johor ruler becomes Agong next year,” TMJ warns Anwar

JOHOR crown prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim has warned Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim that tough times are expected under the reign of his father Sultan Ibrahim Almarhum Sultan Iskandar when His Majesty ascends the throne to become the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in January next year.

Tunku Ismail, better known as TMJ, said his father is more of a hands-on ruler when it comes to deciding what is best for the people in terms of economy and stability.

“For example, whatever decisions made by Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi must be verified by the Johor Sultan,” TMJ said during the Keluar Sekejap podcast which aired last night (Oct 29).

The Keluar Sekejap podcast is hosted by Khairy Jamaluddin and Shahril Hamdan.

“He (Sultan Ibrahim) will give his sincere opinion [on the matter], where priority is given to the state of Johor.

“I think he will do the same thing at Federal level. He will be actively involved in maintaining a rapport with the Prime Minister and sharing input between what he thinks is right and what he thinks is not.

“He would want [to get things done] and not just make plans,” TMJ said, adding that his father will be a no-nonsense, understanding but strict ruler.

TMJ further concurred with Khairy that Sultan Ibrahim being a very detail-oriented leader who had vast knowledge in various matters including agriculture, aeronautical weapons, development, and even military.

TMJ said that the Sultan Ibrahim also understood the system, which he believes the government should be wary of.

The Sultan of Johor has been elected as the 17th Yang di-Pertuan Agong for a five-year term, effective Jan 31, 2024.

Sultan Ibrahim will replace Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah whose reign will end on Jan 30 next year.

At the same time, TMJ said Anwar must execute more and make more decisions.

“I don’t think he has a good team. I think he has the intention to do something. Of course, he wants to see the country do well, that’s for sure. But I think he should be braver in making decisions as you can’t appease all parties.

“And sometimes if you are being hated for making the correct decisions for the country, you have to bite the bullet,” TMJ added.

TMJ also agreed with Khairy’s views that with the government announcing numerous development blueprints such as Madani economy, Industrial Master Plan, and Energy Transition Roadmap, the focus would now turn to whether it could follow through.

“TMJ you yourself once said that a vision without execution is hallucination. It has been months now that the government has yet to appoint Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Minister after the passing of the late Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub,” Khairy said.

“Maybe he is playing things too safe,” TMJ said in response. – Oct 30, 2023

Do non-Malays feel about Palestine differently?

Andrew Sia

COMMENT | Let me answer the question in the headline with another question - will our schools allow official China or India "Solidarity Week" events if those two countries were unjustly invaded in future wars?

That perhaps goes to the heart of how different groups of Malaysians feel about the ongoing Israel-Gaza crisis.

School students were recently seen carrying toy guns during Palestine Solidarity Week. There were even photos showing teachers dressed as guerrilla fighters and very young kids were encouraged to stomp on an Israeli flag.

The political reaction to this has had clear contrasts.

While DAP supports the government speaking out on Palestine, it opposes programmes that exhibit elements of armed violence in schools.

DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke also urged the Education Ministry to "reconsider" the solidarity week to instead foster a love for universal peace, humane values and "cross-cultural relationships".

DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke

Later, 12 PKR elected representatives, all of Chinese ethnicity, also called to "review" the programme to clear it of "elements of hatred and violence."

That all sounds reasonable yes? Who can be against love and peace? As Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind.”

Hatred breeds more hatred

The opposite is ever more hatred. Why stop at toy guns? Will students next carry replicas of shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles or anti-tank rockets as even more potent symbols of Palestinian resistance?

However, Umno supreme council member Puad Zarkashi took a rather more confrontational approach to the suggestions.

He said the ministry should not "succumb to pressure" where "certain quarters are taking advantage of one bad apple" (the toy gun incident) to urge the Education Ministry to drop the programme.

Now wait a minute, DAP and the 12 PKR reps were asking to "review" and "reconsider" the Palestine Solidarity Week, not to outright abolish it. Was Puad exaggerating so that he could score some political points?

Umno supreme council member Puad Zarkashi

I do not support Hamas killing Israeli civilians. I am also against the bombing and starving of many, many civilians in Gaza.

The United Nations said on Oct 27 that war crimes were being committed on both sides. But it's a natural human response to side with the weak against the strong, with David against Goliath.

Non-Malays next as enemies?

What is unspoken is how pro-Palestine events can morph into more ugly feelings to "fight Muslim enemies".

For example, during a rally in Kuantan, Pahang Menteri Besar Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail accidentally said, "Palestin Pengecut, Palestin Hancur' (Coward Palestine, Destroy Palestine).

What he meant of course was "destroy Israel".

Now the problem is, can hatred for Israel and Jews among students turn into hatred for non-Malays? In Malaysia, sadly the answer is yes.

Perikatan Nasional chairperson Muhyiddin Yassin

Just before the 2022 general election (GE15), Muhyiddin Yassin claimed that Pakatan Harapan was an "agent of Jews and Christians" who were out to "colonise" Malaysia.

From there, flows the often-repeated line that DAP is an "ancaman" (threat) to Islam. This is, of course, extended to Harapan (and even Umno) which are all somehow magically "controlled" by the "big evil" DAP.

(Of course, long forgotten to political convenience is the fact that PAS was happy to ally itself with DAP in the Pakatan Rakyat coalition to share power from 2008 to 2015.)

Before GE15, we had the spectacle where a Kedah PAS leader declared that those who vote for Harapan will "go to hell"; while another PAS event in Terengganu heard how it's okay to slaughter “kafir harbi" (infidels against whom war is justified).

Yeah, both of them apologised for their hateful remarks - but only after they were caught on viral social media platforms. One wonders how many other spiteful speeches went unrecorded.

Perhaps, this is why PAS is not shy of using military symbols to show it's "fighting for Islam", for example, during a procession bearing replicas of weapons and armour at Terengganu in February.

In its election campaigns, PAS has also displayed large models of tanks and even fighter jets.

"Us versus them"

Non-Malays have long felt official discrimination. For decades, the government promoted racial fear and “ketuanan Melayu” using the National Civics Bureau (with taxpayers’ money!).

This "us versus them" mentality was cultivated among students and civil servants. So, can one then blame non-Malays for feeling that Palestine is more of a "Muslim issue" belonging to "them", and not really concerning "us"?

A very balanced approach was given by Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim, who heads the Parent Action Group for Education (Page). She said the Palestine Solidarity Week should not have a religious slant as the conflict was more of a historical one over land.

Parent Action Group for Education chairperson Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim

Indeed, it is often forgotten (even in the West) that some 10 percent of Palestinians are actually Christians, although many have since left the Holy Land.

Famous Palestinian Christian leaders included George Habash, Wadie Haddad, Hanna Mikhail and Anis Sayegh (son of a Christian pastor).

But will the solidarity week take such a mature and educated view?

It seems that the "two-state solution", where both Israel and Palestine can coexist peacefully, is the way out of the never-ending conflict.

But is the Malaysian approach more about "hancur Israel", as the Pahang MB meant to say? Will hatred for Jews then become hatred for churches?

After all, the "Christian threat" to Malays has been exploited too often by some politicians.

No wonder Sarawak (a Christian-majority state), is concerned with the programme.

Christians are called to bring about healing and reconciliation, but to complicate matters, there is also a debatable reading of the Bible that Israel must exist before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ can occur.

So the issue can get complicated.

Scoring political points?

Both Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and PAS have led huge recent rallies for Palestine. Is there some sort of "competition" to show who is more vocal about this issue?

Penang Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) has called on the government to end the exploitation of schools and children during the programme for the politics of adults.

Its vice-chairperson Ravinder Singh also questioned why, despite decades of moral and religious education, school indiscipline is "rampant"?

While the current suffering in Gaza is appalling, it is nowhere near the 370,000 people killed in the Yemen war since 2014.

Did we have nationwide Yemen Solidarity Week in Malaysian schools? If not, was it because of the awkward fact that Saudi Arabia was bombing civilians in Yemen? Not exactly convenient for scoring political points perhaps.

Yes, the grievances about Zionists grabbing land from Palestinians run deep. Many feel it's wrong for the strong to bully the weak.

But what about the grabbing of Orang Asli lands, the chopping down of their original jungle homes, just to make way for plantations owned by others?

Why is this seldom trumpeted by our politicians? Is it because the bullies in this case are not Jewish?

So how about an Orang Asli Solidarity Week in schools? Perhaps, charity should begin at home.

ANDREW SIA is a veteran journalist who likes teh tarik khau kurang manis. You are welcome to give him ideas to brew at tehtarik@gmail.com