Sunday January 27, 2013
Heeding the cry of oppressed Palestinians
The Star Says
THE journey to liberate Palestine is long and arduous but worthwhile for those who believe in freedom and justice.
Palestine is important to Muslims as it is home to the Al Aqsa mosque, which is Islam's third holiest site, while Israel's oppression of the occupied territories is a concern for people of many faiths around the world.
The desire to demonstrate our own solidarity with Palestine drove Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to travel to Gaza on a humanitarian visit, a good and just move in line with Malaysia's policy towards the occupied territories.
Stepping on Gazan soil as the first Malaysian Prime Minister to visit Palestine, Najib told a meeting with Gazan leaders that he had come to Palestine following his heart.
Some might argue that the Prime Minister could have expressed support while remaining in Malaysia, but it is not the same as making the 7,500km journey to show solidarity with Palestine especially after Israel's brutal attack on Gaza late last year.
Traversing winding, bumpy roads across crowded towns bearing the scars of Israeli bomb attacks, Najib met families of those who died in the struggle, and university students, offering them solace and support from all Malaysians.
The most well-meaning gesture can get misconstrued in the complexity of Middle Eastern diplomacy and Najib's visit was no exception. It drew unease from Fatah that is understandable though misplaced.
Fatah, along with Hamas, forms the main movements representing the Palestinians but the two groups have been in bitter dispute since 2007.
The feud led to Hamas gaining control of the Gaza Strip with Fatah entrenched in the West Bank the two territories making up Palestine though hope is growing of a unity government sponsored by Egypt and which Malaysia is willing to help facilitate.
Against this backdrop of internal Palestinian rivalries, Najib's Gaza visit in no way amounted to a sign that Malaysia favours one side over the other.
His original plan was to visit both the Hamas-controlled Gaza and the Fatah-administered West Bank but the latter, controlled by Israel, proved to be a no-go area.
The West Bank border with Jordan is controlled by Israel, which would only allow Najib passage if Malaysia grants the Zionist regime official recognition, a condition the Prime Minister flatly rejected.
Najib has repeatedly emphasised that unity between Fatah and Hamas is a precondition to any hope of success in the Palestinian cause.
This must now be followed up with a stepping up of efforts by parties such as Wisma Putra to look at how Malaysia can bridge the divide between the two sides while continuing to remain impartial.
Notwithstanding all the risks, Najib's visit to Gaza was well worth the effort.
Apart from demonstrating solidarity with Palestine, it also allowed Malaysia to signal a defiance of Israel's cruel blockade on Gaza.
These contributions in supporting the Palestinian cause, though small, are meaningful and all Malaysians can rightly be proud of them.