Paris, Brussels (20/10 – 87)
In an atmosphere of justifiably feverish global anger, following the murderous attacks by Hamas troopers on a “peace concert” held near the border with Gaza and the massive retaliation by Israel, several nations have declined to jump on the bandwagon: notably, Malaysia is one. Anwar Ibrahim, its Prime Minister, has issued a statement refusing to make a reflexive condemnation of Hamas.
History and alliances will tell us why.
When attempting to figure out the way Malaysia is distancing itself from “world opinion” (actually the “management of consent” by administrative state-directed corporate media) it is important to understand the traditionally cautious and unencumbered foreign policy stance of most ASEAN member states.
The original 8 members of SEATO, all having suffered some form of colonial humiliation (even Thailand, which was never invaded, was forced to give up considerable territory to British Malaya and lost Laos and Cambodia to France), learned their lesson, and never gave way to the temptation of close foreign alliances afterwards. Thailand has however always welcomed American money and political support, particularly during the Vietnam War, when there was an incipient Marxist uprising against the King and his generals.
Once Marxist insurrections were brutally crushed by stable, prospering, well-armed nations – Malaysia had “the Emergency”, where largely ethnic Chinese communist rebels attempted to seize power – SEATO faded away. Its members did however optimize their connections and experience by forming the Association of South East Asian Nations, or ASEAN, “…a regional organization that aims to promote economic and security cooperation among its ten members”.
Of these Malaysia is the sole member with an official “state religion”, namely, Islam. Unlike the pliant, tolerant Indonesians, Malaysian Muslims tend to be hard-edged and contemptuous of infidels. The country has had its share of race riots, often involving the oppressed but prosperous ethnic Chinese minority – but the government and military are firmly in the hands of the Bumiputera, or Muslim Malays. It is thus not surprising that Malaysia would stand with Palestine and against Israel, which is sees as an oppressor and enemy of Islam.
Consider this: Malaysia’s foreign policy is determined by considerations of sovereignty and national interest. It has in fact traditionally pursued a non-aligned foreign policy, as a member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) since 1970. Neutrality, non-interference, peaceful coexistence, and mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity are stated goals of its foreign policy.
Hamas is the de facto government of the Palestinian state in Gaza; Islam makes no distinction between religion and politics. Thus, in order to sustain the support of what is in fact a fragile political base, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim resists western pressure to jump on the bandwagon and condemn it.
He point out that Malaysia does in fact nurture a longstanding relationship with Hamas, does not recognize Israel as a legal state and, following a decades-long attitude toward the west most notably embodied by nonagenarian politician Mohamad Mahathir, keeps its distance from western wheedling, bribing and bullying.
He has stated bluntly that Malaysia rejects what he terms as the West’s ‘pressuring attitude’ to condemn Hamas. And the great majority of the Malaysian electorate undoubtedly back him up in this.