Assassins from an Israeli spy agency gunned down a Palestinian academic from the University of Kuala Lumpur in cold blood on the streets of Malaysia last weekend, according to the murdered man’s family. The father of Fadi Al-Batsh told the media that he was convinced the Mossad was behind the murder in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.
“One hundred per cent, it is an assassination: Fadi had no enemies and is loved by the Palestinian, Arab and Malaysian communities and has pictures with the Malaysian prime minister,” said his father Mohamed.
Malaysian police have released images of two murder suspects wanted in connection with the killing, based on descriptions given by eyewitnesses. Two men on a motorbike shot the electrical engineering lecturer 14 times, killing him on the spot. The police say that the suspects were “most likely born in the Middle East or in the West.” Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, is reported to have announced that foreign agents may have been behind the killing.
Despite mainstream western media headlining with claims that Israel is “dismissing” the family’s allegations that Mossad was behind the murder, if you read Israeli government statements carefully, it turns out there has been no actual denial at all. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman “did not respond directly… when asked if Israel was behind the killing,” said Haaretz.
“Israel assassinates scientists to destroy the mainstays of the development and science of the nation,” claimed Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Although Al-Batsh is said to have been an activist with the Islamic Resistance Movement, there have been no claims that he was a member of its armed wing.
When Israel murdered Muhammad Zouari in Tunisia two years ago, the armed wing of Hamas openly claimed him as one of their own. He had been an engineer working on a drone programme to help the movement defend Gaza from Israeli attacks.
Given that the Qassam Brigades has not made such a claim, therefore, it is unlikely that Al-Batsh was a member. Once again, it looks as if Israel is murdering Palestinian civilians openly and brazenly. The victim of Israeli violence on this occasion was reportedly on his way to the local mosque when he was shot and killed.
In fact, Israel has a long history of murdering Palestinian activists using its armed gangs in various countries. The targets of the Israeli death squads have included both Palestinian fighters and unarmed Palestinian academics, writers and activists.
The Jewish American blogger Richard Silverstein made this comparison: “Imagine if a Palestinian militant assassinated an Israeli nuclear engineer as he emerged from prayer at a synagogue. The uproar would be immense and geshrei [Yiddish for a yell] of anti-Semitism would be deafening. But apparently, Muslim prayer means nothing while Jewish prayer means everything.”
There is also much anonymous briefing in the Israeli and international press right now claiming that Al-Batsh was “a high level Hamas commander” or similar. As usual, Israeli propaganda is far too often accepted as fact in the international media.
Although Haniyeh has an agenda in the sense that Al-Batsh was a member of his political organisation, he certainly has a point. As a colonial occupier of Palestinian land, one of Israel’s key agendas is to deny and prevent Palestinian educational, scientific and cultural development. Academics for decades have documented how Israel has deliberately “de-developed” the occupied Palestinian territories.
Marking 50 years of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a UN agency last year published a report condemning the state for deliberate immiseration of the Palestinian population living under its brutal military rule. Among other things, the report cited the “continuing loss of land and natural resources to settlements and the annexation of land in the West Bank.”
It is precisely because Palestinian academics and scientists can help the fight against occupation that they are perceived as a threat by Israel. As Fadi Al-Batsh’s mother Fatima put it to Al-Jazeera: “The Israelis can’t tolerate any well-educated Arab, and particularly Palestinian, mentality. Israel considers any well-educated, distinguished Arab, or particularly Palestinian, figure as the real big threat for Israel.”
Attacks on the education of the indigenous people are common to all colonial – and especially settler-colonial – movements. Just as the South African apartheid regime gave the teaching of Afrikaans priority over indigenous Black African languages, so Israel tries to prevent Palestinian Arab self-determination within Palestine. Such efforts, though, will ultimately fail.
Rogue states which operate outside international laws and conventions are isolated by the international community, and rightly so. Israel’s murder of Palestinians around the world places it in the same category. It should be condemned unequivocally.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.