Malaysia supports the Palestinian cause in the Middle East and opposes Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land in the post-1948 era. The government in Putrajaya has never had diplomatic relations with Israel, but agreed to a peace plan based on the occupation state returning to the 1949 Armistice (“Green”) Line in place in 1967 to achieve a two-state solution. This implies that the capital of the Palestinian state will be East Jerusalem, which Malaysia also supports. Such support for the Palestinians extends to international forums without regard to the political factions involved; Fatah and Hamas are treated fairly by the Malaysian government, even though Palestine’s official diplomatic mission in Kuala Lumpur is under the Fatah-run authority in Ramallah.
The influence of Hamas has increased in Malaysia since the resistance movement was founded in the 1980s as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. There are a lot of Brotherhood supporters in Malaysia among the Muslim population, which makes the country a safe destination for Hamas and its supporters, as are Turkey, Iran and Qatar. The number of Palestinian students in Malaysia has increased, especially from Gaza.
The Malaysians will never forget the murder of a Palestinian lecturer in Kuala Lumpur in 2018. Fadi Mohammed Al-Batsh, an electrical engineer from Gaza, was shot dead by two motorcyclists. Has family alleges that Israeli spy agency Mossad was involved in the killing. Hamas acknowledged that Al-Batsh was a member of the movement, in whose military branch he was called “commander”. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s defence minister at the time, issued a routine denial of Israeli involvement in the killing, but claimed that the professor was the designer of Hamas missile systems.
On 28 September this year, a Palestinian from Gaza was rescued by Malaysian police officers in Selangor. According to the New Straits Times (NST), Mossad was behind the individual’s abduction, which led the Royal Malaysian Police to call the editor, Farrah Naz Karim, for investigation. In a related, but unverified, report, it was stated that eleven Malaysians, including a woman, were recruited by Mossad and given training in Europe before kidnapping Omar ZM Albelbaisy Raeda. He is a computer programmer and believed to be a member of Hamas. Another Palestinian was apparently able to escape from the kidnappers and contact the police. Officers raided a chalet in Hulu Langat and the Palestinian kidnap victim was freed. Once again, Mossad and its agents in Malaysia were mentioned in the indictment.
The NST said that Raeda was interrogated about his computer experience, Hamas computer expertise and knowledge of known members of Al-Qassam Brigades, the movement’s military wing. Haaretz in Israel reported that he is an Android software developer and moved to Turkiye before going to Malaysia.
The Malaysian Interior Ministry has launched an investigation into alleged Mossad involvement in the kidnapping. Minister Hamzah Zainuddin said that the government would act if the allegation that Mossad operatives are working in the country is true. At the time of writing, the Royal Malaysia Police Force has not been able to determine if Mossad was involved in the abduction of Palestinians. Officers have pointed out that the investigation is ongoing and asked the public to stop speculating and disturbing public order. Social media is awash with “news” about Mossad and its presence in Malaysia, and the agency’s supposed connection with the political opposition. There is a lot of fake news about. Moreover, the news is politicised in Malaysia as the country moves towards its 15th General Election and, so far, there has been no verification of the News Straits Times reports about Mossad in Malaysia.
Nevertheless, the reports have been covered by media elsewhere, including Israel, even as the investigations are ongoing. Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri is waiting for a report from the police and National Security Council on the Mossad allegations, but has in any case given reassurances about the country’s security.
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera has claimed that a “well-informed” Malaysian source has confirmed that a “Mossad cell” has been uncovered in the country, apparently to spy on sensitive sites, including airports, and seeking to penetrate government-run electronics companies. Again, this has not been verified, although the Jerusalem Post has noted that it is Mossad’s policy to target Hamas activists anywhere.
The alleged Mossad operation in Malaysia suggests strongly that intelligence agencies are operating around the world, which means that the Israel-Palestine conflict — and especially Israel’s conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip — has the potential to spill over to other regions. Although Malaysia supports the Palestinians in their legitimate struggle for a viable, independent state, it does so in line with UN resolutions. This is Malaysia’s official foreign policy regardless of any support for Fatah and Hamas. The government does not recognise the State of Israel in its foreign policy and Malaysians are not allowed to visit the occupation state; nor are Israeli citizens allowed into Malaysia. Nevertheless, Malaysia’s foreign policy does not perceive Israelis as enemies or engender any hatred towards their country.
Our country views Israel’s belligerent Zionism and apartheid against the Palestinians as unacceptable and clearly against international law. Malaysia’s foreign policy may thus change direction when Israel shows its readiness to embrace the two state solution, follow UN resolutions and participate sincerely in the peace process to realise this goal. With two states existing side by side in peace, Israel will be more secure, and global Mossad operations can become a thing of the past.
Malaysia is a peace-loving nation and bids other nations to respect its sovereignty. It has a strict policy against foreign interference in its domestic affairs, or foreign involvement in illegal activities within its borders. No states or their citizens should use Malaysia as a playground for their own conflicts. It is the hope of the Malaysian people and their government that the Israel-Palestine conflict will end with lasting peace in the Middle East.
The future of Palestine is indeed a matter of deep concern for Malaysia, and is embedded in its foreign policy. However, Malaysia’s national security cannot be compromised in the process. The government is concerned that Israel’s targeting of Hamas in particular has the potential to pose a serious security dilemma for Malaysia if Mossad is found to be operating in the country. This issue should concern us all.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.