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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Do Unto Others

Do Unto Others

Imagine a rocket being fired into our territory by persons or organizations in a neighbouring country. There is damage to property and a few people are killed. It would be inconceivable for our government not to take a position and to demand that the government of that neighbouring country take immediate steps to ensure that the event does not reoccur.

Let us say that the event does reoccur, more than once, with more damage and more deaths. The government of the neigbouring country fails to act in a way that the situation requires. More damage is sustained; more Malaysians are put at risk.

At some point, the Malaysian government would have to take steps to secure its population, especially if there is no possibility of a diplomatic resolution of the matter or if such an option were to take too long. Defensive measures may require an offensive strategy to neutralize the site or sites from which rockets are being fired or the persons or organizations involved.

If that were to happen, I think many of us would have no difficulty in accepting the strategy as a necessary measure. Our sovereignty and the lives of Malaysians are not dispensable.

Would it make a difference to us if the Malaysian government had acted in a way that compelled the firing of rockets, for instance by occupying the territory, indirectly if not directly, of those who launch the rockets and acting oppressively? From the former’s point of view, a liberation war is being waged. From the viewpoint of the latter, a crime of aggression is being committed against Malaysia. I am sure some of us would support the offensive while others might have reservations considering the oppression of the people of that territory. All of us would however have great difficulty with the risk to life and limb posed to Malaysians by the continuing attacks.

The situation is a multi-faceted one and not easily resolved.

I would think that there are many who feel that Israel had to act decisively. Leave aside the historical antecedents, Israeli sovereignty and lives are at stake. Options are arguably limited, a state of affairs compounded by the fact that the Palestinian government, to an extent that renders cooperation between the two governments on this issue impossible, condones the rocket attacks.

That is why, and I think rightly so, the debate has settled on the question of whether Israel is playing by the rules. In this there are several issues. First, whether there was sufficient basis for Israel to launch the offensive considering the stranglehold it has over the Gaza strip, and the grave prejudice this has caused to the Palestinians. Secondly, if there was basis, whether the extent and intensity of Israel’s response is proportional and as such justifiable.

The first issue is a heavily nuanced and emotional one. It has been made more so by developments in international law since 9/11. The “preemptive strike” doctrine that underlay the attacks on Afghanistan and, arguably, Iraq has left its mark in the way the international community views a nation’s right to self-defence. The continuing defiance of the UN Security Council’s call for a ceasefire reveals an appreciation on the part of Israel as to the state of flux that international law on the issue currently is in.

The second issue is less ambiguous. It is evident that Israel has exceeded legal and moral limits in the way it has waged its so-called defensive war. As the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories has noted, the contraventions of international humanitarian law and the laws of war include the collective punishment of the 1.5 million people living in the Gaza Strip for the actions of a few militants, the targeting of civilians and the disproportionate military response. It is apparent that war crimes are being committed and, arguably, crimes against humanity.

Though it is clear that the aggression must stop, the way forward is unclear in part for the way in which the matter must be playing out politically within Israel and the Palestine State. In the hypothetical posed above, I am not certain that Malaysians would directly reject extreme and disproportionate measures being taken if these actions were obscured by domestic politics. Consider the way in which a vast number of Americans supported the war on Iraq despite its manifestly precarious foundation. Consider the way in which we unthinkingly support many of our government’s policies and decision despite their obvious consequences.

The efforts by the government to highlight the injustice being perpetrated against the Palestinians are commendable. It seems that the only way the issue is going to be resolved is through concerted action at and through the UN and our efforts may play some part in setting the stage for this to occur.

We must however be cautious in the way we take positions. Stripping the conflict down to its essence, it is a struggle between the colonized and those who colonized them. Our support for the aggrieved should be driven by a desire for justice and not by emotions that leave us blind to the realities.

If it is in fact a desire for justice that drives the Malaysian government in this matter, then I think it is an appropriate time for it to show its commitment to principle through ratification of the statute of the International Criminal Court and the principal international human rights treaties that Malaysia has not as yet. There are also other nations, such as Somalia, that are desperate for effective international measures and for which efforts on the part of the Malaysian government could go a long way. This nation must stand up and be counted.

And to do that effectively it should start where it matters most: at home.

(Malay Mail; 13th January 2009)


(This article has been edited since its publication in the Malay Mail)


Anonymous said...

Dear MIS,

Thank you for sharing this excellent perspective.

It is a very good change to read a commentary on this subject that is not strident, one-sided and hate-laden.

Best wishes,CPK

Anonymous said...

You analysis of the issue is at best a snap shot reflection of the current conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

You start off your analysis by considering what ought to be the appropriate Israeli response to Hamas rocket attacks and thus seem to give the impression that it is the Palestinians who are the aggressors.

The situation of course is very different as the context of the current conflict is that it is one in a series of battles in a long drawn out struugle by the Palestinians to regain their land and lives from colonization and oppression by the Zionists.Put all the facts in perspective and then let people decide if indeed Hamas had a right to fire those Qasam rockets into Israel's backyards.

Samuel Goh Kim Eng said...


Let's do our best as peacemakers
For one day we'll meet our Maker
He'll ask us for the stand we make
Let's be peacemakers and not fakes

(C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng - 130109
Tue. 13th Jan. 2009.

Anonymous said...

Dear MIS

I am truly appalled by your analogy in the first few paragraphs to justify Israel's 'retaliation' against HAMAS rockets attack.

Israel's annihilation of Gaza is not act of retaliation of a peaceful and innocent nation against her aggresive neighbor.

Since its inception, Israel has systematically taken over Palestinian lands (see for example Qadri, M (2008) Unleashed: A Palestinian Existence [Online]

Naturally, you would expect resistance against all these atrocities and injustice. One of the more effective ways-to fight against the mighty occupier and seek justice-is through guerilla warfare (see Cuba and Vietnam for examples) that includes rocket attacks.

However, I truly agree with your conclusion.


Anonymous said...

Mmmm..I am wondering if the MIS analogy is applicable to India pakistan situation as well. Can you imagine if India took a stand like Israel against pakistan? I am sure then the Mlaysian Muslims would burn Indian flag etc etc...the normal show. The Malaysian Muslims always take the issue as a religious one and not humanitarian, thus applicable to all situations. This should change.
Eg no one makes any noise when similar situation arose in Sri Langka.They take it as Tamil problem. Here the Tigers are considered terrorist, so is hamas-also designated as a terrorist organizaion. Both are human first!

They should also make their stand clear when the Muslims brothers also make undue damage to other country/ nation. All I see the Muslims do is take the side of the people who share the same religion as them and justify their act irrespective who is wrong. There is always an argument / justification in their support of Muslims irrespective of what they have done.
I wish to see the Muslims in Malaysia making marches when the Muslims terrorist do 'unislamic'(one example-since it was then agreed that beheading on video of civilian held for ransom) things and thus tarnish the image of Islam, instead of reacting after the victim retaliates!
As long as the human suffering in the world gets humane view and not religiously biased view by Muslims there will be no peace any where. Sadly it is the innocent civilians who suffer, be it in war or suicide bombs or trigger happy terrorist attacks with AK47 in public places.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Malik,

An avid follower of your blog, I usually choose to keep my thoughts to myself. But this time, I am simply relieved to learn that even when faced with an issue as volatile as this, you remain a calm and collected voice of reason.

For that, thank you.

Anonymous said...

stand up and be counted?

you better ask Hamid. According to him, its alright to demo against the atrocities against Israel. But demo against Sri Lankas for the killings aint not ok. I dont see the logic, do you?

Abdullah AR said...

Imtiaz - Pls remove my earlier comment on this topic. In its place, I post the following comment.

Imtiaz, you said "Imagine a rocket being fired into our territory by persons or organizations in a neighbouring country."

Imagine if our country was officially part of the neighbouring country. We waged war against them and drove them out of their land. We confine them to a tiny section we now call the neighboring country. And until recently, we had been forcing our ways to colonise whatever little was left to them. Although we have officially retreated, our security forces still enter the neighbouring country at will, we block supplies to the neighbouring country and control their land, sea and air traffic. In the meantime, the people of the neighbouring country still see our country as rightfully theirs and see us as usurper of their land and oppressor of their people.

Do we then wonder why they launch rockets into our country?

Malik Imtiaz Sarwar said...

Abdullah AR and others,

I am not condoning the attack by Israel, I do not think it should have happened. I also appreciate the frustrations on the Palestinian side. The point I make is that however a nation may have been formed or no matter its conduct, if it is attacked it will retaliate.

What I presented was a snapshot. I did not set out to establish the historical reasons for conflict in the region. That however is the perspective many of those who are now involved will have. History is easily forgotten on both sides of the divide and expectations are shaped by the present.

That is why I focused on the legality of the war and the way it is being waged. Let me say that I do think the war and the way it is being waged is contrary to law. Implicit in Abdullah's comment is the suggestion that if a nation were to force the hand of another and consequences that were foreseeable follow, then that nation does not have basis in attacking the other. IN my view, there is some merit in that suggestion.


Expecting Israel to stand by and let the rocket attacks happen, even if they did not do any damage, is unreasonable for being an expectation that w on either side, politics will inform decision making.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Malik,

It is also a relief to me to read your commentary. You truly are one of those who are wise and peace-loving, not influenced by the unwarranted calls for violence. I wish some of our politicians are as wise.

Anonymous said...


i do not diagree with your arguments. they are as always intellectually stimulating.

But when the stronger side, supported by the most pwerful nation in the world, forces the other into a corner and still "terrorizes it, that state will react. Put a wounded anuimal in a coerner and see if it will not attack you.

ABB's statement and you acceptance of the implication alone strengthen the point I have made above. No historical baggage etc to strain the view. If I am put into a corner, I have to fight back or get eliminated!

ChengHo said...

Human right and occupation do the Gaza people want to defend themself..they vote Hamas thru the general election the democratic process imported from America.

Old Fart said...

Fantastic analysis.

However, there have been just about to many analysis. Very few that attempt to look at it without bias.

Its time for solutions. And I for one, have come to the conclusion that mapping a solution out of historical and religious road maps will not achieve anything.

I dn't believe in the two state solution either.

A single state looked at as a single nation. A secular state that caters to the religious interests of the individual with no religious involvement in state affairs. And let the refugees who are outside these territories return. The state to cater to their resettlement.

Let there be political parties, but only those that operate by philosophies that are universal to all residents and citizens. There should be no place for anyone with a religious motivation to play politics. There should also not be any preferences or priorities given to any quarter. And the past shall have no say in the make up of this new nation.

Obviously for all those who hve been victims, who have sacrificed, who hve suffered, will want to seek justice. Unfrtunately this is one instance I shall not want to seek it. It only interferes in what can be achieved without bringing forward any of the bagagage of the old to the new.

If something like this cannot be done, then I guess we are all just left with nothing but violence, death and destruction into eternity. WE just cannot let those hate filled peple move this forward.

Shahnon said...

Dear Malik,

I beg to disagree with some parts of your analysis here. Reading your first few paragraphs, I see that you seemed to believed all the propaganda and lies spread by the Zionist regime and its massive communication networks.

As you are aware, West Bank and Gaza is under full Israeli military occupation. Israel controls all land and sea borders. There is no freedom of movement. Their basic rights were denied. Do you expect no resistance at all to all these?

Obviously, Hamas knew that their Qassam rockets are nothing compared to the Israeli military might, but what they did was a show of defiance. This is absolutely natural in any fight against colonialism.

Furthermore, note that most of the Hamas rockets were targetted at Jewish settlements within Palestinian territories - which was not suppose to be there in the first place! It doesn't make sense for you to build houses in somebody else's territory and expect to live there in peace, do you?

Check this out to see how "terrible" the impact caused by the rockets. Something which the Israel used to justify their war on Gaza.

To answer your analogy in the earlier part of the article, I wish to quote the following;

"Israeli apologists have presented absurd propaganda about those devices. We’ve been asked, for instance, what would we do if rockets were being launched on our homes in New York or Texas, from Canada or Mexico?

The proper answer is that, if those two nations had been unlawfully occupied or embargoed by the United States for 60 years of relentless oppression and repression, and if all attempts at peaceful change had been forcefully prevented or scuttled by the U.S., then such attacks would be an understandable, indeed a justifiable attempt at gaining intolerably deferred liberty.

Our appropriate response wouldn’t be to bomb the hell out of the nearest Canadian or Mexican city, but to collectively look into mirrors and earnestly ask ourselves, “What have we done wrong to incur their wrath?”

And then act to correct the situation." -

xenobiologista said...

The problem with the analogy of Malaysia being attacked by another country is that, from a legal point of view, Palestine is not "another country". As long as Israel refuses to allow partition, the situation there is that of a government using heavy military forces against its own citizens. A better analogy would be the federal government bombing all of Sabah and Sarawak in retaliation for crimes committed by a few east Malaysians.