Malaysiakini Letter

Dr Ms attempt to enter West Bank absurd

Gerard Lourdesamy  |  Published:  |  Modified:

The attempt by the former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to enter into the West Bank from the Allenby crossing in Jordan recently in order to visit Jerusalem and Jenin (purportedly to indirectly help find a political solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict) and the subsequent refusal by the Israeli authorities to allow him in had all the proverbial ingredients of a comic opera.

Firstly, how can a man who is incapable of distinguishing Zionism as an ideology from the Jews as a race and well known for his vitriolic condemnation of the Jewish state and its people, hope to play any sort of role as a mediator in a conflict that has proven to be insoluble since 1948?

His constant criticism of the Jewish people as opposed to the illegal acts of its occupying forces in the West Bank and Gaza strip often sound like plain old fashioned anti-Semitism.

As such it behooves the good doctor as a spent force in global politics, to retire gracefully and not concern himself with issues that are beyond his comprehension and understanding given his glaring lack of judgment, objectivity, impartiality and choice of language on the Arab-Israeli conflict thus far.

He should be grateful that the Israeli authorities did not have him arrested for espousing and instigating anti-Semitic views notwithstanding the exhortations in the Quran that the Jews - like the Christians - are people of the Book and should be treated with respect, tolerance and understanding.

While I do not defend the actions of the Israeli government in the occupied territories which are a clear violation of international laws and norms, I do not believe that the entire Jewish race should be condemned and vilified for the acts of their leaders or government.

Secondly, the decision of the Israeli authorities was right in that while the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is not recognized under international law as provided for in Resolutions 242 of 1967 and 478 of 1980 of the UN Security Council, there is a de facto acceptance of the fact that the Israeli government is exercising control over the occupied territories until such time as a final settlement is reached on its status.

This is reflected by the requirement that Israel complies with the 1907 Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 pertaining to the protection of civilians under military occupation.

The Israeli foreign ministry also rightly asserted that Malaysia has no diplomatic relations with Israel and furthermore, the government of Malaysia does not recognise both the statehood of Israel and by extension its government. But while there is no formal diplomatic relations between both countries there is a tacit recognition that Israel exists and that Malaysia cannot violate its fundamental rights.

The Malaysian government has had under traditional international law 'relations officieuses' or 'dealings' with the Israeli authorities while making clear that no intent to recognise should be inferred.

This is clear from the fact that Mahathir himself had written letters to current and previous Israeli leaders or met with them under the auspices of international conferences and summit meetings, that trade relations are conducted through third party countries, that there are contacts between sporting and non-governmental organisations in both countries and by obtaining special permission from the Israeli government together with the assistance of the Jordanian authorities for Malaysians citizens to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land provided that they only enter and exit the West Bank through the Allenby crossing, as Mahathir had attempted.

However, the point remains that Mahathir should have gone through appropriate channels to obtain the necessary clearance from the Israeli authorities and not just arrive at the crossing expecting to be waved through.

After all, it is one of the most heavily guarded border posts in the world. The acts of our former prime minister (it is not clear whether he was traveling on a diplomatic passport at that time but it would not have made any difference as the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 only apply to states that have formal diplomatic relations) bordered on the absurd, full of false bravado and an ingrained sense of self-importance while disregarding legal and diplomatic formalities.

What would Malaysian authorities have done if Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided to swoop down on the KLIA unannounced under the pretext of visiting Malaysia? Would our government have accorded him a red carpet welcome with the traditional accompaniment of the 'bunga manggar' and beating of the 'kompang'?

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