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Cablegate: Gaza Reaction: Malaysians Condemn U.S. Along With

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O 300854Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2172
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KUALA LUMPUR 001118

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV ASEC CASC IS MY
SUBJECT: GAZA REACTION: MALAYSIANS CONDEMN U.S. ALONG WITH
ISRAEL

Summary and Comment
-------------------

1. (SBU) Malaysian political leaders and press have reacted
with angry rhetoric to Israeli air strikes in Gaza and
heavily criticized the U.S. together with Israel. The
Malaysian government came out quickly to condemn the Israeli
air strikes on Gaza, labeling this action as a "war crime"
and calling for an immediate cease-fire, but refrained from
explicitly highlighting U.S. support for Israel, at least in
initial commentary. Political parties, including all three
parties in the opposition coalition, were not as restrained
and strongly criticized both the U.S. and Israel. The main
Islamist opposition party organized a small and orderly
demonstration at the Embassy on December 30, presented a
letter holding the U.S. responsible for Israeli actions, and
chanted "destroy Israel, destroy America." Malaysia's
mainstream media, including television and print, has focused
extensive coverage on the humanitarian situation in Gaza and
emotive, critical commentary on Israel's actions, as well as
criticism of U.S. statements blaming Hamas. Malaysia's
government-affiliated Malay language press has been more
strident in its anti-U.S. commentary. A December 30
editorial in the Malay language daily owned by the ruling
UMNO party urged a boycott of U.S. products and withdrawal of
deposits from U.S. banks, and suggested that support for
"retaliation by militant Muslim groups" should not be ruled
out.

2. (SBU) Comment: Although far from Malaysia's shores,
Palestine is the single most compelling international issue
for the Malaysian public, particularly among the Malay Muslim
majority. Malaysia's response to the current Israel-Hamas
conflict appears similar to the reaction we witnessed to the
Israel-Hizbollah war in 2006 and the invasion of Lebanon, a
reaction which featured sharp criticism of the U.S. and some
demonstrations at the Embassy. As Israeli military actions
in Gaza continue or escalate, Malaysian politicians will be
tempted to pile on with further anti-U.S. rhetoric and
possibly stage more public protest actions. The Malaysian
government, however, has an interest in confining the Gaza
reaction to the realm of rhetoric and not letting matters get
out of hand. There have been no indications of anti-U.S.
sentiment affecting American citizen security in Malaysia at
this time. End Summary and Comment.

Malaysian Government Deplores Air Strikes
-----------------------------------------

3. (U) Following initial reports of Israeli air strikes
against Hamas, the Malaysian government quickly expressed
concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza and strongly
condemned Israeli actions. Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi
released a press statement on December 28 "deploring the
disproportionate use of military power by Israel against the
people of Gaza," urging the immediate restoration of the
cease-fire by all concerned, and calling on the UN Security
Council to take "necessary action." The Foreign Ministry
issued a separate statement on December 28, which notes that
"Malaysia considers this act (air strikes by Israel) as a war
crime and a crime against humanity." The MFA statement also
"urges all parties to exercise utmost restraint," and seek a
negotiated, two-state solution.

Political Parties Criticize U.S. Alongside Israel
--------------------------------------------- ----

4. (U) Malaysia's political parties across the spectrum,
including all three parties in the opposition coalition,
spoke out to criticize both Israel and the United States.
The Peoples Justice Party (PKR), led by Anwar Ibrahim, issued
a December 29 statement referring to "Israel's barbaric air
raid" and claiming that Israel's "state terrorism" would
continue as long as its "Western allies" endorsed and
supported such actions. Secretary General of the Democratic
Action Party (DAP) Lim Guan Eng said the U.S. should stop its
"blind support" for Israeli bombings and urged the Malaysian
government to lodge an official protest with the Ambassador.
Criticism of the U.S. was by no means limited to the

KUALA LUMP 00001118 002 OF 002


opposition. Mukhriz Mahathir, son of Malaysia's former Prime
Minister, and a leading candidate to head the UMNO party's
Youth wing, issued a statement December 30 calling "upon the
world's Muslims to be steadfast in rejecting this act of
terror that has the tacit support of the United States."

Small Protest at Embassy
------------------------

5. (U) On December 30, the opposition Islamic Party of
Malaysia (PAS) led a vocal but orderly demonstration of some
150 to 250 people in front of the Embassy. The group,
reportedly representing a coalition of 45 predominantly
Muslim NGOs, presented a letter that condemned "yet another
horrendous crime perpetrated by the Zionist regime of Israel
on the occupied territory of Palestine." The letter also
stated, "We hold the (U.S. government) responsible for the
death, destructions and sufferings by the wanton acts (sic)
of Tel Aviv." The demonstrators' chants in Malay included
"destroy Israel" and "destroy America." The demonstrators
dispersed peacefully after 45 minutes. The police presence
was very visible and they provided good support to ensure
Embassy security during the protest.

Media: Extensive Coverage of Gaza, Blame on U.S.
--------------------------------------------- ----

6. (U) Malaysia's mainstream media, including television and
print, has focused extensive coverage on the humanitarian
situation in Gaza and emotive, critical commentary on
Israel's actions, as well as criticism of U.S. statements
blaming Hamas. Nightly television news shows, Malaysians'
primary source of news, have given top billing to the air
strikes on Gaza. The New Straits Times, which routinely
represents government views, ran an editorial on December 30,
entitled, "Stop the Gore in Gaza." The editorial
acknowledged that "no country would tolerate daily rocket
attacks on its towns," but stated "there is no excuse for the
indiscriminate and disproportionate slaughter (in Gaza)..."
The editorial argued, "the Israeli assault has certainly
dashed whatever faint hopes there have been that the
inauguration of a new American president would provide a
fresh momentum for the peace process," criticized
President-elect Obama for his "silence," and urged continued
vigorous protests.

Malay Press More Strident, Calls for Anti-U.S. Action
--------------------------------------------- --------

7. (U) Malaysia's government-affiliated Malay language press
has been more strident in its anti-U.S. commentary. The
Utusan newspaper, the Malay language daily of the ruling UMNO
party, used its December 29 editorial to blame the U.S. for
Israel's actions and for failure to achieve Middle East
peace. Utusan's December 30 editorial column "Whispers,"
written on a rotational basis by the paper's editors, went
further and deemed Israel and the U.S. as the "real axis of
evil," and called for action not just words to oppose the two
countries. The short editorial urged a boycott of U.S.
products, including films; withdrawal of deposits from U.S.
banks; and suggested that support for militants' retaliation
should not be ruled out: "We could even, if the need arises,
support retaliatory action by militant Muslim groups after
this, although it will be interpreted as terrorism. Who
cares...." Berita Harian, another Malay daily associated
indirectly with UMNO, in its December 29 editorial described
the Palestinian people as "the victim of U.S. treachery."
KEITH

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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