Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Malaysia's Israeli Dilemma

It takes former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to see the less obvious.

Singapore's ST and BT today cited him as criticising a proposal for two passport-free zones at the southern tip of Malaysia as making those areas 'foreign land'.

"It becomes extra-territorial land for some countries. Singapore would be very happy," he reportedly said.

The swipe at Singapore wasn't surprising as Dr Mahathir had always felt uneasy with Singapore, ever since he was humiliated by a Chinese taxi driver when he was a young medical student in Singapore.

But Dr Mahathir also highlighted something that probably nobody in the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi administration has thought about: He suggested that Israelis could effectively enter Malaysia via Singapore without any restrictions.

'Singapore has relations with some countries, for example Israel, which we do not,' he said.

Malaysia bars its citizens from visiting Israel as it doesn't recognise Israel due to its sympathy for the Palestinian plight. In fact, Israel is the only country in this world that Malaysians are barred from entering. At the same time, Malaysia bars Israelis from entering Malaysia*.

But the point about Israelis entering Malaysia via Singapore may be moot. Israelis will probably remember the hostilities of Malaysians towards former Israeli President Chaim Herzog when he visited Singapore in 1986.

Muslim and Malay politicians in Malaysia objected vehemently to his presence even though he didn't set foot in Malaysia! They even called for the demolition of the causeway linking Malaysia and Singapore in a bid to cut off ties with Singapore for hosting Herzog.

* Malaysia is not alone in barring Israeli passport holders from entering its shores. Malaysia, like any country, has the right not to recognise certain regimes. Malaysia had barred its citizens from entering rogue states such as North Korea and South Africa (when apartheid was still enforced) in the past. The US, which is a strong ally of Israel, has imposed sanctions on a long list of countries for ideological, political and strategic reasons.


Anonymous said...

Guess it works both ways. There will be elements which Spore doesnt welcome who will enter Spore. Like those suicide bombers who visited KL before carrying out Sep 11 hahaha.

Vittal said...

Interesting. I was not aware of this. Media over here hardly covers what goes on the other side of the world.
Thanks for sharing.

Samurai );-( said...

this is pretty stale by now but...did you know that in the late 80's Malaysia hosted the Israeli cricket team for the World Cricket championships? it drew lots of flak from the so-called Islamists...but the idea back then was to expose to the Israelis that Muslims can actually live alongside people of other faiths...

My Wacky Friends said...

This will not succeed in reality, that is what I think.

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Good write-up

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