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Big support for a just cause
Publication Date : 23-01-2013
Malaysia strongly supports the Palestinian people's bid for freedom from Israeli occupation and Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak took the opportunity to make a historic humanitarian working trip to the Gaza Strip.
The Malaysian PM travelled by land from the El-Arish airport near the Egyptian border to Gaza City in Palestine in a historic humanitarian working visit there yesterday.
The land crossing allowed Najib to see for himself the effects of an Israeli attack on the city in November.
During his nearly two-hour car trip, Najib would have also gained a rare glimpse of the hardship that the 1.7 million residents of the Gaza Strip have had to endure in their struggle for liberation.
Just half the size of Perlis but with a population that is eight times larger, the 369-square kilometre Gaza Strip, along with the West Bank which borders Jordan, make up the Palestinian occupied territories whose cause Malaysia has long championed.
Najib's trip coincided with the elections in Israel yesterday, where the outcome offers much of the same hostile policies towards Palestine.
Hope, however, is growing of reconciliation between Hamas which governs the Gaza Strip and its rival Fatah which controls the West Bank.
This follows a recent Fatah-organised rally in Gaza, which received the blessings of Hamas, amid efforts to unite the rival groups that Malaysia strongly supports.
“Najib’s visit is meaningful as it signals strong international support, a gesture that is important to the people in Palestine,” said a Malaysian official.
Successive Malaysian prime ministers since Tunku Abdul Rahman had demonstrated strong support for Palestine, a cause which led to the establishment of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in 1969, with the Tunku serving as its first secretary-general.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad is another familiar name in the Middle East due to his outspokenness in championing the cause of the occupied territories.
Palestine is equally close to Najib's heart but despite the optimism that his visit brings, the situation remains challenging.
As the official noted, it is fortunate that the Gaza Strip's border at Rafah is controlled by Egypt, as it gives an opening to official visitors to travel into the territory.
In the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority is centred, the border with Jordan is controlled by Israel, making access very difficult.
A Non-Aligned Movement ministerial meeting that was supposed to take place in August in Ramallah in the West Bank had to be cancelled after Israel denied entry to five participating ministers.
The example serves as one of the many reminders of the hardships faced by the people, not just in Palestine but in many parts of the region.
The writer is member staff, The Star.