Malaysia has been stripped of hosting a Paralympic swimming event in Sarawak due to our insistence on banning Israel over their actions on Palestine. The way this is being justified by the government is that Israel is responsible for “war crimes”, thus their Paralympic athletes should not be allowed in.
Really, are we talking about banning nations due to their “war crimes” from participating in international events?
Some have justified our actions by saying that in the past, Malaysia opted out of sporting events such as the Moscow Olympics over Afghanistan and events involving South Africa over apartheid. This is a false equivalence. In those instances, neither Russia nor South Africa banned athletes from other countries from participating – it was the participating countries that opted out.
Therein lies the difference, but let us go back to this reasoning of not allowing people into our country over “war crimes”. If such is truly the basis of our diplomatic policy, why in the world are we still friendly with the US after their actions against Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and even Syria?
Shouldn’t we be banning everyone to and from the UK over the same, since they participated in Iraq as well?
Why are we still friends with Russia after Ukraine? Why are we still friendly with Saudi Arabia after their continued actions against Yemen to the point of widespread famine and the death of kids from starvation?
So, due to such “war crimes”, should we ban Malaysians from going to Saudi Arabia, and even the US? Should we ban their athletes from coming to participate in any of our events? Will we be boycotting them whenever they host sporting events?
If we change the basis from “war crimes” to “genocide”, why are we still friends with Myanmar given the plight of the Rohingya and the Christian Chin community? If it is the “oppression of Islam”, why are we friends with China considering the plight of the Uighur community?
I’m sure by now readers can come up with 1,001 examples of why so many, many nations should be banned from entry here in Malaysia for whatever reason, from Italy’s burkini ban to the Swiss referendum barring mosques from having minarets, to even the jailing of Christians and oppression of peoples around the world.
And yet, the only nation both Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman seemed to be focused on is Israel. Why?
Probably because it is convenient, that is all. It is easier to ban a small, tiny nation we don’t have to trade with than the superpowers of the world. It is easy to see how geopolitics constantly makes hypocrites of the Malaysian government.
After all, you won’t find Malaysian Muslims suddenly insisting on boycotting haj and umrah packages to Saudi Arabia over Yemen, ever.
At the same time, it seems the government does not understand that you cannot play host to international events while saying that you want to disallow Israelis from participating when it is under the auspices of the International Olympic Council, International Paralympic Council or even the United Nations (UN) – as Najib Razak discovered earlier when he hosted the UN’s World Urban Forum.
So now, we have a different challenge for Malaysia Baru: whether or not we are really looking to become part of the world, hosting international events such as forums, and even sporting events, for the participation of all.
Or, will we let our narrow-minded view cancel out our ability to host such events in the future, and thus push these events away before we even think of hosting them, and then come up with lame excuses such as Israeli “war crimes” while letting others of the same label continue in total thick-faced hypocrisy.
If this is the case, then we should really, really put our dreams of ever hosting the World Cup, or even the Olympics, to rest forevermore.
Hafidz Baharom is an FMT reader.