On May 15, Malaysian Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said he was disappointed that the international community had been unable to halt escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians, which erupted earlier this month.
Yassin said Malaysia would “continue to work to call on the international community, especially the U.N. Security Council, to act immediately to force Israel to stop its attacks on the Palestinian people.”
Malaysia, along with Muslim majority Southeast Asian states Brunei and Indonesia, issued a joint statement condemning “in the strongest term[s]” what they called Israel’s “blatant violations and aggressions” and targeting of civilians “throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.”
Malaysia has long supported the Palestinian independence cause and has no formal diplomatic relations with Israel.
But as violence rages over 4,700 miles away, some Malaysians have expressed concern they could get caught up in the hostilities.
Recently, many Malaysian social media users have either stated that Israel is at war with their country or questioned whether such a war would occur. Others described Malaysia as being on Israel’s “war list,” along with Iran, Qatar and Turkey, among other countries.
A Twitter user, for example, wrote:
“When Israel declared war yesterday with Malaysia, they were worried about going to hotspots such as KLCC (Kuala Lumpur city center), Pavilion (shopping center) etc for fear of being attacked. Remember a few years ago there was a Palestinian killed in Malaysia by an Israeli agency. This is serious …, we are at war.”
However, it is false to claim that Israel has declared war on Malaysia.
Much of the speculation about the potential for war appears linked to a misunderstanding of a news report that has been circulating online but is itself of dubious origin.
A number of users linked to a YouTube video titled “BREAKING: ISRAEL DECLARES WAR ON HAMAS WORLDWIDE, WILL GO AFTER LEADERS IN IRAN, QATAR, MALAYSIA.”
That video has been viewed over 600,000 times since May 15. It is based on a report by the Greek-language website War News 24/7 claiming that Israel’s leadership ordered its secret services to “to eliminate top Hamas officials inside and outside the country!”
It did not mention Israel declaring war on Malaysia or any other state.
“The police, along with other security agencies, have stepped up security control in all aspects to defend public order and the safety of Malaysians, including Palestinians in this country,” MalaysiaNow quoted Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin as saying.
Reports that Israeli security forces might target Palestinian militants abroad are merited.
Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington, D.C., think tank that works in conjunction with the Israeli government, tweeted on May 15 that the Israel Defense Forces, according to Israel’s Channel 13, had been given “a green light” to target “*all* Hamas operatives at *all* levels, both inside Gaza and out.”
He added that this move had obvious implications for countries like Malaysia, which he accused of being “an important jurisdiction for Hamas operations.”
Still, Schanzer maintained Malaysia should be aware, “not because more Hamas operatives might experience ‘accidents’ in the country. But because Malaysia could meet criteria as a state sponsor of terror if this activity is done with direct assistance from Malaysia’s leaders.”
Polygraph.info reached out to Israel’s U.S. mission for comment but had not received a response at the time of publication.
Israel’s history of targeted killings, which some call a euphemism for assassination, is contentious.
In 2006, Israel’s Supreme Court noted that some targeted killings of Palestinians militants might be illegal under international law. But the court rejected a petition to declare them illegal, opting instead for a “case by case” approach.
Rights groups, including Amnesty International, have condemned the practice.
One such attack was allegedly conducted on Malaysian soil. In April 2018, Palestinian Fadi al-Batsh, an engineering lecturer and Hamas member who had lived in Malaysia since 2011, was shot dead in Kuala Lumpur.
Hamas, a Palestinian militant organization that controls the Gaza Strip, blamed Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency for the killing.
Israel denied any role in the incident.
Israeli intelligence has been linked to a number of such killings abroad.