By Clara Chooi
SHAH ALAM, Feb 22 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today that Israeli vessels are allowed to dock at Malaysian ports in accordance with “international laws”, insisting that this did not mean the government supports the Jewish state.
“The question that has arisen (over) why the Malaysian government allows Israeli ships into our ports... yes, this is an international practice.
“If we block them, we could be infringing on international laws,” the former prime minister told a press conference today.
But he firmly said the Malaysian government “cannot” support Israel as it is a “country of territories seized from others”.
“This is not good. The world may recognise Israel... but it (Israel) is quite violent and ignorant of international laws, even mounting blockades in Gaza... gunning dead nine people,” he said.
In May 2010, nine Turkish activists were killed during an Israeli military raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship that had attempted to run a naval blockade.
Malaysia’s alleged trade relations with Israel was raised recently by PKR leaders in an apparent attempt by the party to prove the Barisan Nasional-led (BN) government sympathised with Israel’s Zionist regime.
According to PKR-linked pressure group, Jingga 13, Israeli-owned ships have been docking at Malaysian ports. The group said this confirmed the existence of trade ties between both countries.
The claim also appears to be part of the party’s efforts to stave off similar accusations made against its de facto leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who has often been labelled a Jewish sympathiser by his political foes in Umno.
The opposition leader invited further suspicion over his alleged ties with Israel when he expressed support during a recent interview with the influential Wall Street Journal (WSJ) for “all efforts to protect the security of the state of Israel”.
Anwar has since explained that this support remains contingent on Israel respecting the aspirations of Palestinians but has continued to draw flak for his remarks, including from his political partners in Islamist party PAS.
The leader even held a meeting with PAS spiritual advisor Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat to explain his statement.
But Dr Mahathir continued to insist today that Anwar, his former deputy in the government, has always been a strong supporter of the Israeli cause.
He further accused Nik Aziz today of attempting to “protect” Anwar, when it was pointed out by reporters that the PAS leader did not pressure his PKR comrade to retract his statement or sue the WSJ.
“He (Anwar) has always been a strong supporter of Israel... Now Nik Aziz is trying to defend him.
“But what the Israelis are doing... Is this humane? ... Guarantee their (Israel’s) security? What should be done is stop them (Israel) from attacking others, not protect them.
“Thousands of Palestinians are still detained there, no trial, nothing for years. This is a cruel regime... If America wants a regime change, this is the regime that should be changed,” he said.
In a recent blog posting, Dr Mahathir had alleged that Israel and the US are conspiring to affect a regime change in Malaysia through a “puppet government” to be helmed by Anwar.