Palestine is about humanity, not religion, says veteran volunteer


KUALA LUMPUR: The Palestinian issue is a human issue, not a problem that should concern only Arabs and Muslims, says Dr Ang Swee Chai, a seasoned Malaysian-born and London-based aid worker known for her long involvement with Palestinian activism.

The orthopaedic surgeon, who has spent the last 34 years helping displaced Palestinians, lamented that many were still ignorant about the issue.

“It is not a Muslim or Arab issue, but a human issue,” she said in an interview with FMT.

“All life is sacred in the eyes of God. We are all brothers and sisters. We cannot discriminate. When bombs drop and shells fly, they do not discriminate. So why should we? ”

The Chinese-language edition of Ang’s memoir, “From Beirut to Jerusalem”, was launched last Friday by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. The book, first published in English in 1989, is an eyewitness account of the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon which took place seven years earlier.

She said both Muslims and non-Muslims were guilty of interpreting the Israel-Palestinian conflict as a religious one.

“This is why I am so glad that my book has been translated to Chinese,” she said. “In many parts of the world, including Malaysia and Singapore, people see it as a Muslim issue.”

She pointed out that there are Christians and Jews among Palestinians.

She said there was no reason for non-Muslims to abstain from supporting the Palestinian cause, even if some supporters would shout religious slogans during their protests.

“There is nothing wrong with chanting slogans, but what about meeting the Palestinian children themselves, treating their wounds, listening to their stories? Then you will see it from a humanitarian perspective.”

To Ang, it serves the Palestinian cause better if the crisis is presented as a Palestinian problem rather than one rife with religious connotations. It would help people understand the plight of the Palestinians better, she said.

Ang, a devout Christian, said that in all her years of service, no Palestinian had asked about her religion. “Not even once,” she said. “Never once have they asked me to convert to Islam. To them, I am a sister in a big family. So we have to see ourselves as a human family.”