KUALA LUMPUR: A pro-Palestine peace activist has urged Malaysia to stand firm on its stance on Israel after a prominent actor cut business ties with one of Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s sons over the prime minister’s “anti-Semitic” statements.
Alex Awad, a retired senior pastor from the East Jerusalem Baptist Church in Bethlehem, Palestine, said the news had taken him by surprise, adding that it “lacked justice”.
He was referring to confirmation by Mokhzani Mahathir yesterday that Hollywood actor and “Sherlock” star Benedict Cumberbatch had severed their professional relationship over Mahathir’s remarks on the Jews.
Awad said no one in the West, in the US in particular, was boycotting pro-Israel companies or leaders who had given support for Israel despite what he called its “crimes against humanity” in Gaza and the West Bank.
“But when a Palestinian Muslim does something that is suspiciously against the Jews, they immediately call him anti-Semitic and want to boycott him and so on, while so many atrocities happen against Palestinians.”
Calling Cumberbatch’s decision “unfair”, Awad said it was wrong to “punish” Mokhzani for his father’s alleged views.
“It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Even the Bible says we should not punish children for the sins of their fathers.”
He also urged the government to maintain its stance on the Israel-Palestine debate but added that it should side with justice, even if it means supporting Israel if Palestine is guilty of war crimes.
“The idea is not to stand with Palestine or against Israel.
“Wherever there are injustices, we need to stand up and speak truth to power,” he told FMT on the sidelines of a forum on the Israel-Palestine crisis.
Mokhzani is a director of SunnyMarch Holdings, which Cumberbatch set up in 2014. He invested £1 million (RM5.37 million) in return for shares via his company, Kencana Capital.
SunnyMarch, a UK film/TV production company is behind a number of film projects, including BBC’s “The Child In Time” and Sky’s “Patrick Melrose”, both of which starred the British star.
A UK daily yesterday reported that Mahathir had once called Jews “hook-nosed” and questioned if six million were killed in the Holocaust, claiming it was actually four million.
In another recent interview, Mahathir was reported to have said: “Anti-Semitic is a term that is invented to prevent people from criticising the Jews for doing wrong things.”
“I was shocked and disappointed to learn today of statements made by… Mahathir, articulating views that I find abhorrent and unacceptable,” Cumberbatch told the MailOnline.
The “Doctor Strange” actor said he was forced to cut ties as there could be repercussions for SunnyMarch productions. Mokhzani then told FMT that it was his prerogative to do so.
At the talk, Awad said the Israeli government is “trapped in the grip of fanatic Israel ideologues who prefer the acquisition of land in the West Bank” over making peace.
“Palestinians want to end the conflict because they have the most to gain from signing a peace agreement with Israel,” he said, adding that the US is unable to broker a peace deal there.
He therefore proposed that Malaysia intervene in what the White House calls the “deal of the century” – the Trump administration’s proposal to end the decades-long conflict.
“US lawmakers abide by the dictates of the American-Israeli Political Action Committee, which supports the radical policies of the Israeli right… so, the deal is not going to work.
“We need the Malaysian government to undo what (US President Donald) Trump… is trying to do: create a peace deal that is only good for Israel but not good for the Palestinians.”
He also proposed that Malaysia make contact with other Islamic countries and collectively ask to be part of the deal, and see that Palestine is involved in the process as well.
“If the deal is good enough, then encourage Palestine to accept it. But if the deal is bad, then take a stand against it and stand with Palestine,” he said.
Asked if Malaysia would be able to effect change, Awad said: “If there is a will in the Malaysian government, by the prime minister and Cabinet, then there will be a way.”
Malaysia has long supported a two-state solution in the Israel-Palestine conflict. It does not recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Today’s event was hosted at the Al-Bukhary Foundation here by the Perdana Global Peace Foundation, an NGO founded under a different name by Mahathir in 2006.
Awad was speaking alongside Sheikh Maher Ibrahim Mustafa Assaf, a Muslim imam and preacher from the Bethlehem mosque in Palestine.