Malaysia and Singapore online users slam Israeli activist's attempts to sow discord between neighbours

They are united against Israel War Room's claim that Malaysia's animosity towards Israel stems from its military assistance to Singapore

Malaysian Muslims wave Palestinian flags during a rally to show their support for Palestinian people at Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023.
Malaysian Muslims wave Palestinian flags during a rally to show their support for Palestinian people at Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023. (PHOTO: AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

SINGAPORE — Social media users in Malaysia and Singapore reacted strongly against claims by an Israeli activist that Malaysia is "bullying and intimidating" Singapore due to the city-state's close ties with Israel.

The Israel War Room, identified as an "official organisation account" on the platform X (formerly known as Twitter), stated in its mission statement that its goal is to defend Israel and address its online adversaries.

However, it caused controversy by reportedly posting content that accused Malaysians of being "venomous and hateful to Jews and the Jewish state", leading to widespread outrage. It wrote in a post on Tuesday (21 November) that Malaysia's animosity toward Israel stemmed from the latter's assistance to Singapore in establishing its armed forces after Singapore gained independence from Malaysia in 1965.

The post brought Malaysians and Singaporeans together, along with neighbouring nations, in condemning it as a blatant attempt to sow discord.

Unity amidst diversity

User Januar Haikal highlighted the unity among Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei, stating that despite occasional disputes, they stand by one another when needed. He added, "If anything happens to one of us, we will react accordingly because we always have each other's back. So, no, your divide-and-conquer tactics won't work on us."

Another user, Sultan Coco, dismissed the attempt to create friction between Singapore and Malaysia, humorously noting that both nations mostly argue over whose nasi lemak (a traditional rice dish) is superior.

Malaysian users even emphasised Singapore's peaceful separation as a model for a successful two-state solution. They praised that despite their differences, both nations have prospered and maintained a robust relationship.

User J Shamsul Bahri said, "The Malaysia and Singapore story is an example of a successful '2 state' solution. Both nations set their own path, and both nations become prosperous in its own way. Both nations benefit from having a strong relationship together."

Initially part of Malaysia, Singapore separated from the federation in 1965 citing significant disagreements with Kuala Lumpur. Despite being the smallest country in Southeast Asia, Singapore now stands out as the region's wealthiest nation based on GDP per capita.

Malaysia-Singapore relations and Middle East stances

Past territorial disputes between Malaysia and Singapore had been amicably settled at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, notably concerning the ownership of Pedra Branca, a small island and lighthouse which the court ruled belonged to Singapore.

While Malaysia has no formal diplomatic relations with Israel, Singapore established diplomatic ties with Israel in 1969.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has been an outspoken supporter of the Palestinian cause. During his speech at the APEC summit in San Francisco last Friday, he criticised US President Joe Biden for what he perceived as hypocrisy in addressing the situation in Gaza.

"You ask us to condemn Russia in Ukraine, but stay muted on the Israel’s atrocities of killing women and babies in Gaza," he said.

Anwar's stance aligns with Malaysia's unwavering support for Palestinians, a position long held by the country's leaders, even as the United States requested Malaysia to reconsider its stance on not labelling Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

Despite differing views on the Middle East conflict, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted at a press conference alongside Anwar during the Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat in October that these differences should not affect bilateral ties.

Both countries also expressed the importance of a ceasefire and humanitarian aid in Gaza.

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