They say “all is fair in love and war,” which means people are not bound by the rules of fair play in matters of love and war.
Another idiom states that “love is blind,” which suggests that when you are in love, you are unable to see the faults or flaws of the person you love.
What about hate or fury? In William Congreve’s play “The Mourning Bride,” he wrote, “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”
This is not a literary lesson but a reminder that when it comes to love and war, we must not be blinded by emotions of love, anger, or hatred.
We have had decades of hate politics on the local front, whereby social media facilitates narratives, optics and contents that promote anger and hatred.
As a result of this literature and propaganda, Malaysians were nearly destroyed by a scourge of anger and a hate plague.
My topic today is about the anger and emotions of Malaysians over the war in Gaza.
The Israel-Gaza war has witnessed a sharp spike in hate speeches, violence, and discrimination against both Palestinians and Jews.
This has also created a deepening polarization and caused greater social fractures across the globe.
The world is now witnessing Israel’s troops being mobilized to crush Hamas, including civilians, women, children, the elderly, and the sick.
This attack was said to be in retaliation for the October 7 raids on Israel by Hamas that supposedly killed an estimated 1,400 people inside Israel, mostly civilians.
Now Israel’s troops are said to have killed more than 9,400 people in their military offensives.
Back home in Malaysia, we are not spared from the impact of this crisis.
The global surge of Islamophobia and anti-Semitic harassment has a multiplying effect.
The inflammatory attacks and hate speeches are getting more vicious, toxic and hateful, and social media has unfortunately aggravated the situation.
Feeling helpless and frustrated, some individuals and organizations are reacting actively or violently by hitting out at perceived and reachable targets without consideration for fairness to their targets.
Some of these targets could be similar to the civilians and child victims in the Gaza war when they are wrongly targeted or attacked for the flimsiest reasons, statements, or innocent reactions.
There’s no room for deliberation or discourse on the actions and damage inflicted on the targets, who could be as innocent as the civilians and children in the Israel-Hamas war.
On another front, politicians and politicians-wannabe are riding on the bandwagon of a global movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel.
The movement on social media sites such as X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, TikTok, etc., is naming brands with Israeli ties for their boycotts.
McDonald’s and Burger King have been targeted for boycotts after an Israel-based franchise announced free food for members of the Israeli military, prompting a global consumer backlash.
Any form of action, statement, or condemnation, or the lack thereof, by politicians, political parties or corporations will be interpreted as for or against Israel.
Similarly, any lack of expression of sympathy or support for Palestinian civilians will be seen as pro-Israel.
Even our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim claimed that he was threatened by some European parliamentarians for speaking up for Palestinians.
On the local front, he was accused of being soft, and his statements condemning Israel were taken to be too mild and did not reflect the gravity of the situation in Gaza.
A picture of Anwar Ibrahim with the Israel flag is good enough to damage the prime minister optically. Thus, his warning that action will be taken against any attempt to link him to Israel in response to a recent Harakah report when there was a photo of the Israel flag published with a report titled “Malaysia di bawah Anwar ragu-ragu sokong Palestine?”—which is Malay for “Malaysia under Anwar unsure of its support for Palestine?”
We are effectively punishing our “own” people and industry who are innocent in this war.
Now here is the point: Are we going to be blind, deaf, and dumb to how all these are impacting us negatively on the home front?
Genuine Muslim businessmen, employees, and related industry workers and their families are made to suffer or are punished first in this “emotional siege” against anything American or Jewish.
Our local workers at McDonald’s are also victims of this Israel-Gaza war. They have been subjected to mental and emotional abuse. They have been harassed, verbally insulted, and called Jews.
Aren’t they innocent victims of our siege mentality for anything or anybody related to the Jews or Israel? Is this fair or inhuman to them too?
Our franchise holders are also 100% Muslim-owned. Many of the affected employees are Muslims too, some of whom are deaf or disabled and have families and kids dependent on their incomes.
Chloe Tong in her Instagram Stories shared that she “fell completely in love with Israel” after visiting the country twice this year, and was “praying.”
This could have been another personal social media posting by an individual, but in this instance, she is also the wife of Grab CEO Anthony Tan.
This post went viral on social media, and Malaysians have since begun uninstalling and calling for a boycott of the super app.
The damage caused can be unthinkable, and there’s no time allowed to think or discuss whether the “mob” reaction is fair to those targeted or related to the industry.
The lashing out and damage done are so real and immediate to innocent victims of the industry.
No one seems to be looking at the bigger picture or to think through what’s happening and the fairness of it all.
However, Grab delivery rider Mohd Afie Ikmal bin Jamal said riders who boycotted on social media may not be real.
He said, “So far dari side rider belum nampak yang ada boikot dari sekeliling saya, cuma di media sosial ada nampak segelintir rider yang boikot tapi tak tahu itu ada rider Grab yang asli atau sekadar provoke, dan dari segi pesanan tempahan ada nampak penurunan sedikit sebab ada yang boikot Grab dan segelintir restoran, dan juga pelanggan yang beralih kepada syarikat penghantar lain.”
Another Grab driver, Muhamad Firdaus bin Abu Bakar said the impact on his income as a result of the boycott is in the region of 10-15%. He is optimistic that business will soon return to normal, as many are used to Grab delivery services.
So, are we losing it? Where’s the humanity in us when we are effectively punishing our “own” people and industry who are innocent in this war? Are we going to continue punishing our people so as to hit out at America, Jews, or Israel?
Our people are also human and entitled to rights, liberties, and dignity. Should we discriminate, harass, or pressure them just because another country or entity has taken sides in the Israel-Hamas war?
Isn’t this akin to cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face, which means that we are pursuing revenge by overreacting and damaging ourselves more than the object of our anger?
Having said all that, I truly pray and wish that we can all contribute to the peace process and contain the war in Gaza.
Let’s pray that we do not aggravate or expand their conflicts to the rest of the world.
(Senator Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker, a former deputy minister from MCA, has served as Senator since August 2018.)