Eventful week on Palestinian conflict in Malaysia points to West’s ‘second rehabilitation’ of Anwar?

The prime minister, often seen as more of a friend to the West than his former boss, appears to have dialled back on pro-Palestine speeches.

(MalaysiaNow) – Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is facing pressure to “rehabilitate” himself from recent anti-Western remarks, an uncharacteristic turn from a time two decades ago when he was seen as being groomed by Western allies to take over from their erstwhile enemy Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

This follows Washington’s attempt to bring Malaysia in line in imposing sanctions against enemies it labels as “terrorists” by sending two officials to Kuala Lumpur.

MalaysiaNow has learnt that the pair’s visit, and the way it was managed by Putrajaya, was criticised by at least two members of Anwar’s Cabinet.

A source from a Pakatan Harapan (PH) component party said the government had missed a big chance to dial back on recent actions seen as not reflecting Malaysia’s policy of showing full support for the Palestinian struggle.

“First we feted a Saudi scholar well known for his cordial ties with Zionists, then we allowed arms dealers to come and promote their goods here when they are blatantly aiding Israel in its genocide,” said the source, speaking to MalaysiaNow under condition of anonymity.

The source was referring to Anwar’s justification for allowing the presence of several defence companies involved in aiding Israel’s war machine at the recent Defence Services Asia (DSA) and National Security (Natsec) Asia in Kuala Lumpur.

During the same week, Anwar also played host to a prominent Saudi scholar who was criticised by Muslims for taking part in events organised pro-Zionist Jewish leaders.

A visibly annoyed Mohammad Abdulkarim Al-Issa later replied to questions by the local media on his engagements with Zionist groups as documented by MalaysiaNow, saying he has no ties with Israel.

The prime minister had earlier attended a special convocation to honour Al-Issa, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Universiti Malaya just weeks after the university was embroiled in controversy for hosting an openly pro-Israeli professor from the US.

Adding to the eventful week that sparked a social media debate on Anwar’s commitment to the Palestinian struggle, the US despatched two Treasury officials in a bid to warn Malaysia to halt all trade and transactions with “terrorist” entities as defined by Washington.

Undersecretary for Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson and Treasury general-counsel Neil MacBride held talks with Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution, MPs and other officials, where Malaysia reportedly “took note” of the US’ concerns.

A Middle Eastern diplomat who previously served in Kuala Lumpur welcomed Putrajaya’s stance, specifically when it reportedly told the Americans that Malaysia is not bound by its unilateral sanctions on entities accused of terrorism.

But he said the government should have taken a stronger stance upon learning that the US officials were coming “to tell you what to do”.

“The fact that their trip and the reason behind it was announced on the US Treasury website shows that they had no inhibitions about sending a message that they were coming to warn Malaysia,” the diplomat, who is now based in Paris, told MalaysiaNow.

The diplomat said the government could have announced that the officials were not welcome if their declared aim was to tell Malaysia to amend its foreign policy.

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