Kuala Lumpur: Malaysians pressed for a continued boycott of Israeli and Israel-linked goods on Saturday during a protest to demand the country ceases its ongoing assault on Gaza.
Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 23,700 people since October in the densely populated Palestinian enclave — more than one in every 100 residents.
More than 60,000 have been injured, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, while thousands of others remain missing under the rubble.
Most of the dead are children and women.
Malaysia has no formal relations with Israel, has long been supportive of the rights of Palestinians and their struggle for a sovereign statehood, and bars Israelis from entering its territory.
Since the beginning of the ongoing onslaught on Gaza, many of its citizens have been calling on others to stop buying into popular brands that they accuse of siding with Israel.
Hundreds of those who gathered near the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur — as part of Global Day of Action for Gaza on Saturday — carried placards reading “To Be Silent Is To Be Complicit” and “Stop Aiding Genocide!” and said they believed in the boycott of Israel-linked products, calling it their contribution to solidarity.
“We boycott whatever products from Israel,” one of the protesters, Shahidah Wana, told Arab News. “It’s a small thing but if a million people do it, it can topple an elephant.”
The rally was organized by the Malaysian chapter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, whose supporters rely on economic and trade pressure in opposition to Israel.
BDS Malaysia has been calling on Malaysians to stay away from popular brands such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Puma and Airbnb.
It is not known what kind of impact they have had on some of the businesses operating in the country, but McDonald’s has been trying to fight back against the movement with a lawsuit seeking 6 million ringgit ($1.3 million) in damages for alleged defamation.
The company’s lawyers alleged in December that the movement’s incitement to boycott led to a loss of profits and job cuts.
Those who attended Saturday’s rally, like Mohd. Fariz Muhammad, were adamant about their stand.
“One thing we can do is to boycott goods from Israel or linked to Israel … This is a long process,” he said.
“This is a way for our society to educate them (the brands). Behind their products there is an agreement that must be upheld before they get their profits. They must think about the humanitarian side of things first.”
As outrage continues to rise over the growing Palestinian death toll in Gaza and destruction of the enclave, Malaysia last month barred Israeli and Israel-bound ships from docking at its ports.
Activist Jamilah Sheikh Abdullah told Arab News that she felt that the economic pressure was working.
“(Using the) economy is how we break the hold of Israel and the Americans (over Palestine),” she said.
“The economy is the tool that controls the Zionists, their livelihood. The source of income of the Zionists is affected by the BDS movement, and this is how we can break them.”