Malaysia bans Israeli owned and linked shipping citing ‘cruelty against the Palestinian people’

Malaysia's Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim attends the 26th ASEAN-China Summit at the 43rd ASEAN Summit in Jakarta on September 6, 2023. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / POOL / AFP) (Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim at a summit in Jakarta on September 6, 2023.Yasuyoshi Chiba/Pool/AFP/Getty ImagesCNN — 

Malaysia’s government announced Wednesday that it was imposing a ban on all Israeli owned and flagged ships, as well as any vessels headed to Israel, from docking at its ports.

The announcement by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s office said the ban would take place with immediate effect and was in response to Israel’s conduct in its conflict with Hamas.

“This sanction is a response to Israel’s actions that disregard the basic humanitarian principles and violate international law through the ongoing massacre and continuous cruelty against the Palestinian people,” the statement read.

Muslim–majority Malaysia has long championed Palestinian rights and causes. Like nearby Indonesia, Brunei, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Pakistan, it does not recognize Israel.

The ongoing bombardment of Gaza by Israel’s military following Hamas’ deadly October 7 attacks has sparked mass rallies in Malaysia and put domestic political pressure on Anwar.

The Port of Tanjung Pelepas, in Iskandar Puteri, Johor, Malaysia, on February 9, 2023.

A Malaysian maritime port in the southern state of Johor.Lionel Ng/Bloomberg/Getty Images/File

Anwar remains one of the most outspoken world leaders against Israel as well as its backers in the United States, although the latter remains a major trading partner.

In a parliamentary speech made in November, Anwar said that the government would maintain ties with Hamas and “would not punish” the group following its October 7 rampage in Israel in which some 1,200 people were killed, mostly civilians, and saw more than 200 hostages taken.

Malaysian passports also bear the inscription: “Valid for all countries except Israel.” Israeli passport holders are forbidden to enter Malaysia without prior permission.

In its statement, the Malaysian government said Israeli-registered companies and ships had been previously allowed to dock in the country since 2005.

“However, the government today has decided to override the past Cabinet’s decision to not allow ships using Israeli flags to dock in the country.”

The statement on Wednesday also singled out the Israel-based global shipping company ZIM. “For the record, ZIM vessels have been docking in Malaysia since 2002,” the statement said.

In addition, Malaysia has also imposed “a ban on any ship that are heading to Israel from loading cargo at Malaysian ports.”

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