Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Thousands of people have rallied in the Malaysian capital to express solidarity with Palestinians amid Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza.
Protesters gathered in Kuala Lumpur’s Independence Square on Sunday for the rally organised by local NGOs Viva Palestina Malaysia (VPM) and MyCare, which have organised humanitarian assistance for Palestinians.
Many protesters wore the keffiyeh, a traditional Palestinian scarf, and carried placards calling for peace in Palestine and an end to the United States’ support of the Israeli military.
“It’s hard to even watch the videos because … I can’t imagine [what] it is like to live there with bombs all around,” Syikin Samsuddin, a 40-year-old IT specialist, told Al Jazeera at the rally.
“It’s very unfortunate … that during this era, this peaceful era for most of the world, there’s one place where it’s occupied and there’s apartheid. It’s so sad,” she said.
Hussein, a 35-year-old Palestinian protester, said his family in the West Bank were on “high alert” after an escalation in violence in the territory, including an Israeli air strike on a mosque that military officials said was used as a command centre by Palestinian fighters.
“From here, it makes me feel helpless or powerless to some extent to see that the boundaries of the atrocities can still keep happening at more aggressive or extreme stages,” he told Al Jazeera.
“But we do what we can to show our support and send our love and care to everyone, especially the civilians out there. Because in the end, everyone wants to live peacefully, in harmony with everyone around.”
Sunday’s peaceful rally followed a more confrontational protest on Friday outside the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur, during which protesters scuffled with police.
Malaysia, where about 60 percent of the population is Muslim, does not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel and advocates for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Kuala Lumpur has a longstanding relationship with Hamas, the Palestinian group that administers Gaza, which the US and other Western countries have designated a “terrorist” organisation.
Standing outside Kuala Lumpur’s Independence Square, IT specialist Samsuddin lamented that Palestinians are seen as “oppressors rather than the victims” by the West.
“I think we should support the Palestinians who have been oppressed for many, many long years, for almost 50 years,” she said. “We as humans collectively, as sisters and brothers, we should support each other.”
Hussein said he was happy to see that attitudes towards Palestinians were improving around the world, albeit slowly.
“[The international response is] somewhat polarised right now,” he said.
“And it shows that there’s a lot of awareness that’s increasing towards the support of the Palestinian cause, and to finally give a fair share of attention to what the Palestinians have been pleading for since 1948, which is fair standards of living and equality.”