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Pressure grows on Anwar to 'walk the talk' and dump BlackRock's firm from airport consortium

Two prominent academics are shocked that Malaysia is considering the deal at a time of genocide.

3 minute read
Japanese scholar Saul Takahashi and Palestinian author Azzam Tamimi.
Japanese scholar Saul Takahashi and Palestinian author Azzam Tamimi.

Pressure against Putrajaya's decision to bring in a company owned by controversial US investment giant BlackRock as part of a consortium to manage airports in Malaysia has steadily mounted, even as a minister scrambled to justify the deal by pointing out that the company also holds shares in Apple.

Investment, Trade and Industry Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz has been criticised by social media users for arguing that Arab states have also allowed BlackRock, which invests heavily in the US arms industry that supplies Israel's military needs, to hold stakes in their sovereign wealth funds.

A prominent Palestinian academic and a Japanese professor have called on Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to cancel plans for BlackRock's Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) to participate in the consortium to run Malaysia Airports together with the government's sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional and Employees Provident Fund (EPF).

Azzam Tamimi, a London-based academic who is an expert on the Palestinian conflict, was surprised to learn about the deal.

In a recent live dialogue with the president of the Malaysian chapter of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Nazari Ismail, Tamimi said it would be a "grave mistake" for the Malaysian government to sell national institutions to "a Zionist entity or an entity that supports Zionism".

"The least that the Malaysians can do for Palestine is to boycott companies, firms, or institutions that aid Israel in its genocide against the Palestinians. Short of this, How can one call themselves supporters? Supporters in what sense?" he asked.

Tamimi, who has published extensive studies on the Palestinian resistance movements, said it was pointless to show sympathy for the Palestinian people while supporting Israel's war chest.

"If you are praying for us, but at the same time you're pouring aid into the pockets of those who are slaughtering us, then what's the point of that prayer? It's meaningless," he said.

Tamimi cited Turkey as an example of a Muslim government that has betrayed Palestine alongside Arab states by maintaining relations with Israel or supporting the Zionist state through commercial activities.

"Until recently, the first seven months of this genocide in Gaza, Turkey was the main supplier of Israel of vegetables and fruits.

"Imagine, when Israel was having problems producing its food stuff, Turkey jumped in because of the incentive of profit and rescued the Zionists. It's just terrible."


Meanwhile, a prominent Japanese human rights scholar expressed his shock that the Malaysian government plan.

Saul Takahashi, a human rights professor at Osaka Jogakuin University, said it is "unconscionable" that the Malaysian government is considering the deal.

"BlackRock is a major funder of the US militaryindustrial complex and an enabler of the Israeli genocide that is taking place in Palestine right before our eyes even as we speak. The CEO of BlackRock is also a well known and outspoken supporter of the Zionist apartheid regime.

"That the Malaysian government would even consider doing this is particularly shocking, given the government's strong support -- at least stated support- for the Palestinian cause over many years," said Takahashi, who was deputy head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Occupied Palestine.

Anwar has so far dismissed the protests against BlackRock's involvement, just as he defended the participation of US arms companies that supported the Israeli military at a defence exhibition organised by the Malaysian government last month.

The Defence Services Asia and National Security Asia trade fairs in Kuala Lumpur also included Lockheed Martin, the defence contractor in which BlackRock holds a 7.4% stake.

BlackRock is also the second largest shareholder in McDonald's Corp and Starbucks, the fast food and coffee chains that are also targets of the global anti-Israel boycott movement, including in Malaysia.

Tamimi said Malaysia should not take the position that it stands to benefit economically in the plan.

"It's nonsense. Where are our values? Where are our principles?"

He said he is aware that in politics, pragmatism is "sometimes needed" where principles and values are ignored.

"But this is not acceptable in a situation like the one in which we are, when this genocide is continuing without an end in view."

The same argument is used by Muslim regimes to justify their dealings with Israel, he said.

"(They say) it's a business, it's for our benefit, it's for our economy. Anybody that does something wrong, they can find a means of justifying what they are doing."

"Imagine that if from day number one, Turkey refused to come to the aid of the Israelis, and if Turkey and the other Arab countries like Jordan, Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan had threatened to sever diplomatic relations with Israel, probably the genocide would not have lasted this long in Gaza."

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