Haniyeh meets Malaysian PM with history of anti-Semitism, thanks him for support
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Haniyeh meets Malaysian PM with history of anti-Semitism, thanks him for support

Hamas says its chief spoke with Mahatir Mohamad about the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and restrictions on movement into and out of Gaza Strip

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

In this file photo taken on January 23, 2018 Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh delivers a speech in Gaza City (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
In this file photo taken on January 23, 2018 Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh delivers a speech in Gaza City (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh met Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday and spoke highly to him of Malaysia’s positions on Israel and the Palestinians, according to the terror group.

Haniyeh touched down in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday after visiting Iran, Oman, Turkey and Qatar over the past several weeks.

“A number of important issues related to the Palestinian cause were discussed in the meeting,” a report on Hamas’s official website said. “Haniyeh praised Malaysia’s progressive positions in support of Palestinian rights — whether in the [UN] Security Council or [other] international political forums.”

The Hamas chief also said that Malaysia’s stances demonstrate “a natural understanding of the Palestinian cause,” the report on Hamas’s website stated.

Malaysia has often condemned Israel over its military activities in the Gaza Strip, supported UN resolutions critical of Israeli policies and announced in January 2019 that it would bar Israelis from participating in any sporting competitions in its territory.

Haniyeh’s meeting with the Malaysian prime minister comes after a delegation of Hamas officials, including the terror group’s Moussa Abu Marzouk, sat down with him in the Malaysian capital in December.

Mohamad has come under fire on more than one occasion for comments he has made about Jews. In June 2016, he claimed that “the Jews are ruling the world by proxy” and that “America is very much under Jewish influence.”

In September 2018, he told students at Columbia University in New York City: “Why is it that I can’t say something against the Jews, when a lot of people say nasty things about me, about Malaysia? I didn’t protest, I didn’t demonstrate.”

At least for part of his meeting with Haniyeh, Mohamad wore a checkered scarf emblazoned with Hamas’s emblem that the Hamas chief gave him, a series of pictures showed. 

Haniyeh and Mohamad discussed “the dangers and challenges facing Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” the Hamas report added.

Hamas has consistently condemned Israel for allowing Jews to visit the Temple Mount, a site revered by followers of Judaism and Islam. Muslims refer to it as the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The terror group has also accused Israel of attempting to “Judaize” the Temple Mount, which is largely administered by the Waqf, a Jordanian-supported institution that manages Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

Jews are barred from praying at the Temple Mount under longstanding arrangements between Israel and Muslim authorities known as the “status quo.” But in recent years Israeli religious nationalists have stepped up visits to the site and made efforts to pray there.

The Palestinians view such visits as provocations, and have expressed concerns that Israel intends to take over the site or partition it. The Israeli government, however, has repeatedly said it has no intention of changing the arrangements.

Haniyeh and Mohamad also spoke about “efforts to break the siege on the Gaza Strip,” the Hamas report said.

Israel maintains many restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza. Israeli officials maintain that the limitations seek to prevent terror groups in the coastal enclave from importing weapons or the means to build them.

For most of the last decade, Egypt also imposed heavy restrictions on the movement of people and goods. More recently, however, Egyptian authorities have permitted many Palestinians in Gaza to travel through the Rafah crossing and import some goods by way of its borders.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since it ousted the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority from the territory in 2007.

In December, Haniyeh traveled beyond the Gaza Strip and Egypt for the first time since he assumed the top Hamas post in May 2017. He has yet to return to the coastal enclave or Egypt since he left.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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