The Mossad Saga And The Israel-Malaysia Relationship

On 28 March 2024, Malaysia’s Inspector-General of Police made a surprise announcement of the capture of an Israeli national in Ampang, raising eyebrows and the question on almost everyone’s lips: Is he a Mossad operative?

When the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Tan Sri Razarudin Husain, made the surprise announcement of the capture of an Israeli man in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, on 28 March 2024, the country was abuzz with questions galore, considering that Israel’s genocide of Palestinians is drawing the world attention to the atrocities. Whether he is a Mossad operative is something everyone is asking.

Considering that Malaysia does not recognise the Zionist state of Israel, the man’s presence in Malaysia definitely raised eyebrows. A further revelation was that when the police arrested the man, Shalom Avitan, they found in his possession six pistols and 200 rounds of ammunition. The revelation sparked further questions about whether he was an Israeli Mossad operator on an assassination mission.

The IGP, in his press conference, also revealed that Shalom Avitan had confessed that he was trying to kill another Israeli man who had come into Malaysia for hiding after trying to kill Shalom, or his family members, with a grenade attack in Tel Aviv. The police have since arrested three other persons, all Malaysians, suspected of supplying the firearms to the Israeli man.

Before we delve deeper into the story, here is some background for a better context.

Israeli – Malaysia ‘Non-Existent’ Relationship

History

In June 1948, Malaya was reeling under the threat of a communist uprising. Suspected communist agents had executed three British planters in Sungai Siput, with two other planters narrowly escaping from the killing squad. The failure to prevent the communist uprising saw the Colonial Office recalling Sir Edward Gent to London. He died as his plane crashed into another plane while attempting to land in London. 

The Colonial Office appointed Sir Henry Gurney to replace Sir Edward Gent as the High Commissioner of Malaya. 

Sir Henry Gurney was a Foreign Office veteran. He was previously the High Commissioner of the British Mandate in Palestine. There, he failed to stem the Jewish uprising led by the Haganah, the Irgun, and the Stern gang. It was during his time as the High Commissioner that the tragic Deir Yassin massacre occurred on 9 April 1948. More than a hundred Arab civilians died in the massacre. Israeli records blamed him for instigating the Arabs against Israelis, while in Malaysia, some writers reviled him as the architect behind the Zionist expansion in Palestine, leading to the Nakba.  

As the British exited Palestine, not only did Sir Henry Gurney lose his job, but hundreds of former British Mandate police officers, too, lost their jobs. 

With his eventual appointment as the High Commissioner of Malaya, he appointed Colonel William Nicol Gray, a former British Mandate Police officer, as the Malayan Chief of Police. At least 200 hundred experienced police officers followed him to beef up the Malayan Police Force that took the fight to the communist insurgents. 

Ascension into the United Nations

When the British finally decided to grant independence to Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman revealed in his book that Israel was amongst the earliest countries to support its admission into the United Nations. However, he did not pursue any further approach with the Tel Aviv regime as he saw their mistreatment of the Arabs. Therefore, Malaysia never established any diplomatic relationship with Israel. 

Diplomacy

Despite not recognising Israel, Israelis have entered Malaysia on many occasions. Many Israeli tourists have flaunted their visits to Kuala Lumpur on social media. Nusier Yassin of the Nas Daily is the most infamous of these Israelis, who entered Malaysia using a Caribbean passport

On one occasion, the Malaysian government allowed Israelis to attend sporting events. In 1997, then Prime Minister Tun Mahathir allowed an Israeli cricket team to attend a competition in Malaysia despite massive protests. However, he declined their entries when a similar opportunity presented itself in 2019 with the International Paralympics.

In 2010, two Malaysian journalists and ten other Malaysian humanitarian relief aid workers were on the MV Marmara, an international aid ship attempting to enter Gaza to provide relief aid, when Israeli Navy commandos boarded the ship, shooting dead ten Turkish activists, including an American Turkish activist. The Israelis released the Malaysian volunteers a day later after the Turkish government’s intervention. 

Economic Relationship

Despite not having any diplomatic ties, the two countries do have an underground trade. Malaysia recorded a total of USD9.99m in exports in 2021 while importing goods amounting to USD9.01m in the same period.

However, Malaysians have been at the forefront of an international attempt to boycott global companies that have traded in Israel via the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions, or BDS. 

Past Incidents 

Now that we have a bit of background of Malaysia and Israel’s relationship, we look into a couple of incidents allegedly involving Israel in the past six years. 

The Murder of Palestinian Lecturer in Setapak

In 2018, Fadi al-Batsh, a Palestinian lecturer specialising in drone technology which was continuing his studies in Malaysia, died in a hail of gunfire after two unidentified motorcyclists gunned him down at Jalan Langkawi here in Setapak. Fadi, who was also a member of Hamas, had been living in Malaysia for at least ten years before his murder. The two gunmen managed to escape. 

Last year, Hamas officials claimed that they had captured a traitor who helped Mossad target Fadi. 

The Alleged Kidnapping of a Palestinian Man in Jalan Mayang

In 2022, the New Straits Times broke the news that a team of Israeli secret agents had intercepted and kidnapped two Palestinian men. One of the Palestinian men, Omar A, under the protection of Turkish intelligence, had previously hacked into the Israeli Iron Dome system for Hamas. Days later, the police managed to release the two Palestinians, but the captors were all Malaysians

The police also called the NST editor about the news coverage, as the police claimed that the reporting had leaked some pertinent investigation details and interfered with the investigation. To date, the police have not confirmed if the kidnappers were indeed linked to Mossad. However, the Daily Sabah, a Turkiye-based media outlet, revealed that the Turkish intelligence agency, MIT, tipped off the Malaysian police force on the kidnapping and the location where the kidnappers were interrogating the Palestinian men. 

Is Shalom Avitan A Possible Mossad Agent?

Now we have a clearer picture of why Malaysian police are taking extra precautions with the suspect. There is no way that Malaysian police can verify if he is indeed just a gangster trying to kill the people who tried to kill him.

Kudos to the police for not discounting the possibility that he is an actual Mossad agent in-country to coordinate another assassination attempt. With the current atrocities that Israel is committing against Gazans, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim openly voiced out and defended the Palestinians on the international stage. Therefore, it is not too farfetched if the Israelis are trying to intimidate other countries that dared to voice out against their atrocities.  

Shalom entered Malaysia using a genuine French passport. As mentioned earlier, Israelis entering Malaysia use a different passport, as the Malaysian Immigration Department does not recognise the Israeli passport. The use of a dual citizen passport is, however, a departure from past known Mossad assassination operations overseas. Mossad had used fraudulently obtained Canadian and New Zealand passports in the past. In 2004, New Zealand expelled two Israeli men suspected of being Mossad agents for trying to obtain New Zealand passports fraudulently. 

a Composite Image of Suspected Mossad Agent Shalom Avitan's two passports with his mugshot and firearms. The Mossad's coat of arms can be seen on the left.
A composite image of suspected Mossad agent Shalom Avitans two passports with his mugshot and firearms The Mossads coat of arms can be seen on the left

Regardless of whether Shalom, the suspect, is an assassin or just a mere mobster planning to murder his compatriot who had tried to kill him earlier, Shalom is still a security threat. Every Israeli man and woman above 18 has undergone military training. Those who have served at least two years with the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) are reservists. If Shalom is here under a sanctioned IDF mission, it would be conceivable that any details coming out of Israel would cover his mission. 

Court of Justice 

Now that Shalom Avitan is under arrest, we should allow the police to complete the investigation and charge him in court. Granted, by and large, the interrogation that he has to go through and our criminal court system will not compare to what any Palestinians that IDF arrested ever had to go through. 

Last bit of thought: As someone with dual citizenship, it is interesting to note that there is no news that the French have provided any consular support. – NMH

Note: The third paragraph on the History section should read Sir Henry Gurney instead of Sir Edward Gent. Thank you to sharp-eyed reader, Mohd Asri Yusof for pointing out the error.

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