Israel’s secret service plans to strike in countries that host, finance and train Hamas officials, and Malaysia is one of the targeted locations.
This is disputed and unproven. Malaysian security experts say the information is not credible and the claim was timed to cause alarm.
A viral video claiming that Israel’s secret service plans to strike in countries that “host, finance and train” Hamas officials has caused much alarm. In the video, a man shows a website purportedly reporting that Iran, Turkey, Qatar and Malaysia are among the targeted locations.
Hamas is a Palestinian nationalist and Islamist movement dedicated to the establishment of an independent Islamic state in historical Palestine.
Faqcheck Lab spoke to national security experts Bunn Nagara, senior fellow at ISIS Malaysia; Dr Ahmad El-Muhammady, associate fellow at International Centre for Counter-Terrorism; and political risk analyst, Aizat Shamsuddin for this report.
Discrediting the source
In reviewing the video, all three security experts focused on the source of the claims and its lack of credibility.
“It is of questionable reliability because no source or any origin of that information is mentioned. No names or anything,” said Bunn Nagara. “And, of course, the video blog itself is not known for any accurate or reliable political analysis.”
Aizat Shamsuddin echoed this, pointing out that neither the writer nor the person reviewing the video provided any primary sources to back their claims. He cautioned Malaysian to be wary of such videos and to not “jump to conclusions” when seeing “these kinds of news”, as widespread sharing of content from unreliable sources could cause unnecessary alarm.
In the viral video, a voice who identifies himself as “Paul” reads: “According to the information broadcast by Israeli television, the Israeli Secret Services will strike in countries such as Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Malaysia, countries that host, finance, and train Hamas officials.”
Searches by FCL found no official news from the Israeli government announcing strikes against targets in any of the countries listed in the video or article.
Malaysia has been an ardent supporter of the Palestinian struggle. It is no surprise to Dr Ahmad El-Muhammady that many Malaysians are alarmed that an assassination may take place in their country.
“Palestinians also are allowed to come and study in Malaysia, including to work, and raise funds,” he said, adding that Hamas has a good relationship with the Malaysian government, and the Malaysian public widely supports the Palestinians.
“This support is driven by a sense of sympathy, religious belief, humanitarian and moral reason,” said Dr Ahmad.
Aizat agreed, adding that Malaysia’s history of supporting Hamas is especially strong among the Malay-Muslim community.
During the recent Israel-Palestine crisis that broke out in May, the Palestinian Cultural Organisation Malaysia (PCOM) credited Malaysian social media users for helping to change the international perception of Israel with their widespread support for the Palestine cause. [NST]
However, Dr Ahmad warned that Malaysia has a history of being used as a “third country of operation” by foreign governments. He cited the assassinations of North Korean Kim Jong-Nam on 13 February 2017, and the more recent assassination of Palestinian engineer and Hamas member, Dr Fadi Mohamad Al-Batsh on 21 April 2018.
“Israel secret service has a reputation of conducting clandestine mission overseas, including assassination as part of its strategy to eliminate ‘enemies’ who pose direct threat to the security of Israel,” Dr Ahmad explained. “Thus, pursuing and eliminating Hamas officials inside or outside the country is not a new thing to the Israel secret service. “
But Dr Ahmad said Malaysians need not worry. He explained that the extent of Malaysia’s support for Hamas and Palestine is “limited to moral support, education, financial, and diplomatic leverage.”
Bunn agreed, adding that the claims in the video were timed to create panic by riding on the volatility of the recent conflict escalation.
“Another possibility is that this source for the video… could be scaring countries like Malaysia, along with others like Turkey and so on, for supporting or sympathising with the Palestinians, such as Hamas,” said Bunn.
Beware of false narratives
In analysing the content of the video and the claims made by the supposed source site, the security experts called on Malaysians to be wary of untrustworthy sources spreading disinformation.
Aizat encouraged the public to review the source of any content before sharing it, especially when it triggers fear.
Bunn added that the person in the video may also have been fooled into believing the content was genuine.
“Don’t panic. And beware of alarmist news by critically checking on the accuracy and truthfulness of information going round on social media. Apply higher standards for sources of info. Nowadays any idiot can start rumours going around the world with just a few clicks.”
Xiamen University Malaysia: Siew Tong En, Liu Zihan, Sean Elijah Tan & Dr Jeyasushma A/P Veeriah
University of Nottingham Malaysia: Nur Ain Nabila, Muhammad Farhan Shahmi Abdullah, Joshua Ng, Noor Alia Abrar Bestari Abrar, Tan Zhi Ying & Gayathry Venkiteswaran
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia: Nurul Ain, Seri Haidah, Nur Raihan, Yazlin Yahaya, Ravivarma Muniandy & Dr Sabariah Mohamed Salleh