More than 3,000 Malaysians protested on Friday against Israel’s invasion of Gaza, burning Israeli flags and effigies of US President George W. Bush.
The mainly Muslim protesters, waving Palestinian flags and chanting anti-Israel slogans, marched to the US Embassy in downtown Kuala Lumpur from a nearby mosque after Friday prayers.
They called on the US to use its influence to stop Israel’s military offensive on Gaza, which has left more than 750 people dead — at least half of them civilians, according to Gaza health officials. Thirteen Israelis have died.
Israel has defended its two-week operation, saying it wants to stop rocket attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza into Israeli territory.
“The killing continues ... We are urging the American government to demand that Israel withdraw from Gaza,” said Adnan Mohamad Tahir, an activist.
The protesters, who burned two Israeli flags and effigies of Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, dispersed after an hour.
The US abstained from a UN Security Council resolution passed on Thursday that called for a cease-fire.
Malaysia’s government, which has no diplomatic ties with Israel, has condemned Israel’s ground offensive as a “an act of total war.” On Thursday, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called for international sanctions on Israel.
In Hong Kong, several hundred people outside a mosque chanted slogans and held placards reading, “Stop the Israeli Attacks on Gaza” and “Stop Killing Children and Innocent.”
Meanwhile, a Malaysian Muslim group began a boycott of top US products on Friday as protesters demanded a halt to the Gaza conflict.
The Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia said Muslims in the Southeast Asian country would not buy goods produced by US toothpaste manufacturer Colgate-Palmolive Co, soft drink maker Coca-Cola and coffee chain Starbucks to protest US inaction against the attacks.
“We urge Muslim consumers internationally to unite so that we can teach a lesson to Israel and its allies,” Ma’amor Osman, an official with the association, told reporters in the compound of the national mosque after Friday Muslim prayers.
“This is to object to the arrogance and cruelty of Israel and its allies towards the Palestinians.”
He urged the Malaysian government to end all its contracts with US-owned firms.
The US is among Malaysia’s single largest export markets, absorbing more than a tenth of its total shipments.
More than 750 have been killed in the Gaza clashes and Israel pushed ahead with its offensive on Friday, ignoring a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire to the conflict.
The attacks have sparked angry demonstrations in countries with large Muslim populations such as Indonesia, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt.
Former premier Mahathir Mohamad urged Muslims worldwide to to stop using the US dollar.
“If enough of us do this, then the value [of the US dollar] will fall, just like what they did to us in 1997,” Mahathir said, referring to the 1997 Asian economic crisis that he blamed on currency speculators.
Mahathir urged the UN to set up a war crimes tribunal to try Israeli leaders involved in the attacks against the Palestinians.