Vanity definitely a favourite sin!

By making herself available to this medallion, at a time when the US foreign policy is abetting and assisting in the savage genocide of Israel, is nothing but...

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Published by AstroAwani & SinarDaily, image by AstroAwani

While due compliments should be paid to Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh, for receiving the highest civilian accolade in the United States, thus adding one more proverbial feather to the cap of Malaysia, as a veteran actress across various genres, she should have paused to wonder if the occasion was befitting to accept it with full ceremony and pomp?

The Presidential Medal of Honor is reserved for those who have contributed to the security and civilian life of the US. Yet it is anything but.

The likes of Susan Sarandon and John Cussack have been vocally against the war, nay, the Genocide, in Gaza since the massive retaliation of Israel against the hapless 2.7 million population of Gaza, of which 80 percent of them have become Internally Displaced Persons (IDP).

In Khan Younis, an area considered to be predominantly conservative, with Muslims and Christians living side by side, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has pummelled the place to smithereens. 

In fact, beyond the ghastly number of those who continue to be maimed and murdered on a daily basis over the last 7 months, leading the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to proclaim 16 vs 1, that South Africa does have a strong basis to pursue a provisional case against Israel on the charge of “plausible genocide,” against the Gazans, more than 80 percent of Gaza has been destroyed.

That seems to be insufficient to the Israeli Defense Forces. While there is constant chatter of more hostages being released, the reverse is also true. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to insist, with much bravado and braggadocio, that Israel will invade Rafah.

But there is 1.7 million IDP cloistered in this narrow enclave; of which 70 percent are women and children. Indeed, half of the population of Gaza are under the age of 16.  

More than anything else, the very reason why the abominable plight of Gaza has roiled some of  the best  universities in the US —- not just the world alone —- is that it has touched a raw nerve in the hearts of many Americans too.

Muslims and non Muslims alike in the US are clamouring for a “ceasefire” and a collective effort to compel their universities to “divest” from any Israeli companies that have anything to do with the diabolical massacre in Gaza, an area measuring 5 miles wide to 22 miles long in all. 

Given the gravity of the situation in Gaza, with the specter of Israel’s continued aggression drawling the US into yet another quagmire, Michelle Yeoh should have asked her fandom in and across the world if she should have received the award ? 

Not only did she fail to do that, she beamed and glowed on the night of the award, with other medalists in attendance, when President Joe Biden placed the pendant around her neck. 

To be sure, Michelle Yeoh has the right to accept the award. But to parade in front of the crowds of thousands, if not millions on national TV, that she was one of few lucky recipients to be given the rare honor, was beguiling to say the least. 

Michelle Yeoh is not short of awards. With the Oscar with which she received last year in Hollywood as one of her crowning achievements. Michelle Yeoh could have stopped there to focus on her film career and global humanitarian work. 

By making herself available to this medallion, at a time when the US foreign policy is abetting and assisting in the savage genocide of Israel, is nothing but unbecoming. 

First and foremost, Michelle Yeoh always claimed that she is proud to be a Malaysian. But as a Malaysian, the likes of her should have known better —- that the very act of being  celebrated as a starlet should have stopped at the water’s edge. 

Secondly, while receiving the distinction of being one of the rare few to so honored is nothing but a sheer joy. But when the airwaves are redolent with calls of “Genocidal Joe,” not least a moniker pinned on President Joe Biden himself, brings about a moral odium that is at once ugly and grotesque. 

How can an American President continue to give out awards to various dignitaries born in the US and abroad when the butchery of Israel in Gaza has yet to be stopped.

Thirdly, those who are laid dead and murdered by the ever encroaching famine in Gaza are acquiring a momentum and trajectory that are simply tragic beyond descriptions. Stories of some family members losing more than 240 people in their extended family is not a trivial matter. 

In fact, the President Lula Da Silvio of Brazil referred to the bloodbath in Gaza as a “second Holocaust.”  The likes of Bolivia, Turkey and South Africa have ended their diplomatic and trade relationship with Israel. 

Having once played the role of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar, another country that lies in complete ruins, Michelle Yeoh should have the alacrity and the mindfulness to remember the perished irrespective of where they are. In accepting the award, without any scruples and qualms, one could only hope that the ignominy of her choice would not reflect just as badly on Malaysians and non Malaysians who have always rooted for yet. 

Granted that theatre can mimic life, no matter how flawed the performance is, Michelle Yeoh’s volutional willingness to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with President Biden, cannot be anything but a naked showcase of sheer debauchery. A depraved act of how the powers-that-be first reached out, only than to subvert one of Malaysia’s most decorated daughters in the world of celluloid and movie making. 

Meanwhile, only last week, an Israeli tank ran over a pregnant Palestinian woman, back and forth, and back and forth, until the foetus came out of her body. This is just one of the thousands and thousands of stories.

There are 50,000 pregnant women in the Gaza Strip, according to the United Nations, and more than 180 births taking place every day.

The complete breakdown of the healthcare system, coupled with a lack of food, clean water and proper sanitation means that 50,000 pregnant women and 68,000 breastfeeding mothers in Gaza are facing the risk of pre-eclampsia, anemia, bleeding, infections and death.

And even when they give birth, there isn’t enough fuel to keep incubators running, which results in deaths of many newborns. Premature births have also increased by 30 percent, as stressed and traumatized pregnant women face many challenges such as walking long distances in search of safety, running away from bombs, and being crowded in unsafe shelters.

And there’s now a significant increase in miscarriages, congenital abnormalities, stillbirths, mental health disorders, and maternal deaths.

And now, there is no space left for newborns and not enough medical staff to care for them, thus resulting in newborns being grouped together and being abandoned for hours on end.

On oft-repeated Israeli hostages, the US are asking for the release of their hostages, without a mention of the over 12,000 Palestinian hostages being held, a majority of which are held without charge or due process including children and women.

The redemption for Michelle Yeoh, is to be the first person in the world to return the Medal of Freedom back to the land of the unfree. Will she, won’t she ? That is not for anyone to judge. However if she values peace, freedom and human dignity, not as mere mantra, the choice ahead of her is clear. More than clear.

Dr Rais Hussin is the Founder of EMIR Research, a think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

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