Why Singapore is ‘friend of all, enemy of none’ in Israel-Gaza war

Why Singapore is ‘friend of all, enemy of none’ in Israel-Gaza war

Singapore – Singapore has adopted a non-interventionist stance following the start of the war in Gaza. This is consistent with Singapore’s long-standing foreign policy, which emphasizes being “friend to all and enemy to none.”

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong stated earlier this month that Israel has the right to live within secure borders and that Singapore has “longstanding support for a two-state solution,” which he added.

According to Wong, Singapore “consistently adopts a principled stance” in support of world peace and security and international law.

The nation has vehemently denounced Hamas’ October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in 1,200 fatalities and 200 captures, as “acts of terrorism.”

The foreign ministry stated on Friday that it was “deeply concerned” about the humanitarian situation in the besieged enclave, where more than 13, 000 people have died since Israel’s bombardment started, and it has also denounced the rising death toll in Gaza.

Singapore was one of the 120 nations that voted in favor of a resolution to protect civilians, uphold legal and humanitarian obligations, andnbsp, during the UN General Assembly’s emergency session in late October.

Then, as they examine an honor guard in Ramallah, West Bank, 2016 [File: Abbas Momani/AFP], Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (left) travels with Singapore’s prime minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Political analyst and Singapore Management University (SMU) associate law professor Eugene Tan stated that Singapore’s strategy is “based on the faithful observance of international law, particularly the independence and sovereignty of nation-states.”

Tan claimed to Al Jazeera that Singaporeans’ sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians and their belief that Israel’s attacks are unjustifiable were in contradiction.

Additionally, he added, “It is also possible to support Israel’s right to defend itself and for Israel to use force to protect its legitimate interests, but I also demand that Israel respond in accordance with the laws and standards of public international law in order to ensure the safety, security, and wellbeing of civilians.”

In other words, Singapore firmly believes that Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in peace, security, and dignity. The debate in parliament showed that Singaporeans can have very strong opinions about the tragedy taking place in the Middle East while still agreeing on how Singapore should respond.

“Generally, risk averse.”

However, unlike many other nations, Singapore has not seen any public demonstrations in support of Israel or the Palestinians.

Singapore, which has a sizable ethnic Malay-Muslim minority in addition to an ethnic Indian population that is primarily of Chinese descent, has long prioritized maintaining social cohesion and religious harmony.

After breaking away from Malaysia on August 9, 1965, the city-state was established, serving as “the backdrop to Singapore’s commitment to the right to self-determination in accordance with international law,” according to Tan.

The Singapore government has argued that strong preemptive measures are required to manage the situation, citing the risk to public safety as well as security concerns, given “heightened sensitivities” surrounding the most recent conflict. This government only permits protests by citizens and only in the “Speakers’ Corner,” so-called.

Despite allowing rallies during a previous conflict in 2014, authorities rejected five applications to use the Speakers’ Corner for events related to the Israel-Hamas war in October. Additionally, it has advised people to exercise caution when supporting fundraising efforts and to refrain from publicly displaying foreign national symbols associated with the conflict.

Tan said, “I have a feeling that Hamas is responsible for the current situation, which is much more sensitive and emotive than it was in 2014. It is more important to avoid importing foreign issues because doing so will only lead to social divisions, in my opinion.

When she stumbled upon a video of thousands of Malaysians chanting for Palestine in their football stadium, Singaporean community organizer Zaris Azira was feeling helpless as she scrolled through the Gaza news on her phone.

A 2014 protest at Speakers' Corner, the only place where Singaporeans are allowed to hold protests. People are holding placards reading 'Free Palestine', 'Stop killing the children'. Some have red, white and green balloons.
Although protests were permitted in 2014, the government has now mentioned “heightened sensitivities” [File: &nbsp, Wallace Woon/EPA]

The 30-year-old was inspired to take on more tasks.

740 people registered their interest to attend the rally that Azira planned to hold at Speakers’ Corner in less than a day, indicating that “interest exploded.” Additionally, she issued a petition asking Singaporeans to call for an immediate end to the fighting in Gaza after consulting with Walid J. Abdullah, an expert on the region’s politics. It had 26, 280 signatures as of November 20.

Azira expressed disappointment over the application’s rejection but added that she wasn’t surprised because Singapore is “generally quite risk-averse as a nation, and I understand the desire to avoid any situation that could potentially spiral out of hand.”

Singaporean activism has a history of being more covert.

People have joined campaigns like the #freewatermelontoday or #weargreenforpalestine movement on social media.

A watermelon slice has come to represent Palestinian unity in photographs, and there is an underground movement calling for people to pray for Palestine at the Raffles Place MRT train station while wearing green.

“More and more people want to express their solidarity with the Palestinian people, who are daily experiencing such unspeakable horrors.” Singaporeans require a venue for peaceful, legitimate, and effective demonstration, according to Azira.

In her newsletter We The Citizens, local journalist and activist Kirsten Han voiced similar opinions, arguing that restricting the right to free speech and assembly would restrict Singaporeans’ capacity to engage in complex and significant discussions.

She referred to the warnings and restrictions as “infantilizing” and stated that “we need civil society involvement, well-facilitated discussions, opportunities to educate ourselves, and non-violent ways to organize for justice and human rights.”

The capacity to interact physically can “also be incredibly powerful in helping people process the destruction we see in the news every day,” according to Han.

Tan from SMU contends that the authorities’ decision was wise because it could “detrimentally affect our hard-earned social cohesion and harmony.”

According to him, protests can be used as fodder for rabble-rousing and social media posts, but they won’t end the conflict.

A Singapore fighter jet painted in red and white flies in the air behind a Rafael surface to air missile at the Singapore air show.
After gaining its independence, Singapore received assistance from Israel and purchased some weapons there. [File: Joseph Nair/AP Photo]

humanitarian aid

Singapore’s civil society and religious communities have focused their efforts on setting up humanitarian aid for Gaza in the absence of public protests.

Through the non-profit Rahmatan Lil Alamin Foundation (RLAF), about 6 million Singapore dollars ($4.5 million) had been donated by the general public as of November 14. Disaster relief organization Relief Singapore has issued a call for blankets and has so far received about 2,500 of them. The blankets will be delivered to the Gaza Strip, where temperatures can drop to 13C (55.4F) during the winter.

Jonathan How, director of Relief Singapore, said, “While we are aware of the politics involved in the conflict, our focus is on the most urgent humanitarian needs.” As winter draws near in a city that resembles an earthquake zone, we are aware that the vulnerable may perish from the cold. More people should come forward and offer their assistance in this crisis, we hope.

Arvind Rajanthran, an associate research fellow with the National Security Studies Programme at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University, asserts that Singapore’s national security priorities are ultimately directly related to maintaining stable relations with its closest neighbors in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to Rajanthran, Malaysia and Indonesia, two of its immediate neighbors, have “Malay-Muslim majorities that frequently experience more politically charged atmospheres due to the hostility between Israelis and Palestinians.” Large-scale protests in support of Gaza have been seen in both nations.

Therefore, it was significant that at the 10th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat on October 30, Lee Hsien Loong and Anwar Ibrahim, the prime ministers of Malaysia and Singapore, agreed that their divergent diplomatic stances on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should not have an impact on their bilateral ties, Rajanthran noted.

Singapore appears to have been able to forge long-standing good relations with both Palestine and Israel thanks to its “friend to all” foreign policy.

The prime ministers of Singapore and Malaysia during their retreat in Singapore. They are standing in front of their countries' flags.
Lee Hsien Loong (left) of Singapore and Anwar Ibrahim, the prime minister of Malaysia, both agreed that the Israel-Ghasil conflict would not have an impact on their bilateral ties.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Wong in parliament, the government has provided the Palestinian Authority, which is in charge of the occupied West Bank, with significant technical support and assistance over the years.

Meanwhile, he claimed that Israel contributed to the development of Singapore’s armed forces in its early years and that Singapore still works closely with Israel in a variety of fields, including science and technology.

Wong claimed in his speech to parliament that since the start of the Israel-Gazi conflict, regional internet traffic on hardline sites has tripled.

We have also noticed an increase in anti-Singapore rhetoric, including online threats of violence made by local extremist groups.

Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have both grown.

Eight reports of offensive remarks or actions directed at Muslims or Jews in Singapore were reported to the police in October, according to Wong. This was equivalent to the total number of police reports from January to September regarding anti-Muslim or Jewish behavior.

Political scientist Antonio Rappa, an associate professor at the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), said that because Singapore is a small state, it has “little choice” but to continue its policy of non-state interference.

Supporting Palestine would betray Israel, an “unwritten ally” of Singapore since the country’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, according to Rappa, head of the security studies program at SUSS’ business school, while siding with Israel would risk unnecessarily upsetting the local Muslim community in Singapore.

Since gaining its independence in 1965, Singapore and Israel have maintained close diplomatic ties, whereas Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei, which are predominately Muslim, do not.

Benjamin Netanyahu on a visit to Sinapore in 2017. He is walking with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Soldiers in white ceremonial dress are on one side.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, during a 2017 official visit to Singapore. [File: Joseph Nair/AP Photo]

Rappa explained that Singapore has long operated in a climate of fear due to the government’s strict controls on public rallies.

Singapore, which has a Chinese majority and is surrounded by larger, primarily Muslim nations, still exhibits the “fortress-like” mentality that is still present today and may “create some degree of tension.”

Source: Aljazeera


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