Keeping peace in the face of conflict is tough, but necessary


It is a testament to the peaceable nature of Singaporeans that we have generally understood and sympathised with the need to turn down public assemblies about the Israel-Hamas conflict, on public safety and security grounds. 

In other countries we have seen protests on the conflict break out on the streets. And as sure as night follows day, these protests are then met with counter-protests. Fights and scuffles break out.  

In extreme cases, serious injuries are caused and lives are lost. A 69 year-old man died after suffering a head injury at dueling demonstrations in Los Angeles. An Israeli staff from the Israeli Embassy in Beijing was stabbed in front of a supermarket. A teacher was fatally stabbed by a Chechen individual in France.  

The cycle continues. And meantime the war rages on and civilians suffer.  

The recent arrest of three influencer-activists who led 70 people across Orchard Road has to be understood in this light. They are free to support the Palestinian people. What they are not free to do, is organise a procession in a prohibited area.  

It is also unconscionable for opposition parties to use this issue to make political hay for themselves. The safety, security and the unity of Singaporeans, in spite of any differences, is worth so much more than scoring a few political points. 

Many Singaporeans have expressed their support for the Palestinian people. They’ve done so in dialogues and panel discussions like the Live Gaza Monologues organised by Lepak Conversations and REACH. They have given their time and money, in donation drives that make a tangible difference to the lives of Palestinian civilians.  

The Government has been consistent and principled, and committed to actions that have a chance for peace in the region, not more hostility.  

Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan stated in Parliament (2 Jul) that the PAP Government is, in principle, prepared to recognise a Palestinian state which rejects terrorism.   

As he told the media this March, “We still believe that a two-state solution is needed. Direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians to achieve a two-state solution where the two people can live in harmony, dignity, safety and security is the only long-term solution.”   

That’s why the Singapore Government has been training Palestinian officials under the Enhanced Technical Assistance Package. We are helping to build capability to govern so that the Palestinians can succeed, when the PA achieves statehood. 

Source: MINDEF

We have sent three tranches of humanitarian aid so far, including Singapore Army airdrops of over 20 tonnes of essential food packages into Gaza — enough for 60,000 meals. Singaporeans have raised over $15.5 million for civilian relief efforts.     

The Government has also made clear to the Israeli government that a humanitarian ceasefire is needed. “For avoidance of ambiguity, I am going to repeat that Israel’s military response has gone too far,” said Minister Balakrishnan to Singaporeans in March this year.     

In March, Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam intervened at once when the Israeli embassy here put up a social post which selectively pointed to religious texts to make a political point.  

Minister Shanmugam ordered the embassy to remove it; they did so immediately. He called the post out as “an astonishing attempt to rewrite history” and a risk to the safety and harmony of people in Singapore.  

“We look after the safety of everyone in Singapore — majority and minorities including Jews and Muslims,” said the Minister.  

It is with measured steps, with the welfare of all civilians in mind, both in the Middle East and in Singapore, that the PAP approaches this difficult issue of the Israel-Hamas war. This is while steadfastly aiding ordinary Palestinians in concrete, tangible ways. 

The peace and public order we have here in Singapore, is not a natural or an easy state of affairs. We have to keep working at it together. It requires us to redirect strongly-felt emotions into activities that may not have the immediate gratification of a public demonstration, but have greater positive impact in the long run.