OP-ED: The Israel-Palestine Conflict, and Pritam Singh’s Dangerous Political Game

On 18 Oct, the WP issued a media statement on the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. It should be noted that in their statement, the WP took a pro-Hamas position. The WP failed to condemn the atrocities committed by Hamas on 7 Oct.

Interestingly, the WP referred to Hamas’ actions on 7 Oct 2023 as a “military operation,” instead of outrightly acknowledging it as an act of terrorism. Hamas is a terrorist organisation that has conducted acts of senseless and wanton violence against innocent civilians in Israel, and has routinely used innocent Palestinians as human shields in their operations against Israel. These acts of terror cannot be justified under any rationale.

The WP’s choice of words in their statement suggests that they believe Hamas’ actions are more legitimate or more acceptable than Israel’s, even though both sides have been responsible for significant injustice inflicted on the other party over the years.

Bias at play for political mileage?

The Leader of the Opposition, Pritam Singh, has also been very active on his Threads account. He has been sharing many articles that are critical of Israel and the US, while remaining silent on Hamas’ atrocities. Pritam Singh has been quick to express outrage about the killing of Palestinians by the Israelis, but he has struggled to be equally clear about valuing Israeli lives lost due to Hamas’ actions. One can come to a reasonable conclusion that Pritam Singh is pro-Hamas.

Why did WP leave certain things out in their statement, and why have they failed to condemn Hamas’ violence against innocent civilians? Why has Pritam Singh focused his attention solely on Israel’s actions?

The answer is clear. Pritam Singh is playing a dangerous political game. He is milking an external geo-political situation for political mileage, to appeal to segments of the population that are more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. He is doing this to win votes, at the cost of eroding Singapore’s social fabric.

This is not what Mr Low Thia Khiang would have done. Mr Low always placed Singapore’s interests first and foremost, and did not deviate from the government’s position with it comes to foreign policy. Pritam Singh is setting Singapore politics on a dangerous path.

Singapore’s official stance

The Singapore government has taken a principled on this issue. We have voted in favour of the UN General Assembly resolution calling for the protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations in Gaza. But we have also strongly condemned Hamas’ acts of terror, and called for the immediate, unconditional, and safe release of all civilians taken hostage by Hamas. We have also acknowledged Israel’s right to defend its citizens and territory, but it must be in compliance with international law and not impose collective punishment.

We should do what is sensible for Singapore. While we cannot blindly accept all actions taken by Israel, we should remember that Israel has been a friend to Singapore. They came to our aid in 1965 when we became independent and helped us build up the Singapore Armed Forces when other countries ignored our request for assistance. As a small country, we should not let emotions lead us to advocate positions that erode the principle of the right to self-defence in a way that could one day rebound against ourselves. We must take a firm stand against terrorism. The rhetoric generated by this conflict has direct security implications in our region. We do not have to look far – viral videos from Malaysia showing teachers parading before young students, bearing mock firearms and waving flags is a case in point.

Political opportunism

When it comes to external issues, we should close ranks instead engaging in political opportunism. Singaporeans must make sure that our reactions to these external events do not divide us. We cannot take for granted the peace, and racial and religious harmony that we enjoy today. We should call out these forms of dangerous political opportunism. And Pritam Singh should know better; those who play with fire often perish by it.

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Data: Singapore has consistently voted against Israel in the UN