Why is Singapore pro-Zionist?

The other day, a media academic mentioned in passing that our mainstream media hardly ever carry features about the plight of Palestinians. On the other hand, the Israeli ambassador to Singapore was recently accorded an op-ed page in the Straits Times. How many ambassadors get that privilege?

The academic’s remarks validated a vague feeling I have had for some time. And I too had thought it a little strange to see the Israeli ambassador given so much space.

I surf for international news. I also read the Straits Times fairly regularly. When I’m surfing, I see plenty of stories about Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and dire conditions imposed on Palestinians. But when I open the Straits Times, such stories are extremely rare. Why do our editors think them not newsworthy?

This is not to say that there is a blackout. Whenever a bomb is launched or a major raid conducted, the news – a wire service report – is carried. But there is an absence of feature articles describing the situation on a day-to-day basis and analysing Israeli motives, and in their absence, people are left with the impression that Palestinians are always fighting and Israel is justified in taking its harsh measures.

To illustrate what I mean by missing features, let me name three good articles you can read online, all dated within the past day or two. Two are from the BBC and one from Aljazeera.

The first is about the severe economic blockade that Israel has imposed on Gaza. Details of Gaza blockade revealed in court case describes how Israel goes about making life miserable for Palestinians in Gaza. A long list of items that make life livable, that make an economy run, are banned. Even the spice cinnamon is banned, let alone construction materials  Palestinians need to repair their homes. Moreover, the list of banned items is kept secret and approvals for exceptions arbitrarily made.  One sees an attempt to inflict psychological despair, through heightening anxiety in the populace, in addition to material deprivations. But there’s also a list showing minimum calorific needs. This suggests a careful if callous policy of depriving the Palestinians as much as possible without tipping the situation over into mass starvation, which would attract too much bad press. But short of that, Israel is out to reduce Gazans  to mere subsistence. Is this not a crime against humanity?

The second story I want to highlight is also about Gaza, but is a human interest story. Gazan surfers brace the sewage is about young men who enjoy surfboarding. They have plenty of time to practise their art, because most cannot find any work. The unemployment rate is more 40 percent. But the surfboards they use are 15 years old. Import of new ones is banned by Israel. Is this not ridiculous?

From Aljazeera is Israel’s big and small apartheids. This one looks more into Israel proper itself, in particular the way it treats its own citizens who happen to be Arab. It is a shocking read. The racism mandated by the state would put Israel in the international doghouse if not for the unfailing support of the United States and the silence of countries such as Singapore.

Do read these stories, and ask why our government-friendly media do not think Singaporeans should be seeing them.

I believe that Israel has a right to exist — provided it is a state that respects universal standards of human rights, both towards its own citizens (including Arab citizens) and with respect to people living under its occupation. But right now, I think it is failing these tests badly, and one could argue that if it continues like this, it should forfeit its right to exist.

However, Israel has no right to inflict its Zionist aims on the Palestinians, and by this I mean a continued, heavy-handed occupation, building new settlements and evicting Palestinians from their private property. On top of that, Israel is clearly unwilling to show any good faith to negotiate towards an independent Palestinian state. The Palestinians have an equal right to their own state on contiguous territory, within secure borders. It is the longings of Zionism that denies them that right, and Singapore should have no truck with that.

Last Saturday, I attended a concert by David D’Or, an Israeli counter-tenor. He and his band gave a charity concert with all proceeds going to the Tzu Chi Foundation, a Buddhist-inspired mission. It was very uplifting to see hands stretch across borders in compassion. It also reminded me, for all the errors of the Israeli state and the intransigence of perhaps the majority of Israeli voters, there are plenty of private citizens who represent different ideals. However much we abhor the actions of the state, we don’t brand all Israelis with the same iron.

But why does Israel brand all Palestinians alike, and subject them to decades of dehumanising treatment? Why by our media’s silence, are Singaporeans not informed of it? Why do we not hear our own government speak up?

11 Responses to “Why is Singapore pro-Zionist?”


  1. 1 quitter 4 May 2010 at 02:06

    Sg is pro-Zionist because it has always aligned itself with the powerful rather than the disenfranchised. This is reminiscent of its stance towards the Chinese govt vs the Tibetans or the Uyghurs. In fact, I would argue that a ‘might makes right’ kind of political philosophy underlies how Sg conducts its own government and affairs.

  2. 2 Overseas Singaporean 4 May 2010 at 09:49

    2 reasons. Firstly, the PAP (notice I use PAP and not Singapore) sees Singapore as owing a debt of gratitude to Israel their assistance in setting up the nascent SAF during the 1960s-70s. And the strong defence relationship continues to this day. Its PAP policy that we do not criticize friends, even if they are doing the devil’s work. And expecting quid pro quo.

    Secondly, (and I’m guessing this) they do not want Singaporean Muslims to read and see too much about the plight of their co-religionists and stir up any anger which might distract them for contributing to the economy.

  3. 3 Alan Wong 4 May 2010 at 10:46

    I was just thinking why would the USA support Israel in the continued occupation of Palestine for years and as a result, antagonise the whole Muslim world to the extent that the Americans now have to live their daily lifes under the constant threat of terrorist attacks from the Muslim extremists.

    To put it simply, the American Leaders are just plain stupid to have created such a big problem at home for themselves. Is it just too heavy a price to pay for supporting an unjust cause ?

    I just hope that our Singapore leaders likewise would not be that stupid enough to create a similar problem at home.

  4. 4 George 4 May 2010 at 16:59

    Alex,
    Do you also notice that almost without fail movies relating to the sufferings of the Jews during WW2 would be made by Hollywood every other year?

    So taken together that charity bit by the Israeli tenor is part and parcel of the worldwide propaganda machinery of the govt of Israel?

  5. 5 Robin Yassin-Kassab 4 May 2010 at 22:25

    PACBI – a coalition of Palestinian civil society groups – have called for BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions on the apartheid state. This includes a cultural boycott, just as was done with apartheid South Africa. It would be great if you adhered to this non-violent struggle.

    Israel was founded on massive ethnic cleansing and survives through repeated massacre. It is shameful for any Asian people to support or have normal relations with a settler colonial state.

    Forget about the two-state solution (the Palestinians getting some bits of 28% of their country) – it isn’t going to happen. Talk about two states is designed simply to obscure the apartheid reality of Israel-Palestine. By the way, I have no problem with the Israeli Jews staying in Palestine, but as equals, not as colonial masters. http://qunfuz.com/2009/02/15/four-solutions/

  6. 6 Overseas Singaporean 5 May 2010 at 07:09

    Alan, you’re right. The continued unwavering support (although less so under Obama) for Israel has cost the US a lot of goodwill and made a lot of people disappointed and angry. The reason for that support can be traced to the powerful (i.e rich and well connected) Jewish lobby (led by organisations like AIPAC – Google them) in the US, who fund in generous amounts the re-election campaigns of politicians across the political divide and have apologists in positions of power (press, academia) who will continue to spin stories in support Israel’s racist apartheid in the Holy Land.

    To back up the carrot, there is a very big stick as well. When anyone in any position of power (politicians, journalists and academics) dares to criticise the policies of Israel, the abovementioned lobby will train its guns on the person, a favourite term bandied will be “anti-semitic” and they’ll also remind everyone of how they suffered under the Holocaust (as if that somehow gives them the right to do unto the Palestinians). The Lobby has also been known to get such critics fired and ostracised, often with astroturfing campaigns to the critic’s employers.

  7. 7 charlie 8 May 2010 at 06:20

    I have been a resident of Canada for about 30 years. It appears to me that the American Jews are financially strong to allow them to make contributions to numerous politicians, and it also appear that they either control or exercise control over media and/or the movie industry. Otherwise, there is no logical reason for the USA to continuously support the State of Israel since its founding.

  8. 8 Helix 12 May 2010 at 14:25

    Adding to the strong jewish lobby, there is a group of literalist christians who believe literally notion such as all jews should return to the holy land ultimately. They should also prepare the land for the return of the Messiah. An example of such people are Pat Robertson who nearly got elected as the US president.

  9. 9 ikhwan 24 June 2010 at 00:46

    i won’t asked to singapore people please don’t support israel(zionist) i won’ singapore people please support palestine please…… thank you

    from ikhwan , malaysia

  10. 10 Greg 16 January 2011 at 03:42

    I’m sure Singapore values its friendship with Israel. Let us remember, the Palestinian “plight” is largely self-created. Clinton negotiated a deal to give them 98-99 percent of what they wanted and Arafat turned them down flat, for some mythical “right of return” and because for him it is better to play the victim.

  11. 11 Mylene Chen 16 July 2011 at 02:20

    Singapore recognizing Palestine is very unlikely. It has long been considered as the Israel of Southeast Asia, because of its small size, highly developed economy, non-Muslim majority population, and complicated relations with its Muslim neighbors. Think of Malaysia and Indonesia as the Arab States. Then you’ll see why Singapore is so supportive of Israel.

    Malaysia and Indonesia have long tried to convince Singapore to switch recognitions before, but have miserably failed each time.


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