Reply from Singapore authorities on their Israeli delegation trip

14 Dec

Weeks after sending emails to AMP and the Singapore authorities, I finally received a reply from Mr Zulkifli, the Senior Parliamentary Secretary, who led a delegation trip to Israel. (read this on the logic of why Singapore should not remain mum on this issue)

In his email reply, the Minister reiterated Singapore’s stance on a ‘two state solution’ with regards to Israel and Palestine. He also mentioned Singapore’s support at promoting Palestinian economic development and capacity, including ‘a special S$1 million technical assistance package to train up to 100 Palestinian officials at the Paris Donors Conference in December 2007’.

While no one is doubting this support, which can only be welcomed, the reply is far from satisfactory.

The Minister has yet to answer my question on whether the Singapore delegation had raised the issue on Israel’s imposition of an economic blockade on Gaza. A simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ followed by ‘why’ would have sufficed. Given the nature of the reply, I am now convinced that the delegation has not asked their host this issue of pertinent importance.

In his email reply, Mr Zulkifli also reiterates the Singapore’s government belief in adherence to ‘international law’ when it comes to issues with regards to the Occupied Territories. As such, they should also be acutely aware that the economic blockade of Gaza is in violation of international law.

In a report to the UN Human Rights Council dated 21 January this year, John Dugard, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories wrote:

… It is highly arguable that Israel has violated the most fundamental rules of international humanitarian law, which constitute war crimes in terms of article 147of the Fourth Geneva Convention and article 85 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Additional Protocol I). These crimes include direct attacks against civilians and civilian objects, and attacks which fail to distinguish between military targets and civilians and civilian objects (articles 48, 51 (4) and 52 (1) of Protocol I); the excessive use of force arising from disproportionate attacks on civilians and civilian objects (articles 51 (4) and 51 (5) of Protocol I); and the spreading of terror among the civilian population (article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and article 51 (2) of Protocol I). (p.12).

Furthermore,

… Israel’s siege of Gaza violates a whole range of obligations under both human rights law and humanitarian law. The provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that state that everyone has the right to “an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing”, freedom from hunger and the right to food (art. 11) and that everyone has the right to health, have been seriously infringed. Above all, the Government of Israel has violated the prohibition on collective punishment of an occupied people contained in article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The indiscriminate and excessive use of force against civilians and civilian objects, the destruction of electricity and water supplies, the bombardment of public buildings, the restrictions on freedom of movement, the closure of crossings and the consequences that these actions have upon public health, food, family life and the psychological well-being of the Palestinian people constitute a gross form of collective punishment… (p. 12- 13).

Given the seriousness of the humanitarian crises, I strongly urge the Singapore government to take up this matter as and when to the best of their abilities and when circumstances permit. Elected ministers should raise this issue in their delegation trips.

Now, if only the AMP would give me a satisfactory reply.

===
Enclosed is the e-mail reply from the Ministry Delegation:

Dear Mr Tan,

Thank you for your email on my delegation’s visit to Israel.

Singapore has always taken a principled and even-handed position on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.  Like all members of the international community, Singapore wants to see peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.

Singapore has also consistently maintained a principled position in the UN and other international fora on Israeli-Palestinian issues.  For example, while we do not support any views that question Israel’s right to exist, we also recognise that the Palestinians have legitimate concerns.  As a small state, Singapore attaches great importance to upholding the rule of international law.

We have also consistently supported efforts at promoting Palestinian economic development and capacity.  For example, we had pledged a special S$1 million technical assistance package to train up to 100 Palestinian officials at the Paris Donors Conference in December 2007.  We had also pledged specific technical and capacity building courses under our Singapore Cooperation Programme at the New Asia Africa Strategic Partnership (NAASP) Ministerial Conference on Capacity Building for Palestine in Jakarta in July 2008.  Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Balaji Sadasivan had represented Singapore at both Conferences.  Such support has not gone unnoticed by the Palestinians.  Copies of the statements Dr Balaji made at the Paris Donors and NAASP Conferences are also attached for your information.

Singapore has always been clear about our support for a two state solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security.  To this end, we have supported international efforts to find a peaceful and just settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.  We will also continue to do what we can, within our limited resources, to support these efforts.

Yours Sincerely,
Enc.

Masagos Zulkifli
Senior Parliamentary Secretary

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2 Responses to “Reply from Singapore authorities on their Israeli delegation trip”

  1. joe December 14, 2008 at 4:16 pm #

    This is the usual sh*t. Beat around the bush when the “real” answers are not “politically advantageous” to their own well-being. The red tape to come out with his reply must be very long.

  2. Sgizh December 16, 2008 at 1:17 am #

    If Singapore is sincere about finding a peaceful and just settlement to the dispute, maybe they should stop selling arms, and any defense partnerships with the Israelis.

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