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Singaporeans stage protest to demand end to arms trade with Israel

Between 2018 and 2022, Singapore imported arms from Israel worth US$73 million.

3 minute read
A group calling for an end to military ties with Israel unfurls a banner on a bridge in Singapore, April 15, 2024.
A group calling for an end to military ties with Israel unfurls a banner on a bridge in Singapore, April 15, 2024.

A group of Singaporeans protested peacefully in the city-state yesterday to call on the government to stop the arms trade with Israel, as part of a global day of action launched by A15 Action, a group calling on governments to end their relationships that make them complicit in the genocide in Gaza.

A spokesman for the group told MalaysiaNow in a statement that Singapore must prove that it is not complicit in Israel's genocide in Gaza, even though the government has responded with expressions of sympathy and humanitarian airdrops for the Palestinians.

"These gestures and acts of goodwill are severely undermined, and rendered meaningless if Singapore continues to enable the violence that created the need for humanitarian aid in the first place," the statement said.

The group called on Singapore's next leadership under Lawrence Wong, who is due to take over from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong next month, to halt the arms trade with Israel.

"We act today to send an unequivocal message about the dreams and concerns of Singaporeans – we do not want our nation to contribute financially to the infliction of suffering of innocent men, women, and children. Singaporeans have exhausted all other possible methods to be heard by our elected government," it said.

Singapore is one of the few countries with close military and diplomatic ties with Israel.

The island nation, which is sandwiched between giant Muslim neighbours Indonesia and Malaysia, both vocally opposed to Israel, is also said to have been patterned after Israel's security and defence system, including mandatory military training for its citizens.

Since the October attacks, the Singapore government has criticised Israel's bombing campaign in Gaza, although it has also said that Israel has a "right to self-defence".

The Israeli campaign has so far killed more than 30,000 civilians and several international genocide cases have been filed against the regime.

In November last year, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Israel must accept a Palestinian state and Palestinians in return should recognise the existence of the Jewish state.

In February, Balakrishnan criticised Israel's military response, saying it had "gone too far".

"The catastrophic situation in Gaza demands an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to alleviate the unbearable suffering of the civilian victims and to enable humanitarian assistance to reach them immediately."

Enablers of Israel's genocide

However, A15 questioned Singapore for continuing its defence ties and arms trade with Israel despite its criticism.

"Singapore has been a steadfast enabler for many years through arms sales, defence industry collaborations and long-standing bilateral relations," it said.

Between 2018 and 2022, Singapore imported arms worth a total of US$73 million from Israel, it said.

"Despite being a small country, Singapore is the tenth biggest customer of Israel’s defence industry; we’ve bought missiles, drones, tanks, and other electronic devices installed on our fighter jets and warships from Israeli weapons manufacturers like IAI and Elbit.

"Our government has chosen to invest in research and development alongside Israeli entities, and Singapore has engaged in joint ventures to develop and market weapons like anti-cruise missiles — some of which, like Matador, have been used by the Israeli Defence Force in Gaza."

Israeli arms manufacturers also took part in the Singapore Airshow this year, displaying weapons that are currently being used against Palestinians.

"It is unacceptable that Singaporeans’ hard-earned money is used to fund genocide, and that we continue to provide a platform for the perpetrators of such violence."

The group also spoke out against the restrictions placed on Singaporeans expressing outrage at Israel's genocidal campaign.

"Singaporeans have also tried to organise peaceful and lawful demonstrations at Hong Lim Park, only to be told that the authorities would be denying even this severely restricted right to freedom of assembly," it said, referring to Singapore's version of "Speakers' Corner", where opposition rallies were allowed to take place.