Israeli Embassy’s social media post on Palestine stirs outrage in Singapore

Israeli Embassy’s social media post on Palestine stirs outrage in Singapore
Home Minister K. Shanmugam speaks to reporters in Singapore on March 25, 2024 about the government’s intervention following an inflammatory social media post by Israel’s embassy. (Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs)
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Updated 26 March 2024
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Israeli Embassy’s social media post on Palestine stirs outrage in Singapore

Israeli Embassy’s social media post on Palestine stirs outrage in Singapore
  • Singaporean Home Minister says the post was an ‘astonishing attempt to re-write history’
  • In December, South Korea objected to ‘inappropriate’ footage posted by Israeli Embassy in Seoul

SINGAPORE: An Israeli Embassy post on Palestine has stirred outrage in Singapore, with three ministers accusing it of inflaming tensions and disrespecting the city state’s multicultural society.

Israel’s mission published on its Facebook account on Sunday the post that compared mentions of Israel and Palestine in the Qur’an and claimed there was more evidence of the existence of the Jewish state in Palestinian land rather than Palestine.

The post was deleted the same day after Singapore’s Home Minister K. Shanmugam said it was an “astonishing attempt to re-write history” that was “wrong at many levels,” and “unacceptable from the perspective of safety and security” in Singapore.

“It is wrong to selectively point to religious texts to make a political point. Even worse, in this current situation, for (the) Israeli Embassy to make use of the Qur’an for this purpose,” Shanmugam told reporters on Monday.

“The writer of the post should look at UN resolutions, see if Israel’s actions in the past few decades have been consistent with international law, before trying to re-write history.”

A multicultural and multireligious state, Singapore has a significant Muslim minority, accounting for approximately 16 percent of its 6 million population.

“(We) made our views very clear to the Israeli Embassy because it is unacceptable from the perspective of safety and security in Singapore,” Shanmugam said.

“It carries a risk of undermining our safety, security and harmony in Singapore.”

Social and Family Development Minister Masagos Zulkifli, who is also the minister in charge of Muslim affairs, issued a statement saying that the embassy’s post touched on a sensitive matter to both Singaporeans and Muslims.

“It was insensitive and disrespectful and goes against the spirit of mutual respect and understanding that we have worked so hard to build up in Singapore over the years. Nobody should make interpretations that are offensive to another people’s faith, especially selectively using their sacred texts, to make political points,” he said.

“Whether one is a Singaporean or foreigner in Singapore, we must not do or say anything that disrupts the social harmony that is so precious to us in Singapore. Such insensitive and inappropriate messages can cause hurt, and sow distrust amongst different communities in Singapore.”

The post was removed upon intervention from the foreign ministry.

“We communicated to them (that it was) highly inappropriate to make references to sacred texts in order to score political points,” Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told reporters.

“Bear in mind the fact that we are in Singapore. In Singapore, we do things differently. With all due respect to foreign countries, we think that on the management of race, language and religion, for what it is worth, … we are a positive example.”

Maryam Ismail, analyst at Malaysia’s Institute of Strategic and International Studies, explained that Singapore prioritized social harmony and that inflammatory messaging was not accepted.

“The Israeli Embassy personnel that uploaded the Facebook post clearly overlooked this reality, which is not something that they would have to take into account when talking about the Israel-Palestine issue back home and in Israeli online spaces,” she said.

“I think the Singaporean Law and Home Affairs Ministry’s rebuke was judicious.”

It is very rare, however, for Singaporean authorities to intervene in the conduct of foreign missions, including their social media activity.

“As a manner of principle, foreign embassies in Singapore are free to post on Facebook as long as they do not violate Singapore’s laws, and rules and regulations. I am not aware of other embassies having been in the position where they were requested to take down a post,” James Dorsey, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore, told Arab News.

“Singapore’s government is concerned about communal harmony in Singapore; that has always been a major policy pillar.”

It is not the first time that the Israeli Embassy has stirred up controversy in Asia.

In December, Tel Aviv’s mission in South Korea deleted a video it posted on social media channels after concerns raised by the South Korean government, which said the footage was “inappropriate.”

The video — produced by the embassy — showed an imaginary attack on Seoul by assailants it seemed to liken to Palestinian fighters.


Russia returns six children to Ukraine: state media

Updated 19 sec ago
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Russia returns six children to Ukraine: state media

Russia returns six children to Ukraine: state media
  • The children were reunited with their families at an event in the Qatari embassy in Moscow
Moscow: Russia has returned six children displaced by the conflict in Ukraine to their families in a deal brokered by Qatar, Russia’s state-run TASS news agency reported on Wednesday.
Ukraine believes Russia has illegally taken more than 19,000 of its children since the start of its 2022 offensive, of which fewer than 400 have been returned.
The children — a group of boys aged six to 17 that included two brothers — were reunited with their families at an event in the Qatari embassy in Moscow, the agency reported.
The event was attended by the Qatari ambassador as well as officials representing Russia’s children’s rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova, TASS said.
Lvova-Belova is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court for unlawfully deporting children from Ukraine to Russia, a charge the Kremlin denies.
Ukraine did not immediately comment.
Since July 2023, Qatar has helped bring back dozens of children taken to Russia and occupied territories during the two-year conflict, an issue that is highly sensitive in Ukraine.
Some of the children’s parents were killed, while others were separated from their carers by the fast-moving front lines at the start of Russia’s offensive.
Some were living in Ukrainian orphanages in areas Russia then occupied.

UAE president to visit South Korea

UAE president to visit South Korea
Updated 38 min 14 sec ago
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UAE president to visit South Korea

UAE president to visit South Korea
  • The two leaders will discuss bilateral ties and explore opportunities for greater collaboration

ABU DHABI: UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan will make a two-day state visit to South Korea on May 28 at the invitation of President Yoon Suk Yeol, state news agency WAM reported on Wednesday.

The two leaders will discuss bilateral ties and explore opportunities for greater collaboration across various sectors including trade, investment, energy and technology.

They will also address regional and international developments of common interest.

“The meeting comes within the framework of strategic partnership between the UAE and South Korea in line with their vision to achieve a better and more prosperous future for the countries,” the WAM statement said.


Norway, Ireland and Spain to formally recognize a Palestinian state

Norway, Ireland and Spain to formally recognize a Palestinian state
Updated 3 min ago
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Norway, Ireland and Spain to formally recognize a Palestinian state

Norway, Ireland and Spain to formally recognize a Palestinian state
  • Palestinian Authority and its rival group Hamas both welcomed the recognition
  • Israel recalls envoys to Spain, Ireland and Norway for consultations

COPENHAGEN: Norway, Spain and Ireland are formally recognizing Palestine as a state, the countries’ leaders said on Wednesday.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said: “There cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition.”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez also announced that the country’s council of ministers would recognize an independent Palestinian state on Tuesday May 28.

“Next Tuesday, May 28, Spain’s cabinet will approve the recognition of the Palestinian state,” he said, adding that his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu was putting the two state solution in “danger” with his policy of “pain and destruction” in the Gaza Strip.

Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said it was a move coordinated with Spain and Norway, “an historic and important day for Ireland and for Palestine.”

 

 

The Palestinian Authority and its rival group Hamas both welcomed the recognition of a Palestinian state by Ireland, Spain and Norway.

The Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank territory while Hamas runs Gaza.

Jordan hailed the coordinated move as an “important and essential step towards Palestinian statehood.”

“We value this decision and consider it an important and essential step towards a two-state solution that embodies an independent, sovereign Palestinian state along the July 1967 borders,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told a press conference.

Several European Union countries have in the past weeks indicated that they plan to make the recognition, arguing a two-state solution is essential for lasting peace in the region.

Israel recalled envoys to Spain, Ireland and Norway over their moves to recognize a Palestinian state.

“Today, I am sending a sharp message to Ireland and Norway: Israel will not go over this in silence. I have just ordered the return of the Israeli ambassadors from Dublin and Oslo to Israel for further consultations in Jerusalem,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement.

Sanchez said in March that Spain and Ireland, along with Slovenia and Malta, had agreed to take their first steps toward Palestinian recognition, seeing a two-state solution as essential for lasting peace.

The efforts come as a mounting death toll in Gaza from Israel’s offensive to rout Hamas prompts calls globally for a ceasefire and lasting solution for peace in the region.

Norway, which is not a member of the European Union but mirror its moves, has been an ardent supporter of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The terror has been committed by Hamas and militant groups who are not supporters of a two-state solution and the state of Israel,” the Norwegian government leader said.

“Palestine has a fundamental right to an independent state,” Gahr Store told a press conference.

The move comes as Israeli forces have led assaults on the northern and southern edges of the Gaza Strip in May, causing a new exodus of hundreds of thousands of people, and sharply restricted the flow of aid, raising the risk of famine.

The Scandinavian country “will therefore regard Palestine as an independent state with all the rights and obligations that entails,” Gahr Store said.

Norway’s recognition of a Palestine state comes more than 30 years after the first Oslo agreement was signed in 1993.

Since then, “the Palestinians have taken important steps toward a two-state solution,” the Norwegian government said.

It said that the World Bank determined that Palestine had met key criteria to function as a state in 2011, that national institutions have been built up to provide the population with important services.

“The war in Gaza and the constant expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank still mean that the situation in Palestine is more difficult than it has been in decades,” the Norwegian government said.


China to continue to strengthen ties with Iran, state media says

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (AFP file photo)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (AFP file photo)
Updated 22 May 2024
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China to continue to strengthen ties with Iran, state media says

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (AFP file photo)
  • “Iran has lost outstanding leaders and China has lost good friends and partners, said Wang, according to Xinhua news

BEIJING: China will continue to strengthen strategic cooperation with Iran, safeguard common interests, and make endeavors for regional and world peace, Chinese state media reported on Tuesday, citing comments from Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Wang made the remarks in talks on Tuesday with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mahdi Safari, while attending a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
“Iran has lost outstanding leaders and China has lost good friends and partners, said Wang, according to Xinhua news. “In this difficult time, China firmly stands by Iranian friends,” he said, referring to the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Sunday.

 


Singapore Air says 80 people from turbulence-hit flight still in Bangkok

Singapore Air says 80 people from turbulence-hit flight still in Bangkok
Updated 6 min 20 sec ago
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Singapore Air says 80 people from turbulence-hit flight still in Bangkok

Singapore Air says 80 people from turbulence-hit flight still in Bangkok
  • Flight SQ321 had 211 passengers and 18 crew on board when it encountered sudden turbulence
  • A 73-year-old British passenger died of a suspected heart attack and at least 30 people were injured

SINGAPORE: Singapore Airlines said 74 passengers and six crew members are still in Bangkok, including those receiving medical care and their family members, after a flight encountered severe turbulence on Tuesday.

The airline said in a statement that an additional five passengers who were on board the SQ321 flight will return to Singapore on Wednesday, and one crew member is set to return on Thursday.

The scheduled London-Singapore flight was diverted to Bangkok after the plane was buffeted by turbulence that flung passengers and crew around the cabin, slamming some into the ceiling. A 73-year-old British passenger died of a suspected heart attack.

“I saw people from across the aisle going completely horizontal, hitting the ceiling and landing back down in like really awkward positions. People, like, getting massive gashes in the head, concussions,” Dzafran Azmir, a 28-year-old student on board the flight said after arriving in Singapore.

Photographs from the interior of the plane showed gashes in the overhead cabin panels, oxygen masks and panels hanging from the ceiling and luggage strewn around. A passenger said some people’s heads had slammed into the lights above the seats and punctured the panels.

Singapore Airlines took 131 passengers and 12 crew on the relief flight from Bangkok that reached Singapore just before 5 a.m. (2100 GMT). There were 211 passengers including many Australians, British and Singaporeans, and 18 crew on board the original flight; injured fliers and their families remained in Bangkok.

“On behalf of Singapore Airlines, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased,” Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong said in a video message.

Singapore’s Transport Safety Investigation Bureau (TSIB) is looking into the incident, and the US National Transportation Safety Board is also sending representatives for support.

The plane encountered sudden extreme turbulence, Goh said, and the pilot then declared a medical emergency and diverted to Bangkok.

Aircraft tracking provider FlightRadar 24 said at around 0749 GMT the flight encountered “a rapid change in vertical rate, consistent with a sudden turbulence event,” based on flight tracking data.

“There were thunderstorms, some severe, in the area at the time,” it said.

The sudden turbulence occurred over the Irrawaddy Basin in Myanmar about 10 hours into the flight, the airline said. Turbulence has many causes, most obviously the unstable weather patterns that trigger storms, but this flight could have been affected by clear air turbulence, which is very difficult to detect.

Turbulence-related airline accidents are the most common type of accident, according to a 2021 NTSB study.

While the airline said 30 people were injured, Samitivej Hospital in Thailand said it was treating 71 passengers.

From 2009 through 2018, the US agency found that turbulence accounted for more than a third of reported airline accidents and most resulted in one or more serious injuries, but no aircraft damage.

Singapore Airlines, which is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading airlines and is a benchmark for much of the industry, has not had any major incidents in recent years.

Its last accident resulting in casualties was a flight from Singapore to Los Angeles via Taipei, where it crashed on Oct. 31, 2000 at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, killing 83 of the 179 people on board.