The Singapore Islamic Scholars and Teachers Association (Pergas) has written to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to highlight the Muslim community’s concerns about the “situation in Palestine”, saying the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “regrettable and worrying”.
The letter, written in Malay and dated 17 February, expressed Pergas’ hopes that Lee would bring up the matter during the two-day official visit to Singapore by Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on Monday and Tuesday (20-21 February).
In the letter, the President of Pergas, Ustaz Hasbi Hassan, said, “Israel’s occupation has lowered the value of human lives. It has caused the lives of children, women and the elderly.
Pergas has expressed our concern and the Singapore Muslim aspiration to the Singapore government on the Palestine situation. Alhamdulillah, our concern has been conveyed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to the Israeli’s Prime Minister during his two-day Singapore visit earlier this week.
“The blockage and control of Gaza has ravished the basic human rights for protection, housing, health, education and more. The upholding of these rights has been agreed upon by the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which urge Israel to stop illegal housing on Palestinian land,” he said in the letter.
Ustaz Hasbi stressed that as Muslims and citizens of Singapore, Pergas stands by the values of harmony and justice and, like any other community, rejects any form of tyranny, invasion and repression.
“Violence will only beget violence, and peace could never be achieved as long as discrimination, tyranny and repression still exist,” he said.
Pergas understands the Singapore government’s policy on such matters, which has been affirmed by the appointment of former Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Hawazi Daipi, as Singapore’s new non-resident representative to the Palestinian Territories. Hawazi assumed the position in November last year.
“We support the government’s policy and hope that Israel and Palestine can work together towards peace and harmony. We also hope that all forms of repression and violence will cease with justice prevailing for both parties,” Ustaz Hasbi said.
Prime Minister Lee’s reply to Pergas
In a letter addressed to Ustaz Hasbi dated Tuesday (21 February), Lee thanked Pergas for expressing its concerns about the situation in Palestine and the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Lee said he fully understands these concerns. Singapore is friends with both Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, and many Arab countries, he added.
“While the situation is complex and progress is difficult, Singapore has always urged Israel and Palestine to resume direct negotiations and work towards a just and durable solution to this longstanding conflict,” Lee said in the letter.
Lee also reiterated Singapore’s position in the letter, saying that the Republic is convinced that “a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, however hard to achieve, is the only way to bring peace and security to both peoples.”
The prime minister has stated Singapore’s position and concerns to Netanyahu during his visit here and last year. In the letter, Lee said he has explained to the Israelis that the Middle East matters to Singapore.
“People all over the world are seized with the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and with the plight of the civilians caught up in the conflict. For Muslim communities particularly, it is an emotional matter.
“Singapore is in Southeast Asia, surrounded by Muslim-majority countries. And we ourselves have a substantial Muslim population, who are an important part of our harmonious multi-ethnic population,” Lee said.
He added that “Singapore fervently hopes for peace between Israel and the Palestinians”, which will contribute to a more stable Middle East and a safer world.
“I thank you for supporting Singapore’s position, which reflects the interests of our nation,” Lee concluded in the letter.