Forum: Avoid simplistic, polarising narratives of Gaza conflict, Forum News & Top Stories

I am thankful that Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim has spoken out on the Gaza conflict, and encouraged Singaporeans to channel their help to victims of violence through proper channels (S’poreans urged to send aid to Palestine via verified platforms, May 25).

For 14 months between 2018 and 2019, I lived in Jerusalem. I wrote my master’s thesis on the 2014 Gaza conflict.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most intractable conflicts in the world, and the worst case of identity politics I have ever seen.

Speaking to Israelis and Palestinians when I travelled through Israel and the West Bank, I frequently found that each side saw the conflict in binary terms, as a struggle of “us” versus “them”, of “good guys” versus “bad guys”.

Singaporeans should be mindful of how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can inflame sensitivities and damage racial and religious harmony here.

In July 2019, Mr Bilahari Kausikan, chairman of the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore, said one of the institute’s researchers had received threats from an evangelical group, which did not like what he had written about the Middle East (3 forces could challenge social cohesion: Bilahari, July 25, 2019).

In March, it was reported that a self-radicalised 20-year-old was detained under the Internal Security Act (20-year-old who planned to kill Jews outside synagogue detained, March 11).

He had planned to carry out a knife attack against Jews at a synagogue, and also made plans to travel to Gaza to join Hamas’ military wing in its fight against Israel.

The Government and religious leaders of all faiths in Singapore should take the lead in showing how we can take a principled, non-partisan approach to the conflict in the Middle East, and to all conflicts in general.

This includes affirming our common humanity, and disavowing polarising “us” versus “them” thinking.

We need to recognise the complexities of each situation, instead of adopting simplistic narratives that paint one side as unfalteringly good and the other as irredeemably evil.

As Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “the line separating good and evil passes… right through every human heart”.

Darius Lee

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