Home singapore DPM Wong warns of rise in anti-Singapore rhetoric, extremists in region using Israel-Hamas war to 'rile up sentiments'

DPM Wong warns of rise in anti-Singapore rhetoric, extremists in region using Israel-Hamas war to 'rile up sentiments'

DPM Wong warns of rise in anti-Singapore rhetoric, extremists in region using Israel-Hamas war to 'rile up sentiments'
In a speech in Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said extremists and terrorist groups in the region are using the Israel-Hamas war to radicalise more individualsHe said in October, Singapore police received eight reports of offensive remarks or actions aimed at the country’s Jewish or Muslim communitiesMr Wong said anti-Singapore rhetoric had increased and regional internet traffic on extremist sites had risen three-fold He said Singapore had increased security measures, as he called on Singaporeans to maintain their vigilance on reporting suspicious behaviour

By Taufiq Zalizan Published November 6, 2023 Updated November 6, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

SINGAPORE — Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on Monday (Nov 6) warned of extremist and terrorist groups in the region using the Israel-Hamas war to rile up sentiments and radicalise more individuals.

Mr Wong also revealed that police here received eight reports last month of offensive remarks or actions targeted at members of the Jewish or Muslim communities in Singapore. The latest flare-up in the conflict began on Oct 7.

“Eight may not seem like a large number to you, but in just this one month in October, we’ve received almost the same number of related reports as we did in the preceding nine months of the year combined. It is a very sharp spike,” he told Parliament during a debate on the Middle East conflict.

In his speech Mr Wong, who is also Finance Minister, said that there is a more urgent need than ever to prepare for all contingencies.

He noted that there have been Singaporeans in recent years who were detained after falling for pro-Hamas narratives to the extent that they wanted to take up arms overseas.

“Since the conflict started, regional internet traffic on extremist sites has already gone up three-fold,” he said.

Mr Wong adding that there has been an uptick in anti-Singapore rhetoric including violent threats by regional extremist elements online.

“We have put in place additional security measures as precaution,” he said.

He reiterated the need for Singaporeans to play their part by reporting any suspicious behaviour to the authorities, as the Republic’s ability to respond to any terrorist incident depends on all of the population.

“We must remain cohesive and united as a society, so that we can keep Singapore safe and secure,” he said.

He said that ultimately, Singapore chooses its response not by taking sides, but based on the Republic’s own best interests.


Besides the security implications of the conflict on Singapore, Mr Wong noted that several members of parliament had asked about the economic impact.

In response, he made these key points:

The direct economic impact is small, given the limited trade and investment links with Israel and PalestineHowever, if the conflict expands into a regional one in the Middle East, there would be wider implications, especially on oil and food pricesTherefore, Singapore must brace itself for more uncertainties ahead”We are updating our drawer plans should the situation take a turn for the worse and we are impacted,” said Mr Wong

Mr Wong said that Singapore is friends with both Israel and the Palestinians.

“Singapore’s longstanding support for a two-state solution remains unchanged. We believe that the Palestinian people have the right to a homeland, and that Israel has the right to live within secure borders,” he said.

However, being friends with both sides does not mean that the Republic supports everything that each side does.

Instead, Singapore “consistently take a principled position” in line with international law and in support of global peace and security, he added.

“On that basis, we have voted in favour of many Palestinian-related resolutions at the UN over the years,” said Mr Wong.

These include criticising Israel’s settlement activities in the West Bank as violations of international law and voting against Jerusalem being recognised as the capital of Israel. 

Earlier, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan outlined seven key principles underpinning Singapore’s response to the situation in Gaza.

Mr Wong, in his speech, emphasised three key points:

1. It is in Singapore’s interest to condemn the Hamas terrorist attack

Mr Wong said the brutal killing and abduction of civilians by Hamas were “a planned and coordinated terrorist attack”, adding that the organisation has proclaimed its intent to repeat them to annihilate IsraelHe noted that Palestinians have many historical grievances which Singapore empathises with and which need urgent resolution, but they cannot be an excuse for the acts of terrorism“We must therefore condemn these terrorist acts unequivocally. Let’s be clear: It is in our national interest to do so. To compromise on this stand would be to compromise our own security,” said Mr Wong.

2. Israel’s right of self-defence

Defending one’s citizens and territory is a fundamental right in the United Nations Charter, said Mr Wong.In this case, it includes Israel’s right to prevent Hamas from attacking again, he added.

3. Israel must comply with international law

However, in exercising its right of self-defence, Israel “must comply fully with the letter and spirit” of international humanitarian law and the rules governing the conduct of war, said Mr WongNo matter how gruesome Hamas’ terrorist acts are, they cannot justify a “disproportionate response” by Israel and a collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza, he said“If Israel violates international humanitarian law, it risks losing the moral high ground and undermining its own cause both domestically and internationally,” said Mr Wong


Earlier in his speech, Mr Wong outlined the deeply complex nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which goes back for “at least decades, if not centuries”.

He reiterated that it is not just between Israelis and Palestinians or between people of different faiths.

“It’s a political battle for territory, self-determination, resources, identity and allegiance,” he said.

He said that what is at stake is the broader balance of power in the Middle East, noting Iran’s role in supporting Hamas and other militias in the region.

Mr Wong also noted that it was “no coincidence” that the brutal attacks by Hamas on Oct 7 happened just after Israel normalised relations with the United Arab Emirates and was negotiating to do the same with Saudi Arabia.

While Hamas must have anticipated a strong Israeli response to its attack and may have counted on it to rally support for its cause — and any country facing such attacks must respond — it is “distressing to see” how Israel’s military response has taken a terrible toll on civillians in Gaza.

“All this is a stark reminder to everyone in Singapore,” said Mr Wong.

“We do not import foreign quarrels or politics here. We do not choose sides. Instead, we always choose what is in the best interests of Singapore and Singaporeans.”