SINGAPORE: Addressing the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, former Singapore president Halimah Yacob took to Facebook on 12 December, urging individuals to align themselves with the cause of humanity.
In her post, Mdm Halimah expressed deep concern over the escalating death toll in Gaza, which has surpassed 17,000 over the past two months since 7 October, with a significant number being women and children.
Mdm Halimah who stepped down in September as President questioned the apparent difficulty in standing on the side of humanity, emphasizing the selective invocation of humanitarian principles.
Despite readily embracing such values for various causes, the global response seems immobilized when faced with the staggering loss of Palestinian lives.
The former president drew attention to the heart-wrenching images of infants losing their lives, children mourning their deceased parents, and two million people fleeing without a safe haven.
Mdm Halimah remarked, “Are our hearts so hardened that we chose not to be moved by pictures of babies being killed, children crying for their dead parents and two million people fleeing for their lives with nowhere safe to go?”
She highlighted the dire conditions of the so-called safe zones, comparable in size to London’s Heathrow airport, lacking essential infrastructure, water, electricity, and basic amenities.
Both the UN and the International Red Cross have labeled these areas as unlivable.
The obstruction of even meager shipments of aid exacerbates the humanitarian crisis, leading to Palestinian casualties from starvation, disease, and untreated injuries for those fortunate enough to escape the bombings.
As the conflict unfolds, Mdm Halimah questions the lessons the world will glean from its indifference to the pain and suffering of the Palestinian people.
She questioned, “After this is over, whatever the outcome, what lessons will we learn about a world so indifferent to the pain and suffering of a people?”
Mdm Halimah raised concerns about a dangerous world where principles and values, the true casualties of the Gaza War, risk being rendered meaningless in the future.
Challenging global enforcement of international laws amidst Israel-Hamas conflict
Mdm Halimah also raised pointed questions about the blatant violation of international laws designed to safeguard civilians, questioning the very essence of such regulations.
She pondered the paradox of having international laws that, despite global expressions of concern, can be broken with impunity.
The broader implications of this quandary extend beyond the current Israel-Hamas conflict, prompting reflection on the role of these laws in conflicts worldwide.
The former president underscored the gravity of the situation by delving into the effectiveness and role of the United Nations, asserting that its standing has been severely compromised amid the ongoing war.
Mdm Halimah emphasized the importance of humanitarian international laws explicitly prohibiting the collective punishment of innocent civilians.
Israel’s repeated violations of these laws, justified under the banner of self-defense, pose a significant challenge to the credibility of international legal frameworks.
Mdm Halimah urged contemplation on the potential ramifications for the rule of the mighty over the weak.
She cautioned against the looming specter of chaos and disorder, particularly highlighting the perilous implications for smaller, more vulnerable states in a world where the enforcement of international laws appears questionable.
Call to stand on the side of humanity and break the cycle of violence
“Stand on the side of humanity,” urged Mdm Halimah, as she delved into the profound implications of the ongoing conflicts.
In her reflections, she contemplated the recurring cycle of violence spawned by such confrontations, emphasizing that humans are seemingly destined to repeat the same mistakes.
Drawing attention to the lasting impact of these conflicts, she remarked on the indelible memories etched into the minds of the traumatized, particularly the younger generation who witnessed the devastation of their families and homes.
Mdm Halimah underscored the significance of acknowledging the collective memory of humanity, stressing that the traumas experienced by the youth during conflicts become an enduring part of their narrative.
She asserted, “Humans have memories. We share experiences through telling stories to our young. A truly traumatized young will remember these moments when their families are killed, homes destroyed and all hopes erased.”
Mdm Halimah’s plea extends beyond the immediacy of the conflict, urging readers not to adopt indifference to the pain and suffering inflicted upon a people caught in the midst of war.
“Stand on the side of humanity,” she reiterated, questioning the learning curve of humanity and the repeated failure to avoid destructive patterns.
Mdm Halimah challenged the notion that security could be achieved through the barrels of a gun, advocating instead for a long-term commitment to security that demands sincere efforts over time.
She underscored the complexity of the situation, emphasizing that genuine security cannot be attained overnight.
Contemplating the future, Madam Halimah invited readers to envision the stories they would tell the next generation, especially during times of peace.
She pondered the challenge of explaining the inexplicable—the death, destruction, and the profound question of why.
“How do we explain what’s happening when they see so much death and destruction and they wonder why?”
In posing these questions, she challenged society to confront the possibility of a collective failure of humanity, emphasizing the imperative to stand on the side of compassion, empathy, and a shared commitment to lasting peace.
Singapore joins 152 nations in urging Gaza ceasefire
The United Nations General Assembly recently approved a resolution, with more than two-thirds of participating countries voting in favor, demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the release of all hostages held by Palestinian resistance groups.
The resolution was proposed after a resolution for a ceasefire at the United Nations Security Council was vetoed by the United States, a permanent member of the council.
Singapore has aligned itself with 152 other nations, collectively urging an urgent humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
This call comes at a time when Israel finds itself increasingly isolated on the international stage due to its ongoing military operations in the enclave.
On 12 December, three-quarters of the 193 member states voted in favor of the resolution, underlining the global consensus for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
However, the United States and Israel, along with only eight other countries, opposed the resolution, while 23 nations abstained from voting.
Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan took to Facebook on 13 December to announce Singapore’s co-sponsorship of the UN General Assembly resolution.
He emphasized the nation’s deep concern over the relentless devastation and the rising number of civilian casualties in Gaza.
Dr Balakrishnan further highlighted the importance of the humanitarian ceasefire called for in the adopted resolution, stating that it would significantly ease the prompt delivery of aid to the affected population.
In his post, he also urged all parties involved to adhere to their obligations under international law, with a particular emphasis on international humanitarian law.
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