In a recent parliamentary session, Mr Saktiandi Supaat, Member of Parliament for Bishan Toa Payoh GRC, filed an important inquiry about the regulatory supervision of the Singapore Palestine Film Festival, scheduled from January 12 to 21, 2024, at The Projector at Cineleisure.
Mr Saktiandi’s questions to the Minister for Home Affairs centred on three main concerns: the extent of regulatory oversight over the festival, the permissible limits for events discussing the ongoing hostile Israel-Hamas conflict, and balancing increased understanding of such situations with the preservation of Singapore’s racial and religious harmony.
The Singapore Palestine Film Festival 2024 aims to raise cultural awareness and increase understanding of the challenges faced by the people of Palestine through a curated selection of 10 thought-provoking films.
The festival’s objective is not only to educate Singaporeans about the Palestinian situation but also to support humanitarian efforts. Proceeds from the festival will go directly to the Singapore Red Cross, aiding the relief and recovery efforts of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement Partners in the crisis-affected regions.
Responding in a written statement, Minister for Home Affairs and Law, Mr K Shanmugam stated, “Films that are proposed to be screened at film festivals, like the upcoming Palestine Film Festival and the Israel Film Festival back in October, have first to be classified by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). IMDA, in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), has assessed that the films proposed for the Palestine Film Festival later this month do not promote violence or enmity against any group, and can be screened with the appropriate age ratings.”
Addressing the limits for events related to the Israel-Hamas conflict, Mr Shanmugam said, “Beyond these, the Government’s position is that permits will not be given for public events and assemblies on the Israel-Hamas conflict. This is due to safety and security concerns. The developments relating to the Israel-Hamas conflict are emotive and contentious, and tensions are high.”
Recognizing the public’s interest in the conflict, he added, “We recognise that there is a strong desire among some Singaporeans to express their views and do something on the Israel-Hamas conflict. There have been several public dialogues and forums on the conflict, which provide spaces for Singaporeans of all races and faiths to express their views and concerns. Academic institutions such as our universities and think-tanks have also organised discussions on the conflict, such as the “2023 S R Nathan Distinguished Lecture” featuring prominent statesmen, scholars, and public intellectuals organised by the NUS Institute of South Asian Studies and Middle East Institute.”
Emphasizing Singaporeans’ contributions to humanitarian efforts, Mr Shanmugam noted, “Singaporeans want to do something constructive. Government supports that. Government has supported several public fund raising events organised by charities, such as the Singapore Red Cross Society and the Rahmatan Lil Alamin (Blessings to All) Foundation, and Singaporeans have contributed generously. As of November 2023, Singaporeans have contributed a total of more than $7 million in cash and in-kind donations to support relief efforts in Gaza. Such donation drives done with the relevant permits will be a good way of helping those who are suffering. The donations should be for humanitarian purposes, to help civilians affected by the conflict, and not for military or terror use.
Humanitarian crisis deepens in Gaza as fatalities, displacement, and food insecurity escalate
As of 7 January 2024, data from the Gazan health ministry, cited by the UN aid wing, reported at least 22,835 fatalities since Israeli military strikes in retaliation to an attack by the militant group Hamas on 7 October 2023.
Air and ground attacks persisted, particularly in southern Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of displaced people sought safety.
Approximately two-thirds of those killed in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza are women and children, according to the health ministry.
Ongoing hostilities, including bombardment, ground operations, and the besiegement of the entire population, have led to catastrophic levels of acute food insecurity across the Gaza Strip.
About 85 percent of the population (1.9 million people) is displaced, often relocating multiple times and concentrated into an increasingly smaller geographic area.
The risk of famine is growing daily as intense hostilities and restricted humanitarian access persist or worsen.
The intensification of hostilities, reduced access to food and basic services, and the extreme concentration or isolation of people in inadequate shelters contribute to this increasing risk.
Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) data from 14 November to 7 December 2023, indicated that over 90 percent of the Gaza Strip’s population (approximately 2.08 million people) faced high levels of acute food insecurity.
In the healthcare sector, children in the Gaza Strip face a triple threat to their lives, with rising cases of diseases, plummeting nutrition, and the ongoing escalation in hostilities approaching its fourteenth week.
WHO’s online platform recorded 304 attacks on healthcare in the Gaza Strip since 7 October, affecting 94 healthcare facilities, including 26 damaged hospitals out of 36, and 79 ambulances.
The situation continues to deteriorate rapidly, increasing the risk of child deaths.
Earlier last year, the United States expressed strong condemnation of remarks made by Israeli far-right ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich.
These ministers proposed that Israel should “encourage emigration” from Gaza, where an estimated 2.3 million Palestinians reside. Amidst an ongoing military offensive in Gaza since 7 October, which has led to approximately 1.9 million Palestinians being internally displaced according to the United Nations.
Smotrich, as Minister of Finance, stated, “If there are 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs in Gaza and not two million Arabs, the entire discussion on the day after [the war ends] will be totally different,” advocating for “voluntary migration” of Palestinians.
Similarly, Ben-Gvir, as Minister of National Security, mentioned that the war provides an “opportunity to concentrate on encouraging the migration of the residents of Gaza,” labelling such a policy as “a correct, just, moral and humane solution.”
Human rights and legal experts have warned that forced displacement could constitute a war crime under international law, potentially leading to ethnic cleansing.
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