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'Say that for the sake of Singapore': Vivian Balakrishnan asks why Workers' Party did not label Hamas attacks on Israel as 'terrorism'

'Say that for the sake of Singapore': Vivian Balakrishnan asks why Workers' Party did not label Hamas attacks on Israel as 'terrorism'

The Workers' Party (WP) statement that omitted the word 'terrorism' to describe Hamas attacks in Israel has "left room for ambiguity", Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told Parliament on Monday (Nov 6).

In a speech today on the Israel-Hamas conflict, he said that it is in Singapore's national interest to strongly condemn the attacks. 

"Let me be clear, what Hamas did on Oct 7 was an act of terrorism involving indiscriminate killing and extreme brutality. It's not a military operation targeted at military targets," he added.

"This is why Singapore has strongly condemned the terrorist attack by Hamas and called for the safe, immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. It's in our absolute national interest that we hold fast to this stand."

However, he said that he was "somewhat reassured" after hearing WP members Gerald Giam and Singh' speeches that the attacks were not simply a "military operation".

"But I couldn't help but notice that the two WP members were unable to use the word 'terrorism'," Dr Balakrishnan  added.

He urged the WP to describe Hamas' actions in Israel as "terrorism". 

"And say it for the sake of Singapore and Singaporeans," he said. 

Palestinian militant group Hamas had launched a large-scale surprise attack against Israel on Oct 7, which left thousands of civilians killed and hundreds were taken captive.

In a statement shared on social media on Oct 18, WP described Hamas' attack as "militant operations".

"The killing of non-combatants, women and children by any country or organisation, in the name of war, deserves no less than absolute condemnation," they said, while calling for an immediate hostilities and the delivery of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.


Taking a 'very even keeled approach': Pritam

In response to Dr Balakrishnan's speech on the Israel-Hamas conflict, Leader of Opposition Pritam Singh said that his party is taking a "very even keeled approach" to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Singh later clarified that the word 'terrorism' was not 'actively used' in the statement because of the party's "balanced approach" on responding to the conflict.

"The terrorist attacks are not to be condoned. But on the other hand, the long-standing issue of Israelis evicting Palestinians from their homes in the West Bank, should also be condemned," he added.

He also pointed out that Singapore's Inter-Ministry Committee on Terrorist Designation did not list Hamas as a terrorist group.

'Foreign policy shouldn't be used to fish for votes': Vivian

Responding to the clarification, Dr Balakrishnan asked to "double confirm" the WP's position if the actions undertaken by Hamas on Oct 7 were "acts of terror"- something which Giam and Singh later confirmed.

"That's why I said I was more reassured after listening to both of you," the minister said.

"The initial statement did leave room for doubt and ambiguity… But my confirmation after this confirmation, is actually that you (WP) stand with us, with the motion and the government's position.

"I want to welcome that because the arguments about foreign policy must stop at our shores. And something as vital as terrorism, we cannot afford to have political parties trying to outflank each other in order to look or fish for votes."

Vikram Nair, one of the three MPs who filed the motion in Parliament to discuss the conflict, later said that Hamas actions had satisfied the Terrorism Act’s definition of “acts of terrorism”.

According to the Act, a “terrorist act” means it involves serious violence against a person, damage to property, and one that endangers a person’s life.

“So for me, all the components are satisfied,” Nair said.

*The headline of this story has been edited for clarity.

ALSO READ: Singaporeans can condemn terrorist attacks in Israel and yet sympathise with Palestinians' plight: Shanmugam

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