An interview article by Singapore-based online publication Mothership published at the end of last month has been criticised for appearing to have left out “one important point” — Singapore’s instrumental role in funding and purchasing arms from Israel.
Francesca Maviglia, a friend of 21-year-old Palestinian student Nour Alshaer, said that Mothership had omitted Nour’s mention of the city-state being “one [of] the largest purchasers of Israeli military technology” and “a direct funder of Israel’s military research and development”.
In the Mothership interview, Nour had shared about life in the besieged Gaza Strip in Palestine under Israeli occupation.
Maviglia, who hails from Italy, said in a Facebook post on 21 May, a day after the Mothership article was published: “We really, really needed Singaporean people to hear this, and Nour made it very clear during the interview that this was an important piece of information that she was trying to get out.”
When Nour sought an explanation from Mothership, the publication simply responded that ”actually most Singaporeans know that already” and that “a human interest sort of angle works better in bringing attention to the issue”.
”No it absolutely doesn’t – Palestinians have said LOUD AND CLEAR that they don’t need our sympathy and tears, they need our political action! They have had “human interest” coverage of their trauma for 73 years and it has not changed anything – they have called for us to put pressure on our governments to end their complicity with Israeli apartheid, and it is absolutely shameful to censor their call to action and reduce it to a suffering story,” Maviglia stressed.
TOC has seen the screenshots of the conversation between Nour and Mothership.
Maviglia also criticised the publication for “exploiting” her friend’s story “for views”, saying that Mothership’s article did not reflect journalism but was instead a case of “death profiteering”.
“Shame on Mothership for taking my friend’s story and exploiting it for views without having the courage to give a platform to her message! Palestinians are being genocided and people are still too cowardly to even share their calls for international solidarity,” she remarked.
It was stated in the article that the content was written based on what was “told to Kayla Wong and Matthias Ang by Nour Alshaer”.
Nour Alshaer’s story, as published on Mothership
Nour told Mothership that the bombing in the Gaza Strip had been going on for years, including the year she was born.
“Luckily, we made it and are still alive,” she said.
Mothership wrote that Nour was studying medicine in the United States and returned to Gaza last year in the summer to be with her family amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
She noted that the lack of medical treatment and a system to help cancer patients in the Gaza Strip were the reasons behind her decision to pursue Medicine and specialise in oncology.
“People can be denied the permits to visit hospitals in the West Bank, or they can be asked to go there without family members, including little children without their parents,” said Nour.
She added that her family has been living “under a blockade”, which has been placed on Gaza by Israel and Egypt since Hamas took over in 2007, and is constantly under bombardment by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).
Nour revealed that Gaza has been experiencing a shortage of food, water, and electricity as a result of the blockade.
“We obviously don’t have any bomb shelters, so we only seek safety in our own houses, which are not safe and can collapse when bombed. A lot of houses have been bombed without warning, killing more than 200 people in the strip so far,” she said.
Nour highlighted that the attacks intensify at nighttime, with 70 airstrikes per second “nonstop”.
“At night, we’re all like preparing ourselves to die at any second, saying our last prayers and asking people for forgiveness. We don’t wake up to ‘good morning’, we wake up to ‘God, we’re still alive’,” she remarked.
The people of Gaza have no privilege to even worry about the coronavirus because their “lives are at stake”, said Nour, adding that the only place for them to get tested for COVID-19 has also been bombed by Israel on 17 May.
She further stressed that the attacks were “not the result of a religious conflict” that has been going on for “thousands of years between Muslims and Jews”, but about the ongoing “military occupation” that started in 1948.
“This conversation is much bigger than just Hamas. This is a conversation about the military occupation of Palestine. This is about the apartheid system, and the ethnically motivated violence,” she explained.
Nour claimed that Palestinians in Gaza were described as “terrorists” and “the oppressor” by many international media, even when it was relentlessly attacked by Israel with its advanced weaponry.
“The Western media has always been calling all the attacks on Gaza and the Palestinians ‘self-defence’, which doesn’t make sense because this is a powerful state attacking a stateless population. I can’t emphasise this enough.
“We literally can’t do anything, and we don’t have any bomb shelters to go to. This is not an equal equation. Calling for peace from both sides is also another misconception because this is not a ‘both sides’ kind of conflict, its attacks on the Palestinians,” she added.
The language used by the international media has been “very biased” too, said Nour, pointing out that the media always mention “rockets from the Gaza Strip” when at the same time more than 200 people were killed in Gaza as a result of the IDF’s shelling.
“How did they die? Why was Israeli never condemned for the airstrikes, which killed way more people? I’m not saying that we should be seen as numbers, but those numbers tell something.
“If you compare the death toll between the Israeli and Palestinian side, you should already know who’s the oppressed and who’s the oppressor. It should be very clear now,” she added.
Solidarity protests for Palestine have erupted worldwide. However, Nour said the protests are “not going to change the reality of the policies”, nor will it alter their everyday reality of the military occupation.
She stressed that people have to keep pushing their representatives and their Governments to “actually make a change in how they view this issue”.
“After these attacks, the survivors can’t ever go back to zero, or the starting line, it will only go back to negative. Because the survivors will have lost family members and loved ones, and infrastructure has already been destroyed.
“We want to free Palestine, and by that I mean we want to live with dignity, without worrying about our lives. And we want the blockade on Gaza to be lifted, and the racial discrimination to stop,” she noted.
Singapore’s ties with Israel
Singapore established bilateral ties with Israel immediately after its secession from Malaysia in 1965.
The city-state has built extensive rapport with Israel since then, particularly in terms of military capabilities.
In the early days of Singapore’s nationhood in 1965, Israel had offered the newly independent nation assistance in setting up a Defence Ministry and armed forces, said Dhevarajan Devadas, a former research assistant at the Institute of Policy Studies in a string of tweets on 11 May.
“The first batch of SAF Officers were trained by Israeli instructors & passed out in July 1967. Singapore also adopted the National Service conscription & reservist systems used in Israel,” the historian added.
Singapore-Israel ties to date remain strong, with Singapore becoming “one of Israel’s largest arms customers, procuring US$551 million worth of weaponry from 1999-2018”, Dhevarajan noted. Such deals are, however, “generally kept low-key”.
left.sg, an Instagram page dedicated to examining Singapore’s history from the perspective of a left-wing political framework, noted that Singapore and Israel have jointly worked on “developing at least one weapon that we know of: the MATADOR, a 90-milimetre, man-portable, disposable anti-armour weapon”.
Types of weaponry purchased from Israel include air-defence systems such as SPYDER, weapon stations such as CornerShot, anti-tank rockets and missiles such as Spike ATGM, and artillery such as Soltam M-68, to name a few listed by left.sg.
left.sg also quoted Israeli security and intelligence expert Yossi Melman as saying: “We find in Singapore almost all the types of weapons produced by the Israeli army.”
“The research projects or prototypes of some of them are sometimes partly funded by the city-state, which then has a license to produce these systems,” Melman added.