(Washington, D.C., Dec. 13, 2018)— Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, ambassador of Singapore to the United States, was the speaker at today’s B’nai B’rith Diplomatic Encounter series in Washington, D.C. During his remarks, he emphasized Singapore’s cooperation with Israel, dating to Israel’s assistance in helping Singapore establish a military force in the early days of Singapore’s independence. Singapore and Israel now enjoy excellent economic relations and cooperation on a wide range of bilateral issues.
“We are unashamed of our strong relationship, because at the time of [Singaporean] independence, very few countries stood behind us,” Mirpuri said of his country’s relationship with Israel. “No country wanted to help us build up a military force except Israel…since 1966, we’ve built up a Singaporean national service, very much modeled on the Israeli national service.”
The ambassador spoke about the long Jewish history in Singapore. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Iraqi Jews emigrated and found a place in Singapore’s religious pluralism. There was even a B’nai B’rith presence there.
Mirpuri also discussed Singapore’s recent vote to condemn Palestinian terrorist group Hamas at the United Nations. Although the American motion to condemn Hamas ultimately failed due to a procedural roadblock requiring two-thirds of the General Assembly to vote for it, rather than a simple majority, Singapore voted for the resolution and against the two-thirds majority requirement.
Asked about the future of Singaporean U.N. votes on Israel-related matters, Mirpuri reiterated his support for a two-state solution and said of the U.N., “I hope there can be a better balance…we will criticize Hamas, but we will support Palestinians as well.”
B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin introduced the program and noted: “The Jewish community has a long history in Singapore, dating back to the 1800s. Singapore saw its first wave of Jewish immigrants from the Baghdadi Trade Diaspora during the late-18th and early 19th centuries, and from those escaping persecution under Ottoman rule.”
Mariaschin went on to stress the positive ties between Israel and Singapore: “The special relationship has developed an extensive, mutually beneficial security cooperation. The two nations also share several bilateral agreements providing a framework for cooperation in the areas of healthcare, investments and technological research & development. In February 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Singapore, the first visit from an Israeli leader to the country in 30 years.”
The ambassador emphasized his country’s strong economic and national security ties with the United States including the two countries’ close cooperation on counterterrorism initiatives. Singapore was the first Asian country to sign on to the Defeat-ISIS Campaign and has the largest foreign military presence on American soil, where it utilizes bases for training. Economic cooperation between the U.S. and Singapore is also strong. Singapore is the second-largest Asian investor in the U.S. after Japan, and Singapore has more American investments than China and India combined.
Since 2002, the B’nai B’rith Diplomatic Encounter Series has provided a forum for diplomats to discuss current domestic and foreign policy topics.
B’nai B’rith International has advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843. B’nai B’rith is recognized as a vital voice in promoting Jewish unity and continuity, a staunch defender of the State of Israel, a tireless advocate on behalf of senior citizens and a leader in disaster relief. With a presence around the world, we are the Global Voice of the Jewish Community. Visit www.bnaibrith.org