A documentary focusing on the life of two teenager activists from Palestine was banned by the Singapore government for exploring the Palestinian-Israeli conflict “without a counterbalance.”
Released in 2016, “Radiance of Resistance” was directed by American filmmaker Jesse Roberts. It was supposed to be screened at the Singapore Palestinian Film Festival during the first week of January 2018, but was removed after the Info-Communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) classified it as “not allowed for all ratings”.
According to the synopsis of the documentary, it tells the story of Ahed al-Tamimi, then 14, and her 9-year-old friend Janna Ayyad:
This film will take an intimate look at their everyday lives and their importance as the new generation of Palestinian non-violent resistance.
Tamimi was featured in the news in December 2017 after she was charged for slapping an Israeli soldier. This act was caught on video and quickly went viral. Her case is still pending.
It is not clear if IMDA’s decision was partly in reaction to this high-profile case, but its statement explaining the decision to ban the documentary highlighted the “skewed narrative” of the film:
The skewed narrative of the film is inflammatory and has the potential to cause disharmony amongst the different races and religions in Singapore […]
In holding up the girls as role models to be emulated in an ongoing conflict, the film incites activists to continue their resistance against the alleged oppressors.
Singapore and Israel enjoy good bilateral relations. At the same time, Singapore maintains friendly ties with the Palestinian National Authority. In 2017, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the Israel-Palestine conflict is an “emotional issue” especially for Muslims. He noted that Singapore's neighbors in the Southeast Asian region have Muslim-majority populations and that the country itself has a significant number of Muslims. One of the founding principles of Singapore is the formation of a harmonious multi-racial society.
On its Facebook page, the makers of “Radiance of Resistance” described the decision of the government as censorship:
This is the kind of blatant censorship that we face in making films that lift the Palestinian voice and that Palestinian media faces in general.
Singaporean artist Alfian Sa'at rejected the arguments of IMDA:
There is no such thing as a purely objective documentary. They all come with a point of view, with a position, they are all subjective to various degrees. And actually I would rather have a documentary that is quite obviously subjective–polemical, or participatory–than one where its ideological slant is disguised under a veneer of objectivity.
And did you even consider that this documentary, ‘Radiance of Resistance’, exists to provide a balance, a corrective to the kinds of propaganda that Israel state television and the US-centric media produce about the Palestinians?
Organizers of the film festival said they were disappointed that IMDA has banned the public screening of the documentary, but they decided not to file an appeal for lack of time.