Israel-Hamas conflict: Over 40 per cent in South-East Asia support ceasefire, says survey

ASEAN (Bernama): Over 40 per cent of South-East Asians believe the international community should support a ceasefire and prioritise humanitarian aid in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, according to a survey report released Tuesday.

"The State of South-East Asia 2024” survey by the Asean Studies Centre (ASC) at ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute conducted from Jan 3 to Feb 23 involved 1,994 South-East Asians found that this sentiment is prevalent across all Asean countries, except Brunei.

Brunei, advocating for international backing for the self-determination of the Palestinian people, also represents the region’s second most popular viewpoint at 17.5 per cent.

Others in the region believed the international community should support a two-state solution as the only solution (16.2 per cent), foster dialogue on potential solutions (14.6 per cent), and support Israel unconditionally (5.8 per cent), while 4.6 per cent viewed that the international community should not interfere in the conflict.

The Israel-Hamas conflict emerged as the top geopolitical concern in the region (46.5 per cent), followed by aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea (39.9 per cent), the Russia-Ukraine war and global scam operations (both 39.4 per cent), and others.

"Despite its geographical distance, the conflict has reverberated strongly across this diverse multi-racial and multi-religious region,” stated the survey report released Tuesday.

Meanwhile, about 30 per cent expressed concern that the conflict would catalyse the rise of extremist activities, thereby impacting domestic and regional security.

Others believed the conflict is likely to diminish trust in international law and rules-based order (27.5 per cent), erosion of domestic social cohesion due to religious divisions (17.5 per cent), greater Asean disunity (15.4 per cent) while almost 10 per cent think it does not impact the region.

The report also showed that 43.1 per cent of the respondents hold a neutral opinion towards their government’s position on the conflict, followed by approve (26.4 per cent), strongly approve (16.5 per cent), disapprove (9.2 per cent) and strongly disapprove (4.9 per cent).

The majority of Malaysian respondents approved the government’s position on the issue with a combination of 48.6 per cent that chose ‘approve’ and ‘strongly approve.’

Meanwhile, 41.8 per cent of South-East Asians expressed concern that Israel’s attack on Gaza had gone too far, with Brunei (79.2 per cent), Indonesia (77.7 per cent) and Malaysia (64.4 per cent) particularly concerned at the country level.

Others viewed that Israel has the right to retaliate subject to international law (19.6 per cent), Israel has the right to retaliate as it sees fit (8.8 per cent), Hamas attack on Israel cannot be justified (7.5 per cent), Hamas was justified in attacking Israel (5.8 per cent), while 16.5 per cent expressed no view on the matter.

Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, Prof Danny Quah said the future of the Israel-Hamas conflict will have a profound impact on Southeast Asians' perception of the world order.

"There are over a quarter billion Muslims in Southeast Asia and almost all of them are deeply affected by what they are seeing in Gaza and the sufferings of innocent Palestinians.

"This will have a huge long-term impact on ordinary people’s views on the sanctity of international rule of law, preservation of rules-based order,” he told a webinar held to launch the release of the report, Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Dean of the Institute of International Studies and Director at the Centre for American Studies, Fudan University Prof Wu Xinbo said the people in the region, same as those worldwide, are highly concerned about humanitarian disaster following Israel’s brutal and indiscriminate attack against innocent lives in Gaza.

He said the public is also concerned about the role the other countries such as the US, in supporting Israel during the conflict.

"To some extent, Israel suffers heavy reputation damage at the world stage but so does the US,” Wu added. - Bernama

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