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article imageSingapore-Israeli history in ex-journalist's espionage thriller Special

article:342574:27::0
By AR Vasquez
Jan 31, 2013 in Entertainment
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Singapore - When people think about Israel, Singapore does not normally come to mind. Surprisingly, Singapore and Israel have had a longstanding secret relationship which goes back 47 years.
The Huffington Post recently published an article by Jim Sleeper called Blame the Israel-Arab war on... Singapore? which draws the similarities and alliances between the two countries.
"...no sooner had Singapore gained its independence in August 1965 than its British-educated founder and first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew (whose eldest son is now prime minister), invited Israel to organize his armed forces, because he saw all the parallels between the two young nations that I've just noted.
On Christmas Eve, 1965, six Israel Defense Force officers and their families moved to Singapore, followed by waves of consulting teams that established the country's "Total Defense" combat doctrines, its recruitment and training regimens, its intelligence services, and its state-of-art arms procurement.
"We are not going to turn Singapore into an Israeli colony," chief of staff and future prime minister Yitzhak Rabin admonished these teams.
The Israelis militarized Singaporean society, even with Israeli military songs, to which Lee's soldiers marched in one of Singapore's first real Independence Day parades." - Huffington Post article by Jim Sleeper - Blame the latest Israel-Arab war by Singapore?
It was in Singapore's first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's memoirs "From Third World to First: The Singapore Story 1965-2000" that the secret relationship between Israel and Singapore was revealed.
"Christmas Eve, 1965, is the unofficial date of the start of the great and continuing love story between Israel and Singapore, a love affair that was kept a deep, dark secret. The international press, like the Israeli media, tried to bring the tale to light. Occasionally, scraps of information leaked out; some were published, some were denied, many were disregarded. The Israelis, as usual, wanted to rush to tell all their friends, but managed to overcome that desire. The fear that the thies would be terminated if they became public knowledge had its effect. Israel imposed a total blackout on the story and the secret was preserved. Until the other side could no longer contain itself." - Haaretz
Digital Journal interviewed Khaled Talib, a former journalist from Singapore, whose upcoming novel Smokescreen brings action and suspense around the hidden Israel-Singapore connections, uncovering unimaginable global plots and events.
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Digital Journal: Tell me something about your upcoming suspense thriller novel Smokescreen.
Khaled Talib: Smokescreen ushers us into a world of global intrigue and sinister, far-reaching alliances between the US, Israel, and Singapore. Set amid the glittering skyscrapers of Singapore’s Raffles City and the opium dens of Chinatown, the novel introduces us to Jethro Westrope, a Singaporean journalist who writes for a magazine, and who hobnobs with the city’s elite. West stumbles onto the scene of a murder: the beautiful Niki Kishwani directs him, in her last breath, to a digital recorder, evidence that puts Jet’s life in serious danger. And much worse — he is framed for Niki’s murder by Chan Boon Seng, chief protocol officer of the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and tracked by Chan’s assassin for hire.
Digital Journal: What types of readers will it appeal to?
Khaled Talib: Smokescreen separates itself from the pack by offering an edgy, dark and intense read that will keep you riveted to your chair. Be prepared to lose sleep!
Digital Journal: What inspired you to write Smokescreen?
Khaled Talib: The book was inspired by the relationship between Singapore, a tiny island in Southeast Asia, and Israel. In 1965, an Israeli military delegation arrived in Singapore disguised as Mexicans and started to build the various branches of the armed forces on the island. The two countries have also taken this relationship to a different level and now cooperate in areas like science and defense technology.
The inspiration for the novel was also based on an event that took place in Singapore in 1974. Several commandos from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Japanese Red Army jointly attacked the Shell oil refinery complex on Pulau Bukom, a small island lying south of Singapore.
I was also intrigued by an incident that took place in 1954 in Egypt known as The Lavon Affair – code named "Operation Susannah." It was a botched Israeli covert operation to plant bombs inside the Arab state. The attacks were to be blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood.
Digital Journal: Do you have a favorite excerpt from the book? If so, could you please share it with us?
Khaled Talib:
So, Mr. Jethro Westrope, if you’re having trouble digesting this, my advice to you is to choose between Kosher and Halal because anything else is grub. Time to wake up, small island man. See the real face of our planet beyond what Google can show you. excerpt from Smokescreen
Digital Journal: Tell me something about yourself.
Khaled Talib: I was born and raised in Singapore in 1965. My ancestors came from Hadhramaut in Yemen in the 1800s when the island hosted the trading post of the East India Company.
I began my career in Singapore as a staff writer for a weekly oil and gas industry newspaper before switching to the colorful world of magazine journalism. My articles have also appeared in numerous newspapers worldwide. While building a career in journalism, I spent several years in Cairo, Egypt, and worked for a lifestyle magazine.
I constantly got into trouble with the Egyptians as nobody believed I was from Singapore. I looked like an Egyptian, they said. During a press conference at a film festival in Cairo, I asked a famous Egyptian movie star a question in English instead of querying in Arabic. A reporter then started a rumor that I was a spy from Israel. Later, I was approached by a mob of curious journalists. A friend who had accompanied me convinced everyone that I was far from being a threat to the nation.
I wrote an email to author Alex Berenson after reading his story about how he had disguised himself as an Arab to enter Al Azhar mosque in Cairo. He replied to my email, saying that my experience was funny. I wrote to him saying it was funnier that he, being a Jewish person, got away as an Arab while I did not.
I am a stubborn person, but not to the extent of being irrational. If you ask me not to jump over the cliff, I won't disagree. I guess that works in journalism -- to be stubborn, especially when you have to chase a story.
Being stubborn also suits the life of a writer. I almost gave up trying to finish my manuscript, Smokescreen. To get your novel published feels like a Kung-Fu exponent trying to break a wall with his bare hands. You have to punch the wall over and over again. You just have to keep on going, even if you injure your hands. But something in me refused to give up. It pays to be persistent. You have to believe in yourself that you can break the wall.
I went to a Catholic kindergarten. One day, I came home and drew the crucifixion of Christ scene on a piece of paper. My mother saw my artwork and she went ballistic! Afterwards, I found myself attending Islamic tutorial classes.
During my kindergarten days, my imagination was out of control unlike my adult life where I have learned to edit my thoughts. I remember attending church in the kindergarten’s compound. The church was dark, dim. I sat at the end of the pew in the last row. I remember seeing lots of candles at the altar. A nun in a black habit knelt in front of a long table. I thought she was crying. Mind you, I was a six-year-old boy. As far as I was concerned, the table was a coffin! And for some reason, I also thought Count Dracula was resting in the coffin. To me, the nun looked like she was crying over the vampire’s coffin!
I bribed the boy next to me with a sweet to let me sit between him and my teacher. You see, months earlier, I had gone to the cinema with my mother to watch Count Dracula. She was not allowed to leave the house unescorted in accordance to Arab culture. So she brought me along. For most of the time, I covered my eyes with my hands, and would watch the movie through my finger gaps. Well, those horror scenes replayed in my mind that day at the church.
In secondary school, I submitted an essay during mid-year exams about a gigolo having an affair with the Singapore Prime Minister's wife. My composition was inspired by the movie, American Gigolo. It raised plenty of eyebrows in the teachers’ room.
You have to understand Singapore is a rigid and grey society. So many things are labelled as taboo in our society. Although my form teacher reproached me for writing such a story, the exam marker gave me high marks. She even made copies of the paper for other students to emulate.
I am a sheesha afficionado, and I get irritated by people who tell me that it's not a healthy hobby. I don't drink or smoke. So this is my only vice.
I enjoy travelling and make it a ritual to visit one or two countries in a year. When I visited South Africa, I signed up for a shark cage diving experience. But at the last minute, I backed out because the cage looked flimsy, and I just could not convince myself to go into the water. I chose to stay on the boat, preferring to videotape Mr. Jaws from a safe distance. I was pretty excited to see a white shark. It surfaced several times to show its large set of dentures. That was good enough for me. There’s no need to get too close.
Digital Journal: When and where will your book be available for sale?
Khaled Talib: Smokescreen is scheduled to be published in January 2014. The novel will be published by Typhoon Media's new imprint, Lightning Originals .
Digital Journal: What is your marketing strategy for Smokescreen when it is released?
Khaled Talib: The publisher will handle all aspects of marketing. As I am a Public Relations practitioner today, I will be able to assist in the media campaign.
Digital Journal: If you were given one wish to make a change in the world, what would it be?
Khaled Talib: We need to put more effort to stop the violence, exploitation and abuse of children. I was shocked and dismayed by what recently happened at Connecticut. I wrote to one of my editors in the United States to voice my anger. How I wish I was Superman so that I could save every single child on that day.
A while ago, I read a report in the papers about a 5-year-old Mexican boy whose eyes were gorged out during a satanic ritual. I wrote to every medical and scientific organization around the world pleading to the experts to save him. Unfortunately, the technology is not available yet. I found out the boy's name after contacting the Mexican embassy in Singapore. Fernando.
We have had many tragic cases here in Singapore too. I have done some projects to help improve the lives of children in Singapore. With the help of my clients, we have done some good work. But it's not enough. It's never enough.
Digital Journal: Do you have anything you would like to say to Digital Journal readers?
Khaled Talib: I tend to listen to my little voice. If it works for me, it will work for you. Also, have faith in God, but do tie your camel. After all, He gave you common sense.
Digital Journal: What is next for you?
Khaled Talib: Something happened to me while I was holidaying in Geneva. Hopefully, there's going to be another manuscript.
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Find out more about Khaled Talib and Smokescreen on:
Twitter: @KhaledTalib
Smokescreen is scheduled to be published in January 2014 by Typhoon Media's new imprint, Lightning Originals.
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