[OPINION] Duterte and Israel: Why visit a rogue state?
I do not understand what President Rodrigo Duterte expects to get out of visiting Israel. Duterte says he will call off his visit only if human rights activists can convince Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel his invitation. Fat chance. The Israeli government of Netanyahu is one of the worst human rights violators in the world. I suppose one could cynically call Duterte's visit a gathering of human rights violators.
Desperate to find an excuse for Duterte's announcement that he would bring retiring military and police generals with him, both Bong Go and Harry Roque say they could learn something from the Israelis about anti-terrorism work. Precisely, but not what Duterte's shortsighted people see. If the Philippines is identified as pro-Israel, it would add incentive to terrorists who want to make the Philippines a beachhead for a renewed ISIS. Arab countries, who supply much of our oil and provide hundreds of thousands of jobs for our overseas Filipino workers, could retaliate.
I am equally concerned about the effect of Duterte's visit on the Palestinian struggle. Movie actors, singers, athletes, as well as political leaders are boycotting Israel to highlight their opposition to Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza. Duterte would be going against the worldwide Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The premise of the growing, international BDS movement is that Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people is comparable to the apartheid regime that existed in South Africa from 1948 to 1994 and therefore justifies comparable measures.
The Israeli state and the Zionist movement which preceded it have a long and bloody history. Zionist terrorist groups bombed Arab marketplaces as early as 1938, the King David hotel in 1946, ethnic cleansing in Deir Yassin, Illut, Kafr Manda, Saliha, Jish, Safsaf, Hula, Lyd, and Ramla in 1948. That year, for Palestinians the year of nakba (catastrophe), some 700,000 Palestinians or two-thirds of the population were expelled from their villages.
In 1967, Israel conquered Gaza, East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, the remaining 22% of Palestinian land, and have occupied them since then. Although declared an illegal occupation by the United Nations, Israel clearly plans to annex these territories. As early as 2005, Israel had already resettled half a million people in the West Bank. These are permanent settlements complete with shopping malls, parks, public pools, and multilane highways connecting them to Israel.
After 2002, Israel built what it calls a security fence and Palestinians call the apartheid wall. The barrier – a mix of 8-meter-high concrete slabs, fences, and barbed wire – cut through the West Bank and Jerusalem, dividing Palestinians from one another and villagers from their land. The barrier effectively annexed nearly 10% of the West Bank to Israel. In occupied East Jerusalem, up to a third of the Palestinian residents were walled off from their schools, health clinics, and workplaces.
Gaza has been chosen for severe punishment only because it is ruled by the militant Hamas. In the 2008-2009 Gaza war, 13 Israelis and around 1,400 Palestinians were killed. In the next Israeli attack on Gaza 5 years later, 2,256 Palestinians were killed, the majority of them civilians, including 538 children and 308 women. More than 11,000 others were wounded, a third of them children, with over 1,000 left permanently with disabilities. The Israeli army damaged or destroyed 235 schools and 73 health facilities. Thousands of homes, hundreds of factories and farms were totally leveled. The lone power station and a major sewage pipe in Gaza were destroyed.
The UN has condemned these attacks. South African jurist Richard Goldstone, a former international war crimes prosecutor and member of the UN team that issued the report, described the Israeli conduct as "a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate, and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability."
Israel not only disregards UN reports, it has targeted UN personnel and UN facilities in the occupied territories. As early as 1948, Zionists assassinated UN mediator Folke Bernadotte, in Jerusalem. In Gaza and Lebanon, Israeli forces attacked clearly marked UN facilities. At the UN, it is only the US that consistently defends Israel.
Israel also attacks other countries. In 1982, the Israeli army invaded Lebanon under the pretext of responding to attacks by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which at the time, was headquartered in West Beirut. It is estimated that the Israeli onslaught killed more than 17,000 Lebanese and Palestinians, most of them civilians. Israel has also attacked Syria and Iran.
There are many more instances of Israeli atrocities. The latest, the May 2018 commemoration of nakba (catastrophe), the expulsion of Palestinians from their land to make way for Israel in 1948, has again resulted in killings of Palestinians. Thousands of Palestinians, unarmed, peacefully gathering near the Israeli wall, were shot by Israeli snipers. Some 150 people, many women and children, were shot in the back running away from the snipers.
These are the crimes that Duterte and his generals will be affirming simply by being guests of a rogue state. Only the Trump government and a few small countries vulnerable to American pressure continue to defend Israel. I thought Duterte does not want the Philippines to remain a US puppet government. With this one visit, he proves that his claims to independence are hollow. – Rappler.com
Joel Rocamora is a political analyst and a seasoned civil society leader. An activist-scholar, he finished his PhD in Politics, Asian Studies, and International Relations in Cornell University, and had been the head of the Institute for Popular Democracy, the Transnational Institute, the Akbayan Citizens' Action Party, and member to a number of non-governmental organizations. From the parliament of the streets, he crossed over to the government and joined Aquino's Cabinet as the Lead Convenor of the National Anti-Poverty Commission.