[OPINION] Israel-Palestine from a Filipino perspective

By now, I’m sure you’re all aware of the conflict between Israel and Palestine that’s all over the news. Israel and Hamas are bombing one another yet again; the consensus is that the affair is an utter mess, and too complicated to examine objectively. Besides, what does a country like the Philippines care about the conflict? We have our own problems, right?

Well, neither of those things is true. We should be concerned with what Israel is doing to Palestine – not just as human beings, but as Filipino citizens. Let me explain why.

I’ll try to keep this brief. This is by no means a comprehensive look at the Israel-Palestine situation and its long history. This is just a mere statement of what is probably the most important fact in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and where I stand on the conflict considering said fact. And in my view, the facts are completely undeniable. 

This long-standing conflict, naturally, begs the question: why should we Filipinos care about the conflict between two countries so far away from us, whose day-to-day concerns are so far removed from ours? We have nothing at stake in this matter, so we should just mind our own business, right? 

Well, firstly: last year, Israel sold the PNP one billion pesos’ worth of military equipment. So no, we do have a stake in these affairs, and the Israeli government’s actions have implications for us. I’d be happy to leave the Israelis alone if that weren’t the case – life’s short enough, after all, and the conflict is so undeniably messy – but the fact is that my tax money is being used to procure their weapons for use by the police whose salaries I pay. Until that stops, I will remain concerned.

Moreover, the accusations that Israel is a settler colony should matter to the Philippines. From a moral standpoint, we are ourselves a formerly colonized country – first under the Spanish, then under the Americans. And as collective victims of Spanish and American colonialism, we should take great interest in any other country accused of colonizing any native people; in fact, that accusation should be a defining point in our foreign relations with said country.

With that established, how do we look at the matter objectively? Well, there’s a common misconception that to be objective, you need to be neutral – that logic, facts, and principles naturally take no sides in conflicts. No. Many times, stating facts does skew you towards a certain side. And in the Israel-Palestine conflict, the facts are undeniable. Israel is committing a crime called apartheid, a grave offense against human rights and international law. 

Apartheid, as defined by the United Nations, is “[any act] committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other group of persons.” In short, it’s treating people differently based on their ancestry, something they have absolutely no control over and no capability to change. The most famous apartheid regime would be the South African regime that ended with P.W. Botha. 

Apartheid is, of course, a grave crime and should be opposed by everyone everywhere. Fundamental to apartheid is a simple question: why should anyone be considered lesser in law and in practice because of their ancestry? On this matter, the international consensus is clear – they shouldn’t, and doing so constitutes a crime against humanity. Any nation that does so is thereby violating the fundamental human rights of the people in question.

When I say that Israel is committing apartheid, I’m not merely voicing my opinion; I’m agreeing with the exhaustively-researched view of various international bodies. In a 213-page report it published, for instance, the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch confirmed that the ruling Israeli government is systemically and methodologically privileging Jewish Israelis over Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, which amounts to the crime of apartheid. 

This revelation should appall everyone regardless of nationality, but should appall us Filipinos especially. After all, we were systemically subjugated by the Spanish ourselves, and should condemn any similar form of discrimination. It should be a defining part in how we interact with the accused country. To some extent, it already is; the Philippines recognized Palestinian statehood in 1989, one of many countries to do so.

But as evidenced by the above arms sale, that recognition clearly isn’t enough. Philippine foreign policy is still remarkably warm towards Israel; despite our current president comparing himself to Hitler, he was welcomed to Tel Aviv to negotiate for arms. This is a practice that needs to end for as long as Israel systemically and methodologically oppresses Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as everyone else; their lives matter just as much as ours. To ignore that is to go against principles of basic morality and international law, which would undermine any of one’s claims of moral authority. If we don’t condemn Israel’s practice of apartheid, we undermine any claim to moral authority we might have. Changing our attitude towards Tel Aviv should be a key touchstone in any human rights-based foreign policy towards it. 

Free Palestine. – Rappler.com

Alfonso Divinagracia is a 23-year-old writer and graduate student currently studying in UP Diliman. He believes firmly that human rights are either universal or nothing, and spends his free time drinking cheap coffee.