I realized I hadn’t written about the US-backed Israeli attacks on Gaza. I was busy reading and learning, so the silence was unintentional. But Teo rightly points out how only a handful of Filipino bloggers have expressed solidarity with Gaza and Palestine. So this is me adding my voice.
In the mid-1980s, my dad made a living by exporting Pinoy food for Filipino contract workers in Saudi Arabia. His partner, Tito Ahmed, would visit Manila and take our family out for McDonalds during the long stretches that my dad worked in Jeddah. One day, over fries and a milkshake, I mentioned that I could not find his home country Palestine in my atlas.
Tito Ahmed got agitated, a marked contrast to his sweet disposition. When I was a boy, he told me, Israeli soldiers came to his farm. His family had to relocate for a few days. No, they were told, you could not bring your animals. Just leave them enough food and water for two weeks, then you’ll be back. The family spent their last day in the farm shoveling feed into chicken coops.
That was almost forty years ago, he told me. They never did see that farm again. He would need a visa to even set foot in the town where he was born. A visa, he yelled, pounding the McDonald’s table with his fist. It’s like you needing a visa to visit Laguna.
Why would anyone need a visa to visit their home province? It was a question that my twelve-year-old brain filed away. I never really understood until recently that Tito Ahmed and his family were displaced by an occupation. Based on the number of careless rehashes of “Hamas fires rockets from their civilian areas so Israel has to defend itself,” the fact that Palestinians are living under a US-backed Israeli occupation still eludes many Pinoy bloggers.
This unquestioning Filipino support of US and Israeli actions is not unprecedented. Via Herbert Docena at Focus on the Global South:
In 1947, the future of the Middle East stood before a vote at the United Nations General Assembly. . .
On the table at the UN was Resolution 181, which – in proposing to partition Palestine between Arabs and Jews – effectively sought to legitimize settler-colonialism. Under the plan, the Jewish state was to be allocated 55% of the total land. . .
Approved by the Zionists – who never made a secret of their plans to eventually expand their state – and rejected by Palestinians, the resolution was backed by the US and other colonial powers but opposed by many Arab and other formerly colonized countries. Lacking the required majority, the resolution stood on the verge of defeat – until three countries, pressured by the US, switched votes.
At this point in the article, I was reminded, of all things, of a Margaret Cho stand-up routine. She recounted the hours after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, when news spread that the gunman was Asian. Please don’t be Korean, Cho thought. Please don’t be Korean. The punchline was that not only was the shooter Korean American, but his last name was also Cho.
So back during the 1947 debates on the UN Partition Plan, three countries bowed to US pressure, to support settler colonialism. Oh please don’t let the Philippines be among those three, I thought. Please tell me that the Philippines stood in solidarity with countries fighting for independence and against colonialism.
But of course, the Philippines was among the three vote-switchers. What a shocker.
The attacks on Gaza are now fading from the headlines, and from Filipino consciousness. But considering our complicity in this carnage, we need to keep this issue alive. Today, at least, we should do what we should have done in 1947, and stand in solidarity with Palestine. Docena suggests we can begin by supporting:
a global boycott, divestments, and sanctions campaign against Israel of the scale that ended apartheid in South Africa. Consumers should stop buying from companies that support Israel, Manila should cut its “sister-city” ties with Haifa, universities should stop inviting Zionist professors, cultural groups should not show Israeli films, and so on.
Given our 1947 vote on the UN Partition Plan, the least we could do as Pinoys is to be aware of our own complicity. To move beyond carelessly sputtering “but but but Palestinians fire rockets” or worse, “It’s not really our problem.”
The least we could do is to be cognizant of our role in bringing this crisis about. Of how our government’s actions in 1947 have resulted in the displacement and immiseration of people. And to be cognizant of how our silence and refusal to stand in solidarity with groups that we helped to disenfranchise makes us complicit in the continued suffering of people like Tito Ahmed.