Progressive groups stand with Palestine, denounce US-backed Israeli occupation

Leaders of progressive groups in the Philippines expressed solidarity with Palestine as Israel continues its occupation and genocide in Gaza.

In a forum on Friday, Oct. 27, academics and representatives of solidarity formations drew similarities between the Palestinian struggle for freedom and the Filipinos’ long history of fighting for democracy.

Palestinians have been under attack by the Israeli Defense Forces since Oct. 7 after the armed Islamic resistance group Hamas launched a surprise attack in towns and cities in southern Israel.

The strike is a response to an Israeli assault against worshippers in an East Jerusalem mosque on Sept. 17, as well as to the crimes resulting from Israeli occupation in the region.

“The happening on October 7 did not happen in a vacuum. 75 years of occupation resorted to this,” said Pastor Alan Sarte from the Philippine-Palestine Friendship Association (PPFA), referring to the Hamas attacks.

As of Sunday, Oct. 29, Palestine’s Ministry of Health has recorded more than 8,000 casualties and around 22,000 injuries, including women and children, in the Gaza Strip and West Bank due to continuous military attacks by Israel.

Where PH stands

On Saturday, Oct. 28, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, with 120 votes in favor, 14 against and 45 abstentions.

The Philippines, however, was among those who skipped voting, citing the exclusion of a proposal to condemn the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, which “killed many innocent civilians, including Filipinos working and living in Israel.”

Earlier this month, President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr. also met with Israeli ambassador to the Philippines Ilan Fluss, saying that the country stands with Israel in its war against Hamas.

Progressive groups, on the other hand, have since differed and protested against Marcos’ support for Israel. 

Mass organizations including the League of Filipino Students (LFS) held mobilizations expressing solidarity for the people of Palestine while rejecting the “United States-backed” illegal occupation of Israel.

“In the eyes of the Palestinian people and oppressed people across the world, the US has further exposed itself as an enemy of liberation movements, a perpetrator of war crimes, and a brittle hegemon,” LFS said in an Oct. 17 statement.

Humanitarian and multisectoral groups also staged a protest in Quezon City on Saturday, Oct. 28, reasserting that they do not share the government’s stance on Israel’s attacks against Palestinians.

Progressive groups, including labor unions and student formations, marched at the Academic Oval in UP Diliman on Saturday, Oct. 28, to express their solidarity with the Palestinians. Photo by R.S.

In 2012, Manila voted for Palestine to be granted a non-member observer State status in the UN. The resolution also recognized “the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and independence” in the occupied territory.

However, the tides changed six years later, when former President Rodrigo Duterte visited Israel. The former chief executive, who likened himself to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, shopped for military weapons in the country in his push to pivot away from the United States.

An Israeli-Palestinian publication reported that these Israeli weapons were used by the Philippine state forces in Duterte’s war on drugs, which is currently facing an investigation by the International Criminal Court.

Long history

In the forum, Professor Sarah Raymundo of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) recalled the roots of the Israeli occupation in Gaza, which started through Zionism.

Started in 1897 by journalist Theodore Herzl, it is the belief that Jews have a right to establish a state in their ancestral homeland of Israel.

This was backed by the 1917 Balfour Declaration of the United Kingdom, which enabled “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” The United Nations (UN) General Assembly took this a step further in 1947 by voting to divide Palestine into two statesone each for the Arabs and the Jews.

This was rejected by the Arabs and led to a war against Israel. The Jews won the war in 1948, and as a result, almost 1 million Palestinians were displaced and moved to nearby areas of Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The event would be known as the Nakba, an Arabic word for “catastrophe.”

Palestinians continue to deal with displacement by Jewish settlers, essentially making them one of the largest groups of refugees in the world.

A Palestinian from Gaza who declined to be identified also spoke at the forum, appealing for support for their quest for liberation.

He also asked for help in dispelling misconceptions about Hamas being terrorists, insisting that they are “freedom fighters.”

“The media says Hamas are terrorists because they started this, but they are just [fighting] back,” he said.