Muslim Filipinos urge ceasefire in Gaza

Muslim leader and secretary-general of the Moro (Muslim)-Christian People’s Alliance (MCPA) Amirah Lidasan, in her call for a ceasefire on November 14, said: “We are appalled. Appalled and ashamed that the Philippine government has yet again sided with the United States in refusing to support the ceasefire. 

“Gaza is being reduced to rubble, children are dying after being crushed under the weight of their destroyed homes, and the Philippine government is refusing to take a stand. Filipinos do not agree with this!”

At the protest in front of the United States Embassy in the Philippines, she spoke to a gathered crowd of protestors, among them students, government employees, and church representatives. 

On October 7, the terrorist group Hamas invaded Israel in a surprise attack, killed around 1,200 and kidnapped at least 200 hostages. The Israel Defense Forces responded by conducting an extensive aerial bombardment campaign, imposing a total blockade of the Gaza Strip, followed by a large-scale ground invasion of Gaza.

Amirah pointed out that what Hamas did was in retaliation for 75 years of illegal occupation on Palestinian land.

“The Western media and the allies of Israel and its main backer the U.S. government keep saying Hamas is a terrorist group attacking Israel and Israeli settlers, but they consistently ignore the crimes of Israel against the people of Palestine. 

“For 75 years and counting since the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe) when the U.S. and the United Nations created Israel on Palestinian land, the agony Palestinians have been facing has been continuous and unending.” 

The Nakba, which means catastrophe in Arabic, refers to the mass displacement and dispossession of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

“The Nakba continues to happen, and the displacement of Palestinians and the destruction of Palestinian life has been happening all this time since Israel was created,” Amirah insisted.

“The Bangsamoro and indigenous peoples in the Philippines hold the U.S. government accountable for all the Palestinian men, women, and children killed during Israel’s genocide,” Amirah said. 

“We are ashamed of the Philippine government as well for abstaining from voting on the resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.”

Amirah said there are similarities between Israel and the Philippines. Both these countries, she said, are run by leaders who rely on the support of the U.S. 

“President Marcos Jr’s has been silent on the crimes of humanity being conducted by Israel even as officials of other countries and more importantly their citizens are denouncing Israel and taking to the streets in outrage against the Gaza bombings,” she said. 

Marcos, she alleged, ignores and dismisses the crimes and atrocities of the U.S. and Israeli governments in return for increased military aid, sales of war armaments, and political support that worsen the human rights violations in the Philippines and aggravate tensions between the US and China in the Asia-Pacific.

On October 13, Gilberto Teodoro, secretary of the Department of National Defense, said there is a possibility of spillover of violence from local sympathizers of Hamas. He added that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is monitoring potential “copycat” effects among groups supporting Hamas.

Amirah said the possibility of the Philippine government using the pretext of Israel-Hamas conflict to attack Moro (Filipino Muslims) had crossed her mind. She said it is possible the government will label the protests by the Bangsamoro people in Manila and Mindanao as acts of terrorism, as Moros are always under government suspicion whenever the word terrorism is mentioned. 

Amirah also lambasted former president Rodrigo Duterte for saying on October 10 that if he was in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s place, he would turn Gaza into “the world’s biggest cemetery”.

There were protests in cities and regions, especially in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, to denounce Israel and call for a ceasefire. 

Students and academics from universities such as the University of the Philippines, the Ateneo de Manila, De la Salle University and the University of Sto. Tomas sponsored symposia and discussions on the history of Palestine. 

Doctors, teachers and factory workers and their unions joined rallies and protests in front of the Israeli and U.S. embassy offices, and religious groups led by Protestants and Catholics held ecumenical ceremonies with Muslim imams to support international calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.  

Some Filipino children were also involved in the solidarity actions for Palestine. Nine-year-old Marcelo Suarez, a spokesperson for the child rights advocacy groups Salinlahi and the Children’s Rehabilitation Center, said during a recent activity celebrating International Children’s Month that Filipino children also experienced what Gazan children are going through. 

Suarez said: “During times of conflict and war, children always suffer the most. Police and even soldiers harass and threaten Filipino children in peasant and indigenous people communities. 

“Some have even been killed when they were accused of being child soldiers or when their farmer parents were accused of being supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA) who fight against private companies who drive away farmers from their land.” 

The New People’s Army is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Church-based organizations and sectoral groups led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN or New Patriotic Alliance), the PPFA and the Moro Consensus Group, who held a rally on November 25 in Manila, said in a statement that as people of faith, they cannot stand idly by as an onslaught of bombings, injuries and destruction rain down upon the people of Gaza and that they believed in standing with the oppressed.

“Having said this, we also see that it is important to delineate that victims can also become oppressors of others. Victimhood is never a permission for violating the human rights and dignity of others. Past war crimes will not justify present ones.”

Photo credit: BAYAN. Amirah Lidasan, Muslim leader and secretary-general of the Moro (Muslim)-Christian People’s Alliance (MCPA).

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