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When it comes to Palestine, the Philippines is on the wrong side of history

On October 27, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a non-binding resolution, with overwhelming support, calling for an immediate humanitarian truce between Israel and Hamas and demanding aid access to Gaza.

One hundred and twenty countries voted in favor of the resolution, clearly expressing their opposition to the continuation of the Israeli siege and bombing of Gaza, which has killed thousands of civilians.

The Philippines was not one of those countries. Like 45 other people, she abstained from voting on the resolution. Instead, it recognized Israel’s “right to self-defense” while remaining silent on the human rights violations and war crimes faced by Palestinians in Gaza.

While this was disappointing, it wasn’t terribly surprising. The Philippine government has unconditionally supported Israel for many decades, turning a blind eye to numerous violations of international law and serious crimes against Palestinians living under its occupation.

The ties between the Philippines and Israel are as old as Israel itself. The Philippines was one of 33 countries that voted in favor of UN Resolution 181 in 1947, dividing Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish, with Jerusalem placed under a special international regime. This plan, as we all know, was never implemented. However, the Philippines continued to support the Israeli state and its unlawful expansion into the Palestinian territories.

Israel and the Philippines established full diplomatic relations in 1957 and signed a friendship treaty in 1958. Since then, Manila’s support for Israel has remained strong. Not only has it never pressured Israel to give up the occupied Palestinian territories, but it has also always actively sought to protect them from international criticism. For example, in 2017, the Philippines, openly contradicting its 1947 position, abstained from voting on a resolution criticizing then-US President Donald Trump’s attempts to unilaterally cement Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

A year later, Rodrigo Duterte became the first president of the Philippines to visit Israel. At the beginning of his term, Duterte promised to pursue an independent foreign policy that would not automatically adapt to U.S. policy. However, under his administration, as exemplified by his visit to the country in 2018, the Philippines continued its unconditional diplomatic and political support to Israel on all fronts.

Today, under the administration of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Philippines has firmly returned to the American sphere of influence, and the country’s support for Israel remains as strong as ever.

Since the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, which killed approximately 1,200 people and captured more than 200, the Philippines has repeatedly demonstrated solidarity with Israel and condemned the harm done to Israeli civilians. But that wasn’t the end.

Consistent with its long-held pro-Israel stance, the Philippines went beyond promoting the human rights of Israelis and offered blind support to the Israeli government and its vindictive and objectively disproportionate attacks on Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

By showing unconditional and unquestioning support for the Israeli government and its war in Gaza, the Philippines has clearly placed itself on the wrong side of history and ultimately acted against its own interests.

The Israeli siege and bombardment of Gaza has already had a huge human cost, claiming the lives of over 11,000 people in just a few weeks, many of them children. Like all countries, the Philippines has a moral obligation not to participate in, support or in any way tolerate state policies and actions that lead to thousands of deaths, widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure and mass displacement. It also has the obligation to hold all states, including its allies, accountable in the event of flagrant violations of international law. A foreign policy that does not actively demand an end to all violence in Gaza undermines these commitments and exposes the Philippines to accusations of complicity in Israel’s human rights abuses and alleged war crimes in Gaza.

Showing blind support for Israel is also against the long-term interests of the Philippine government.

The Philippines has first-hand knowledge of the dangers of having a militarily and economically powerful neighbor that routinely disregards international law and attempts to expand its activities into the territories of neighboring smaller states. The Philippines has long been involved in territorial disputes with China, and as recently as this week there were confrontations with Chinese ships over the issue.

Supporting those violating international law and norms weakens the Philippines’ moral standing in the international arena and its calls to condemn China’s territorial aggression in the South China/West Philippine Sea. The Philippines cannot expect the international community to help it confront violations of international law by a neighboring country while actively supporting similar violations by another nation.

Therefore, for reasons ranging from moral obligation to self-interest, the Philippines should review its policy towards Israel, end its unwavering support for the Israeli government, and, most importantly, adopt a foreign policy that recognizes and respects the human rights of all peoples, including the Palestinians. The Philippines must admit that killing civilians, whether they are Israelis or Palestinians, is wrong, whether or not.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.

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