MANILA: Filipinos rallied in Manila in front of Israel’s Embassy on Tuesday to protest its occupation of Palestine and the continuous deadly bombardment of Gaza.
The demonstration was organized by civil society groups, including BAYAN — the Philippines’ largest alliance of grassroots groups — women’s associations, medics, migrant workers, and students.
Hundreds of protesters carried Palestinian flags and banners reading: “You don’t need to be Muslim to stand up for Palestine, you just need to be human,” “Stop the genocide,” and “End Israeli occupation of Palestine now!”
BAYAN president Renato Reyes told Arab News that the protest was initially planned for November, but the intensifying Israeli attacks against civilians in Gaza and the Philippine government’s decision to follow in the footsteps of the US and abstain from last week’s UN resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire made it urgent to go to the streets now.
“The protest action is in solidarity with the Palestinian people and in strong opposition to the genocide being committed against the Palestinians,” he said.
“This is a protest directed against the Israeli government, of course also against the US government and the Philippine government, which abstained from the important UN resolution.”
Reyes referred to Filipinos’ own lived experience of struggling against occupation — over 300 years of Spanish colonial rule from 1565 to 1898 and nearly five decades of American colonization from 1898 to 1946.
“Filipinos should stand against genocide, Filipinos should stand against the oppression of other peoples as a people who have also suffered colonial occupation, colonial subjugation … It is important that we sympathize with the Palestinians who are also experiencing colonial occupation from Israel,” he said, adding that he believed Philippine voices would count in pushing authorities in Manila to oppose the attacks, which in the past three weeks have killed more than 8,000 people in Gaza and injured tens of thousands more.
According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, 66 percent of the dead are women and children.
“As a human being, as a parent … the images are heartbreaking. I cannot even imagine the grief of the parents who have to bury their children. No parents should bury their own children,” Reyes said.
“As human beings, we have to empathize with what’s happening and we have to make a stand.”
BAYAN Secretary-General Raymond Palatino told Arab News that the protest also aimed at showing that the Philippine government’s decision to abstain from the UN resolution vote did not represent the voices of Filipinos.
“In Southeast Asia, I think we are the only government which abstained. So, we want to send the message that the vote of the Philippine government does not represent the sentiment of many,” he said.
“We want to support the UN resolution, and we want to highlight our calls to stop the attacks and to end the unjust occupation.”
Palatino also warned that a further escalation of Israeli warfare poses danger to over 2 million overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East region.
“It is in our interest that there should be an end to the attacks,” he said. “If the war escalates, if it continues, if the attacks expand, eventually it will harm our migrants in the Middle East.”