Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Filipino Palestinian Cousins-- Faces in the Perspective

In the wake of the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the rising death toll especially on the Palestinian side, currently New York Times reported that, as of noon, 655 people had been killed since the operation’s onset, 4,220 wounded and 1,090 homes demolished, of which many are women, children, and elderly men--I'm moved to write about my three Filipino-Jordanian cousins, who are Palestinian. The current conflict is justified by Israel as a measure of "self-defense after days of restraint, warnings, and pleas—as rockets continued to land on its cities and later when militants sprang from tunnels to kill its citizens." In 2011, my cousins used these same tunnel to escape to Egypt and eventually be reunited with their Filipina mother, my father's cousin.
When I visited the Philippines, I met them in 2011 in Manila. Sherene is 18, she is studying to be a nurse. Sisi is 13, she became the Manila figure skating champion in her age bracket also in 2011. Lafi is 15 and has a strong interest in photography. We swam in the pool, we ate a lot, we visited different tourists sites in Manila and just had a wonderful short time spent together.
I also had an opportunity to hear about their home life in Palestine, the suffering and deprivation they faced on a daily basis because of the blockade that Israel has put on Gaza. The blockade is considered by UN officials as illegal in March 2014. The Palestinian demanded that the blockade be lifted, and since Israel refused to do so, peace talks were futile. Details of the conflict from the American Al Jezera network is causing me more anxiety.

My cousins friends are targeted, their family left behind in Palestine have evacuated, homes demolished, and their grandfather, who is paralyzed has nowhere to go. Hamas is purportedly using human shields. But what if these human shields are also people who wanted a better life, end to the blockade? Would they then be classified as Hamas, and valid targets? My cousins, who are currently living a wonderful life in Manila are mortified by what is going on.

Living in the USA, particularly in the Bible Belt South, there is a pro-Israeli sentiment because of religious traditions and affiliations. It's easy to go with the flow and stop asking questions.

In going to war, these questions should be asked: Are the reasons for the war morally compelling? This in philosophy is "the right to go to war" (jus ad bellum)
The second question to ask is: the "right conduct in war" (jus in bello)--This principle is meant to limit excessive and unnecessary death and destruction.

I've scoured the news to try to understand what is happening. I think for both philosophical questions, the Israeli current conduct is not justified. I don't think it's useful to look at this from a religious perspective. Both groups of people live there, and both equally have the right to exist, the right to pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

However, Washington seems committed to Israel, and with this commitment, there is no enforcement mechanism to hold Israel accountable. And accountability is important, CRUCIAL, in world peace.

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