Thinking Beyond Politics


Peace in the Middle East has always been precarious. But the Oct. 7 surprise attack by terror group Hamas on Israel and the latter’s response definitively shattered the relative stability and threw the region into chaos. For more than a week now, images of violence, destruction, and loss have become staples of our news feeds. Thousands have died, thousands more are injured and have been displaced, and the figures are increasing.

This is a tragedy on so many levels.

First, this is proof that evil in the form of terrorism is a clear and present danger in this world. We condemn in superlative terms the terrorist attacks that have been happening in the past few days. The senseless violence has claimed the lives of Israeli civilians — those who wish for nothing but a quiet life where they can be with their loved ones, enjoy the fruits of their hard work, and thrive. Even vulnerable members of the population such as children, women, the sick, and the elderly have not been spared and are in fact being used as human shields. Actions of this nature are unacceptable in a society that values civility.

Second, we also recognize the tragedy this has brought upon Palestinians themselves. Not all Palestinians are disciples of Hamas. Many of them are ordinary citizens, seeking peace and stability in their lives and in their land. They have their own struggles and are also caught in the crossfire.

Third, the massive scale of destruction that Hamas must have known will be inevitable, lays to waste everything the Palestinian people have worked for. The next generation, who could bring a fresh resolution to the age-old conflict, has been traumatized and indoctrinated to hate and to seek vengeance as pawns of Hamas’ vicious designs.

Fourth, the war highlights diverse global challenges, the evolving dynamics of power, and the enduring nature of asymmetric security challenges in a multipolar world. Before Oct. 7, and in the aftermath of a pandemic that crippled the global economy three years ago, the world was watching developments in Ukraine and in the South China Sea. This war in Israel complicates and intensifies the international geo-political situation, threatening to bring more economic disruptions — like price fluctuations and supply chain disruptions — as a result.

The Philippines has a stake in the conflict because about 30,000 Filipinos live and work in Israel, according to government data. As of this writing, three Filipinos lost their lives on Oct. 7, and three more are unaccounted for. Twenty have been rescued. The coming days continue to be uncertain for all Filipinos who are in Israel, when they simply decided to work there to be able to provide a better life for their families. Now, aside from the imminent physical danger that they face, their jobs and means of livelihood — meaning the financial future of their loved ones —are also in peril.

We take heart in our government’s initial action. President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. has said the Philippines stands with Israel, with whom we have a deep and meaningful friendship. Marcos Jr. made this statement during his meeting with Israeli Ambassador Ilan Fluss at Malacañang.

Meanwhile, efforts to help Filipinos trapped in Israel and Gaza and the families of those who have been harmed and killed are under way. Despite the volatile situation, authorities are trying to find a way to bring the bodies home. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will provide burial assistance to the families of the casualties, and their family members would be referred to projects under the agency’s Sustainable Livelihood Program. Meanwhile, the Philippine Embassy’s Migrant Workers Office (MWO) and a team from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) are continuously aiding evacuated Filipinos. Authorities are exploring options for the logistics of repatriation.

The Anti-Terrorism Council said it is pushing for the designation of Hamas as a terrorist group under Republic Act 11479. Such a designation will trigger the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s authority to freeze the assets of the group. Numerous countries have already declared Hamas a terrorist group. The list includes, aside from Israel, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, Egypt, Colombia, Venezuela, Paraguay, and Jordan. The European Union has done the same.

Amid the death and destruction now happening in Israel and Gaza, the rest of the world is given the opportunity to affirm our commitment to peace and stability, and to the rules-based international order. More than ever, we are aware that violence, expansionism, and terror have no place in our world — a world that should know better after all the wars and other tragedies it has endured.

The Philippines is one with the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy in their joint statement reiterating their support for the State of Israel. Solidifying international support will reinforce the adherence to international laws and norms to discourage and, when there is no other choice, neutralize with force, terrorist forces that seek to undermine the peaceful co-prosperity fostered by the rule of law.


Victor Andres “Dindo” C. Manhit is the president of the Stratbase ADR Institute.