Unprecedented times, more notes from a Filipino American in Israel
Hispanic Heritage Month, which started Sept. 15, officially ends on Oct. 15. The rest of October is now solely dedicated to Filipino American History.
But what a historic time we find ourselves in now. The US House of Representatives is without a speaker, incapacitating Congress till further notice.
As a point of Filipino American history, Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, who is African American and Filipino American, for the last 30 years has been the first and only Filipino American to serve in the House. On Tuesday, Scott voted no on the first ballot against Trump’s MAGA ally Rep. Jim Jordan’s bid for the speakership.
Finding the right speaker is important and until that time, Congress can do nothing on the three biggest stories of the day: 1. Israel’s war on Hamas terror, 2. Ukraine’s war on Russian invasion and 3. Impending shutdown of the US government.
We find ourselves in this mess (at least for No. 3) because eight MAGA Republicans showed their penchant for dysfunction and chaos by forcing out their very own Republican leader/speaker nearly two weeks ago.
The biggest story of the day, however, remains the response of Israel to Hamas’ horrifying surprise attack last week. As we brace for the impending ground war in Gaza, Israel has retaliated with airstrikes that only continue to grow the death toll.
Over the weekend I couldn’t escape the story. I was at Harvard for an Asian American alumni event and the headline in Boston was how several student groups had issued a statement saying the Israeli government was “entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.”
That brought on a mobile billboard to Harvard Square doxing students who had co-authored the statement. But criticism also came from other students, alumni, and major donors.
The university later officially and more forcefully condemned the terror attacks on Israel.
Another dispatch from my Filipino American friend in Israel
As a pacifist, I see peace as the best and only option. Getting there is not impossible, but it will be a problem.
Here’s the shot of reality. How do you have peace with people who have an ideology that wants you dead?
The question was posed to me by my longtime Filipino American friend in Israel, who I’ve known for over 40 years. He retired as a corporate lawyer, then married an Israeli woman he met in his youth. He’s lived in Israel for nearly a decade.
We’ve been communicating the past week, starting within hours of the first Hamas attack. My friend was adamant about not leaving.
He’s more so now.
In my last exchange with him this week, he said his family remained out of harm’s way where they live in the northern part of Israel.
“The country is still in a shocked state, with people struggling to get back to their routines. We need to do that, otherwise Hamas wins,” my friend wrote. “Am hosting a F*** Hamas Dinner Wednesday night for some friends. We expect to eat well, drink some good wine, and share stories that bolster our collective spirits.”
That’s one way to peacefully fight the war. Keep spirits up among those who aren’t on the front lines. But of course, if you live in Israel, the entire country is a war front.
“Great unified and motivated spirit exists throughout the country,” my friend added. “Even the Haredim (the most religiously devout Jews) are silently supporting the troops. (My wife and I) pull security duty here at the settlement we live in every few days.”
The bombs remain the constant reminder that these are not normal times.
“I was awake a lot last night as many sorties of fighter/bomber jets from a nearby airbase flew over (us), I understand, they were bombing Lebanon to create a four-kilometer wide security zone along the border,” my friend wrote. “We are expecting the ground war to start in a few days. It will be brutal. The mission has crystallized to eliminate Hamas.”
My friend was happy to see the pushback against the Harvard students.
“I hope you are not staying neutral. The massacres that occurred in the Israeli communities brook no neutrality. The fear is that while world opinion seems in favor of Israel now, it will dissipate with mounting Gazan casualties,” he said.
He said it will be important for people everywhere to have their backs.
“This is the only democracy in the Middle East,” he said. “However flawed it is.”
And what will Biden’s trip this week do?
“The best Biden can do is put off an attack by Hezbollah,” he said. “There is no path to peace—even if Hamas is eliminated. The PLO will still be around as well as Iran. How do you make peace with an ideology that wants you dead?”
I sure hope my Filipino-American friend caught up in a historical flashpoint in the Middle East is wrong when he says there is no path to peace.
I believe there has to be one. There must be a way to be both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian. If there isn’t, we need to find a way, though admittedly, it will be tougher in the land of forever wars.
(Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He writes a column for the Inquirer.net’s US channel. He also hosts a secret mini-talk show/podcast at www.amok.com)