Note: This story has been updated to add historical context to the state of Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians.
It has been nearly a full month of devastating news from besieged Gaza and West Bank as Israel’s genocidal attacks and war crimes compounding the impact of a 15-year ongoing Israeli blockade rages on. The Palestinian death toll in the last few weeks has been rapidly approaching 9,000, around 40 percent of whom are children. With reports of mass anti-Palestinian disinformation flooding the internet, public opinion on the brutal assault on Gaza has been sharply divided. And so it comes as no surprise that some personalities, even people as outspoken and informed on the issue as Bella Hadid, took time before releasing their statements.
Today, Oct. 27, Hadid posted an emotional letter urging everyone to pressure global leaders to help tend to the needs of the people in Gaza affected by this “urgent humanitarian crisis” saying, “We must all stand together in defending humanity and compassion—and demanding that our leaders do the same.”
“I’ve been sent hundreds of death threats daily, my phone number has been leaked, and my family has felt to be in danger. But I can not be silenced any longer. Fear is not an option. The people and children of Palestine, especially in Gaza, cannot afford our silence. We are not brave—they are. My heart is bleeding with pain from the trauma I am seeing unfold, as well as the generational trauma of my Palestinian blood. Seeing the aftermath from the airstrikes in Gaza, I mourn with all the mothers who have lost children and the children who cry alone, all the lost fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunties, friends that will never again walk this earth,” Hadid writes.
“I mourn for the Israeli families that have been dealing with the pain and aftermath of October 7th. Regardless of the history of the land, I condemn the terrorist attacks on any civilians, anywhere. Harming women and children and inflicting terror does not and should not do any good for the Free Palestine movement. I believe deep in my heart, that no child, no people anywhere, should be taken away from their family either temporarily or indefinitely. That goes for Israeli and Palestinian people alike,” she adds.
Incredulous reactions to Israel’s recent posts on X
On the other side of the strip, Israel’s infamous official state X page has been receiving heavy criticism these past few weeks. Netizens allege that it’s been spreading false claims in posts like the one with an allegedly photoshopped photo of missing notices for children that Israel claims are “held hostage by terrorists in the Gaza Strip.” Eagle-eyed netizens, however, noticed that the milk cartons pictured had 2021 expiry dates and were able to find what seems to be the original unedited photo.
Then earlier today, an Oct. 25 post from the account went viral after Filipino netizens called out what they described as Pinoy baiting. The term, as our sister brand Nolisoli.ph writes, means creating sensationalized Filipino-centered content that capitalizes on our sense of Pinoy pride.
The photo is reportedly of Filipina caretaker Camille Jesalva and her 95-year-old Israeli employer named Nitza Hefetz. In an interview with Israeli news site Ynet held after Hefetz’s house was broken into by a Hamas militant, Jesalva said, “I opened my wallet and told him to take everything I had, NIS 1,500 ($370), just to save myself and Nitza.” The militant took the money along with her smartphone and eventually left. Her story was confirmed to the Philippine Daily Inquirer by the Consul General of the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv, Anthony Mandap.
Thousands of quote retweets of the post were of Filipino netizens denouncing Israel’s use of a Filipina OFW’s story for what they deemed as “colonial” “propaganda.” Many even brought up the history of overseas Filipino workers mistreatment and abuse in Israel to criticize the “audacity” of what they describe as further capitalizing on “exploited labor.”
Among its vocal critics are Carwyn Candila of migrant advocates formation Migrante Philippines.
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza
“More than 3,500 Palestinians, including over 1,000 children, have been killed in Israel’s deadliest assault on Gaza, which began [after Hamas, one of the Palestinian armed resistance movements, launched a surprise attack] on Oct. 7,” Al Jazeera reported on Oct. 19. “In the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces have killed an average of one Palestinian a day over the past two years, the number has increased drastically since events unfolded.”
“Since then, the Israeli army has stepped up its daily deadly raids on Palestinian neighborhoods, villages and cities in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, where more than three million Palestinians live. Killings of residents by armed settlers have also increased,” the report details.
Since the Nakba, the term for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the near-total destruction of Palestinian society in 1948 to birth the state of Israel, Palestinians have been subject to oppression in their ancestral land. Zionist settler-colonialism instigated by the 1917 British colonial mandate called the Balfour Declaration which essentially gave away a country not theirs—that is already home to Palestinians Arabs, has records dating as far back as mid-fifth century B.C., and has been part of historical maps since 1799—to Eastern European Jewish settlers displaced by Nazi forces.
While the premise of “providing” refuge for Jewish Holocaust survivors seems born out of kindness, as netizens have been pointing out, you can’t build a Holy Land on the mass graves of children.
Gaza has been dubbed the largest open-air prison in the world since 2007. “[By 2017,] more than three million Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem were facing home demolitions, arbitrary arrests, and displacement as Israel expands the 100-plus Jewish-only colonies and steals Palestinian land to do so. Palestinian movement is restricted by military checkpoints and the Separation Wall [which began construction in 2002] that has obstructed their ability to travel freely,” reported Al Jazeera.
“Within Israel, the 1.8 million Palestinians are an involuntary minority in a state for the Jews. Rights groups have recorded some 50 laws that discriminate against them for not being Jewish, such as ones that criminalize the commemoration of the Nakba.”
“The protests [against both the Palestinian National Authority and Israeli forces] increased drastically after the bombing of a hospital in Gaza [on the night of Oct. 17 killed] 471 people, in what has been described as a massacre, and spurred worldwide outrage.
Images and videos aired by journalists at the scene showed countless bodies strewn across the ground and people carrying the limbs of their slain loved ones in bags, on the 12th day of Israel’s relentless bombardment of Gaza,” the reports says about one of the most devastating incidents so far. Since then, Israeli forces have reportedly attacked several other medical facilities and refugee camps.
What can Filipinos do to help?
Global organizations and institutions are calling for an end to the “clear violations of international humanitarian law” in Gaza. Together, we can urge global leaders to stop funding Israel’s genocide Hold accountable all those who are sending ammunition and other forms of military support to Israel Basic needs that have been cut off in Gaza like food, water, and electricity must be provided to victims.
We can also help by amplifying the stories of and humanizing Palestinian war crime victims. We can help preserve history being lost at a time when entire bloodlines being are being wiped out by attacks. We can further educate ourselves on the root of the decades-long Palestinian struggle for freedom and dignity at the heart of this war.
Art by Ella Lambio