Historic ties between Israel and the Philippines

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty Josephus Jimenez - The Freeman

Among the 10 members of ASEAN, the Philippines is the only country in this region with a special friendship with Israel. The strongest evidence of these special bonds is the fact that Filipinos are not required to get visas whenever we enter the territory of the powerful nation of Israel. This is payment for Israel's debt of gratitude to the Philippines. During the time of President Manuel Quezon, we were the only country in Asia that welcomed Jews who were persecuted and massacred by Adolf Hitler during the Holocaust.

Historical facts do indicate that the Philippines voted in favor of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution Number 181 recommending the partition of Palestine and the establishment of an independent Jewish state. Therefore, the Philippines was instrumental in the birth of Israel as a free and independent state. Our country was among the 33 countries that supported the establishment of Israel and the only Asian country that voted for the resolution. Among those that supported Israel were the USA, China, Russia, Ukraine, France, Canada, Cuba, and Norway. The Philippine vote was the tipping point and led to the victory of the Jewish people in the UN General Assembly.

Among those who voted against Israel were the members of the Arab League which included Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen, as well as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, India, and Burma (now called Myanmar). On the other hand, the Philippines has always stood behind Israel in its struggles against the Arabs. In fact, on December 11, 1948, our UN delegation also supported UN Resolution 194 which established a conciliation commission that provided for the protection of and free access to Jerusalem and other Holy Places, allowed refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the governments or authorities responsible.

On May 11, 1949, the Philippines also voted in favor of UN Resolution 247, for the admission of Israel as a full-fledged member of the United Nations. The Philippines is the most reliable ally of Israel in the Far East and among the ASEAN member states. Indonesia, which is the largest Muslim country in the whole world, cannot be expected to vote in favor of Israel and against the Arab countries. The same is true with Malaysia and Brunei. Myanmar and Laos are also sympathetic to the cause of the Palestinians. Only the Philippines remains as Israel's loyal ally in this region. This alliance has a common bond in both countries' friendships with the US and the EU as well as the NATO member states.

History tells us that embassies were opened in Tel-Aviv and Manila in 1962. In that same year, Israel's Golda Meir, their foreign minister (later prime minister) visited Manila and was received by President Diosdado Macapagal, who also visited Israel during his tenure as vice president. In 1997, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding institutionalizing the bilateral political dialogue between the respective foreign ministries. The political dialogue is accompanied by cooperation in trade and economy, culture, technical assistance, science, academic exchanges, tourism etc. The two countries have always voted together on many UN conventions and even in ILO and have always cooperated in other UN agencies like WHO, UNICEF, UNESCO, and the rest.

On November 28, 2007, Israel's legislature, the Knesset, honored the 33 countries that supported the UN Resolution 181 in celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the State of Israel. The UN resolution, which marked January 27, as a yearly commemoration to honor the victims of the Holocaust was co-sponsored by the Philippines. I hope that Israel will support the Philippines' current campaign to be elected as a non-permanent member of the UN's Security Council. There is no reason why it would not.

I have visited Israel a number of times and the Israelis always made me feel that the Filipinos are special to them from arrival to departure. Thus, my family and friends continue to pray for Israel and for its brave and honorable people.

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