Saturday, April 13, 2024

War on history

The Weekly Sillimanian | November 10, 2023

The genocide in Palestine did not start a month ago—it began before 1948. This decades-long injustice only peaked on Oct. 7 when Palestinian militant group, Hamas, launched an attack on Israel. 

But in the eyes of many Filipinos, the genocide practically may have never even started at all. 

The Philippine government’s response to the ethnic cleansing committed by Israel against Palestinians—such as abstaining during a United Nations vote on a Gaza ceasefire while government officials make all sorts of public statements in solidarity with Israel—has so far been enabled by a culture of apathy and fallacies. Such culture has only been fueled by Filipinos’ belief in religious conviction and constant attempts at disinformation despite the glaring hypocrisies in the stances of the Israeli government and our own. 

Why is this happening in what could be the most devastating humanitarian crisis of our time? Why do we remain blind to the atrocities committed in Gaza when they mirror the dark corners of our national history—where colonialism, militarization, and systemic human rights violations have long festered? 

It all goes back to one reality: Filipinos have always been vulnerable to forgetting—especially when attempts to trigger such amnesia are initiated by the rich, powerful, and deadly.

So, where do we start to fix this forgetfulness and the resulting apathy? The answer can be found in our campuses.

By teaching and openly discussing both our national history and contemporary issues in an academic setting, students are equipped with the necessary tools to fight any manipulation of the truth—wherever it may come from. However, this requires us to shift the focus of teaching history from plain learning to understanding and interpreting.

But because the Department of Education has set its priorities on “decongesting” rather than giving ample time for history subjects, a helpful change in our national educational system seems to be an uphill battle. While that fight rages on, we urge school administrations like Silliman University to take their stands and implement any measure possible to educate their students on the complexities of Palestine’s predicament.

The genocide in Palestine did not begin last month, nor did our apathy for its history, as well as our own. The Weekly Sillimanian strongly condemns in all terms the ethnic cleansing Israel has conducted for years—not only because Israel’s actions have unequivocally endangered and destroyed the lives of Filipinos living in Gaza, but because it goes against everything that humanity and a progressive campus press stands for. 

We hope that more Sillimanians and—more importantly—Filipinos join us in standing with Palestine, and we urge the Silliman administration and the student government to release their statements on one of the darkest moments in our history as a human race.

However, for us to move forward and toward liberation, it is also essential to recognize the systemic inequalities that have long prevented us from recognizing and remembering injustice. All of this resulted from higher powers exploiting their resources to distort the realities so plainly. But that does not excuse us from consciously turning our eyes away from those most in need of help.

In the most dire yet familiar of situations, we have failed to realize the truth, to act accordingly, and—ultimately—to care. It is high time we change that by doubling down on our education system. After all, it is only by understanding history—even when it has been repeatedly under siege—that we can get the chance to change it.

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