+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Why are no Israeli officials refusing to meet with Duterte?

Israel has reached a moral low point as it hosts the Philippines’ mass-murdering president and sells arms to his genocidal regime.

By Eitay Mack

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem during Duterte's official visit to Israel, on September 3, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem during Duterte’s official visit to Israel, on September 3, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Months after Israel marked 70 years since its founding, the country is staging one of its lowest points yet. Israel is holding its citizens and institutions in contempt this week, by groveling to one of the craziest and most dangerous leaders in the world.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte – who has murdered an estimated 12,000 people since he was elected president in June 2016, expressed support for rape, ordered soldiers to shoot female communist rebels in the vagina, threatened to bomb indigenous schools, and boasted about killing people – is being ceremoniously received on an official state visit.

Duterte arrived in Israel on Sunday with a large delegation of army and police officers to sign arms deals and coordinate training with Israeli security forces. Such deals will presumably enable him to continue his slaughter campaign in the Philippines — part of his “war on drugs” — and earn him legitimacy from the only Western country willing to host him, which just happens to be the United States’ closest ally. As far as Duterte is concerned, dinner at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence paves the way for dinner at the White House.

The Israeli Defense Ministry, which systematically lies to the public, the media, and the courts about security-related exports, can be expected to hide the truth about the arms deals that are to be signed during Duterte’s visit. Israeli citizens who want to know what is happening in their name in the Philippines will probably have better luck on the Facebook pages of Philippine government and law enforcement officials who brag of the relationship.

In the past two years, Duterete’s security forces have purchased significant amounts of Tavor assault rifles, Galil and Gilboa rifles, Negev machine guns, and Masada pistols. The firearms purchases are set to assist Duterte in keeping his murderous promises. During his presidential campaign, he pledged to kill 100,000 people during his first six months in office, and in October 2016, he said people can expect 20,000 to 30,000 more casualties.

“Yad Vashem,” Israel’s Holocaust memorial center, hosted Duterte on Monday, even though he is a mass murderer who has threatened to implement martial law, and who has compared himself to Hitler. The tour facilitators at “Yad Vashem” will explain the rise of the totalitarian government in Germany, the dehumanization of Jews, and the extermination process to him. Absurdly, the remembrance center rejected a request to cancel Duterte’s visit, claiming that they are merely obeying the orders of the Foreign Ministry. Yet there is no legal prohibition on defying the protocol . Is it possible that not a single employee at “Yad Vashem” has the conscience to refuse to cooperate with this shameful visit?

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte meets with Israeli president Reuven Rivlin at the presidential residence in Jerusalem on September 4, 2018. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte meets with Israeli president Reuven Rivlin at the presidential residence in Jerusalem on September 4, 2018. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)

Similarly, President Reuven Rivlin is also set to meet with Duterte. He, too, refused to call off the meeting, claiming that he is obeying the orders of the Foreign Ministry. It is unfortunate that Rivlin has not learned from his embarrassing meeting with Myanmar’s military chief of staff in September 2015. A special UN fact-finding mission recently accused Myanmar’s military of genocide against the Rohingya, the country’s Muslim minority group.

The IDF, too, will host Duterte’s delegation on its bases, although it is safe to assume that in order not to get its hands too dirty, the army will leave the arms sales and the training side of things to the private companies of its retired generals.

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem during Duterte's official visit to Israel, on September 3, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem during Duterte’s official visit to Israel, on September 3, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Even though the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said that Duterte needs psychiatric assessment, Duterte knows very well what he is doing. He is taking advantage of the Philippine’s geopolitical importance to the U.S. and the EU as part of Washington’s China containment policy, which means the international community has little interest in confronting him.

Duterte is also not a rookie. He not only poses danger to Philippine citizens, but also world peace. There should be zero doubt that the international community standing idly by as a national leader slaughters and calls for the death of specific populations legitimizes other murderous leaders. Duterte’s method for solving social and political problems, through social engineering and mass murders, is not the first such case in history. The international community staying silent or only whispering statements of condemnation is not new either.

One can assume that this odd visit to Israel will be covered in the media abroad. Of particular interest are the arms deals, especially since the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor announced in February that she is opening preliminary examinations into suspected crimes against humanity committed as part of Duterte’s “war on drugs.”

In light of the extraordinary public and media criticism in Israel over Duterte’s visit (the Israeli public is usually indifferent to such criticism), the visit might drive Israeli citizens to take a hard look in the mirror and notice the moral failures of its own government. Duterte’s visit has the potential to highlight how rotten and morally bankrupt each state institution he visits has become. It is no coincidence that the foreign minister does not have a single press conference scheduled during Duterte’s four-day visit.



Even though Netanyahu persuaded the Philippines to vote in Israel’s favor at UNESCO in 2017, Duterte is unlikely to betray his own interests — maneuvering between the U.S. and China, and avoiding international sanctions — and become an automatic supporter of Israel in international forums. It is also unlikely that he will move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem.

All of which begs the question: why is Netanyahu’s government taking such a great risk with this visit? The answer is that Duterte’s visit attests to Israel’s ongoing failure at convincing the world of its just ways. Parts of Israeli society may buy into the idea that IDF soldiers and settlers are the most moral in the world, but most of the rest of the world does not buy it, and is even disgusted with Israel’s waves of violence and power drunkenness.

If these are the kinds of leaders that Israel manages to bring for official visits in 2018, it seems that the picture is not as rosy as the government is trying to paint it.

Itay Mack is a human rights activists and lawyer who works to increase transparency and public scrutiny of Israel’s security imports. A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local. Read it here.

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article

    * Required


    1. itshak Gordine

      Why are Israelis accepting to meet a negationist like Mahmoud Abbas?

      Reply to Comment
      • Unimpressed realist

        Let us know when Mahmoud Abbas has ever killed 30 thousand of his own people….oh right, never.

        But Natanyahu has not only slaughtered thousands of people, he keeps on trying to exterminate millions of people.

        But its Mahmoud Abbas you have an objection to….

        Just what exactly is in your head when you come up with all this crap? Equating a genocidal maniac who has killed thousands of his own people with Abbas? Is Abbas not collaborating enough? Are his people not suffering enough for your privlage? Is he not putting his own people last of the last of the last good enough for you? Or do you actually want him to start slaughtering Palestinians? Probably all of the above.

        I’ve seen it all now, not enough what Israel did to Africa, South America, but now in Asia….”light onto nations indeed” lights of the flames of villages burning, the flashing of bullets being fired into civilians and the light of bombs going off.

        Reply to Comment
        • itshak Gordine

          Abbas is an ugly negationist. In most European countries, it is a crime.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I second Unimpressed Realist. Just what exactly is in your head when you come up with this crap, Halevy?

            “Abbas is an ugly negationist. In most European countries, it is a crime.”

            Say what? Not just the contents of your head. What planet are you from?

            The former Itshak Gordin Halevy, now re-emerging undercover (LoL) produces this bizarre gem: IMO it might be said of Halevy what has lately been said of one of Halevy’s Heroes, President Trump. As is known the Secretary of State and Chief of Staff said, “He’s a f***ing moron…with a 5th-6th grade view of the world.” In this case, I’d downgrade that to 3rd-4th grade. Sorry, Halevy, you are so obtusely, callously racist supremacist. IMO the key to your productions is to understand that you simply could not give a fig about non-Jewish humans. This I have gathered from everything you have ever said: that to you and according to what “our rabbis tell us” they are subhuman relative to Jews.

            The right in Israel is the alt-right in the USA. The left in Israel is the center in the USA. Israel has normalized judeofascism. So Halevy thinks it’s all just fine because, as he likes to say, no one in Israel reads Haaretz and +972. End of problem. No one reads it, so nuthin’ to worry about.

            So Halevy and this article taken together illustrate why Israel, which has all the power as things stand, cannot be trusted to solve the problem of Israel-Palestine by itself. Outside force is necessary. It is on just such viciously officious, mindlessly supportive, contentedly clucking, passively-racist-nationalist-supremacism-basking Germans that the National Socialists depended.

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            I write what the vast majority of Israelis think. I do not have time to waste on foolish analyzes.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Did we mention you were shameless about all this Halevy? Did we mention that in fact when I make these severe judgments of you, you don’t protest, you basically shrug your shoulders and say, “Yeah, so what? Next?” The vast majority of Israelis as Alt-Right hive mind? A fascism for the 21st century? A grim prognosis.

            What Itay Tiran recalls to me is that I have read some commenters here, posing as something less Alt-Right than you, say, about the nation state law something like, “What’s the problem? We will blend it with the Declaration of Independence wording about “equality” and it will all be good, nothing to see here, nothing to worry about.” Itay Tiran shows why that is mere posing, “the self-preening of a colonialist boasting of enlightened liberalism”:

            Itay Tiran: “If the nation-state law is a reference point, from which you calculate where Israeli society is, then clearly it’s a racist, non-egalitarian law, another step in the nationalist shift taking place here. On the other hand, I say it’s not only bad. Why? Because it forces out a kind of collective subconscious that has always existed here. The Declaration of Independence and talk about equality and values, all those were the self-preening of a colonialist boasting of enlightened liberalism. There are people who still call themselves center-left, and still think that if they put the word equality into the law everything will be all right. I don’t think so. And really, the right’s justified counter argument was, hang-on, but there’s the Law of Return. Why is it that only the nation-state law drives you crazy?”

            Haaretz: So you’re saying Zionism equals racism, no matter what?

            Itay Tiran: “Yes.”

            Haaretz: That Zionism equals colonialism?

            Itay Tiran: “Yes, exactly. So we all have to look at the truth, and then take a side.”

            Reply to Comment
    2. john

      israel is the country of never again – unless it’s convenient. duterte compared himself to hitler, advocates rape, and promised to kill 3 million filipinos, but the weapons industry is more important that the moral high ground.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Aetas

      We can’t, nor should we try to control what happens in other nations. Duterte is very authoritarian but their’s nothing we can do about it. 75% of the world is authoritarian.

      Reply to Comment
      • john

        ‘we have to sell these weapons to someone, but most countries are led by authoritarians. oh well, may as well arm somebody who invites hitler comparisons.’

        Reply to Comment
    4. Daniel Santos

      I’m from the Philippines, and I can say with 100% certainty that this is biased and fake news. Many of our streets have become so much safer and more peaceful ever since Duterte came into power. Fewer people are dying now compared before. A real dictator would silence all his critics. He has not done that. Even a certain notorious narcopolitician is still able to talk publicly from inside prison. He even delegated a day specifically for protestors, both for pro and anti. A real dictator would want as much as power as possible, yet he is promoting federalism for the entire country, wherein power will finally be decentralized from Manila onto the outlying provinces. To those clueless tourists or people with selfish agendas spreading false claims… here is what I have to say to you… You don’t live in our country, on ground zero. We have the right to decide what is needed for OUR OWN land. To take that right away from us is the REAL dictatorship. So don’t interfere with our internal affairs. Nor use it to destory our good diplomatic relationship

      Reply to Comment
      • john

        a dictator would certainly not restrict protests or arrest his rivals.
        the crime rate plummets quickest when police commit the crimes.
        this article has no bearing on pinoy politics, except to notice the regime’s acquisition of weapons and their use.

        Reply to Comment