Benjamin Netanyahu and Rodrigo Duterte, the heads of their respective nations in Israel and the Philippines, are the two of the most well-known figures in the western sphere of influence. Both have been accused of crimes against humanity or flouting international law. Both push the cause of the good of their state as justification for their actions, and both are extremely popular with their people.
As of February 13th, Netanyahu has been accused of years of accepting bribes, causing much of the adoring population to call for his indictment or resignation, according to polls. But his critics say that this is just a sole crime in a stampede of violations and humanitarian illegalities he’s taken part in against the Palestinian people. The displacement of millions by the Israeli government is widely ignored by the world, as America continues its funding of their strongest ally in the middle-east, with ongoing military aid for supposed protection against neighbouring states, such as Iran and Turkey. But critics of this say that Israel use this military and financial aid to subjugate a people to imperialism and violence.
Linguist and US foreign policy critic Noam Chomsky contends, in his remarks on Netanyahu and his US backers, “for both prime minister Netanyahu and the hawks in congress, mostly republican, the primary goal is…that there is no regional force that can serve as any kind of deterrent to Israeli and US violence, the main violence in the region.” Netanyahu has justifiably criticised the brutal techniques of Palestinian terrorism, but used this to condone his nations’ own crimes in retaliation. This can be seen in 2015, following large protests and stabbings by Palestinians, which resulted in a casualty rate of many to one of Palestinians to Israelis.
According to Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, “There are about 6.5 million Palestinian refugees worldwide. More than 3.8 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants displaced in 1948 are registered for humanitarian assistance with the United Nations. Another 1.5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants, also displaced in 1948.” Though 1948 is not the fault of Netanyahu of course, Israel’s treatment of Palestinians at present is. He has refused the possibility of a Palestinian state under his watch as Prime Minister, as from his point of view self-determination leads to terrorism.
Speaking with Al-Monitor, political psychologist Daniel Bar-Tal says Netanyahu has succeeded in ‘imbuing Israelis with a simplistic and dichotomous perception that totally negates all other views.’ When his critics confront him about his policies, Netanyahu labels them as anti-Semitic- something which may tarnish someone’s reputation and legacy if smeared effectively enough, such as was the case with Norman Finkelstein.
And then there’s Duterte, a ‘colourful guy,’ as Barack Obama put it after being labelled a ‘son of a whore.’ by the Philippine leader. The public call and encouragement for murdering those affiliated with drug crime, in an attempt to stem the crisis in the nation, has led to an inquiry into human rights violations. Yet this has only imbued him with more support from the people. According to a recent survey, 71% of adult Filipinos were satisfied with the job Duterte was doing, 13% were dissatisfied, and 15% were undecided. Human rights activists have been threatened with violence by pro Duterte supporters- some of them working for the government – and one vocal critic has even been imprisoned at the order of the new head of state.
Journalist and poet James Fenton described a situation in which he witnessed one of these likely government sanctioned drug murders;
An Extra Judicial Killing I covered went like this. It was the middle of the night and the family was asleep. Masked men barged in. “Where is Fernando?” said an intruder. A woman answered: “There’s no one called Fernando here.” At this point, an eight-year-old girl woke up her father, Ernesto. As he awoke, Ernesto said, “Oh.” He was shot immediately in the middle of the forehead. The intruders escaped.
Arguably the worst aspect of having figures such as Duterte and Netanyahu in power is the impact on the attitudes and beliefs of their country’s men and women. Extra Judicial Killings,’ where those outside the police and military take it into their own hands to murder those suspected of having a drug connection, are outnumbering normal government murders, if there is such a thing, by roughly two to one. According to Human Rights Watch, “More than 12,000 suspected drug users and dealers, mostly from poor families in urban centres across the country, are estimated to have died in the “drug war,” including an estimated 4,000 during operations led by the police and the remainder by “unidentified gunmen.”
The apparent fact that thousands more murders have been committed by civilians than the Philippine government in the current drug war, as well as the lack of local action in Israel’s violations assists us in understanding the cultural impact of those in charge. There is a fear that where a government walks, the people will follow. They also help us see the link to President Nixon’s war on drugs beginning in the 1970s, still being fought to this day, and how going about an epidemic in the wrong way may lead to a multiplication of trauma and death. Israel’s closest ally is still America, with President Trump now announcing the moving of their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something which Israel has deeply wanted as a symbol of validation, despite the UN voting 128-9 condemning the move.