Columns Jeffrey Salkin: Martini Judaism Opinion

Israel should have barred Duterte

Philippines' president-elect Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a press conference in Davao City, in southern island of Mindanao on May 26, 2016. Explosive incoming Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has launched a series of obscenity-filled attacks on the Catholic Church, branding local bishops corrupt "sons of whores" who are to be blamed for the nation's fast-growing population. / AFP / MANMAN DEJETO (Photo credit should read MANMAN

You are going to shake his hand, aren’t you, Prime Minister Netanyahu?

How could you?

I am referring to Israel’s welcome of Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines.

And why is he coming to Israel?

Because during the Holocaust, the Philippines offered sanctuary to Jews fleeing the Nazis (irony alert). Also, because the Philippines supported the 1947 partition plan. There is also the opening of a direct flight route from Tel Aviv to Manila. There will be an agreement to bring in Filipinos to work in hotels in Israel. And, because many Filipino Christians will want to visit Israel. And, it’s the sixtieth anniversary of the beginning of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

To which I say: big deal.

Why? Because Duterte has compared himself to Hitler. He has said that he wants to kill three million drug addicts in the Philippines.

“Hitler massacred three million Jews,” Mr. Duterte said. (Check your math and your history, you unspeakable…) “Now there are three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them.”

In fact, the Philippines has cracked down on drug dealers, with some estimates of the death toll going as high as 3,000.

Then, this past Thursday, Duterte analyzed the sensitive issue of gender by proclaiming that rape will continue to be a problem as long as there are beautiful women.

On the one hand, we should not be surprised. Like Trump, Bibi has a proclivity for strong men, tyrants, and bullies, such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Russia’s Putin.

Israeli human rights organizations are aghast. They have urged President Reuven Rivlin not to meet with Duterte.

Writing on behalf of at least 24 other human rights activists, Israeli lawyer Eitay Mack argued that Duterte “poses a threat not just to Philippine citizens but also the peace of the whole world…There is no doubt that when the international community stands idly as a leader calls for massacres, and in fact commits massacres, against specific population groups, it legitimizes other murderous leaders.”

Bibi is welcoming, with supposedly open arms, a tyrant who compares himself to Hitler. That would mean that this miscreant admires Hitler.

Help us understand this, Bibi.

You throw the doors open for Duterte.

And yet, critics of Israeli policy like Peter Beinart — an observant Jew, a Zionist, albeit a critical Zionist — get harassed upon entry into Israel.

I respect Peter. He is way smart, even if I don’t always agree with him. But, this is a man whom your officials choose to detain at Ben Gurion Airport — and a Hitler wannabee gets a free pass?

Here’s another thing I don’t understand.

Duterte said that he admired Hitler.

You know who else has said that he admires Hitler?

Um — that would be Louis Farrakhan.

We American Jews have made principled decisions — not appearing with Farrakhan, and criticizing our black allies of appearing with Farrakhan, even going nuts over an old photo of President Obama, before he was president, with Farrakhan.

Now, you welcome Duterte to Israel. Whom, as you know, also admires Hitler — and precisely, because of Hitler’s genocidal policies, which Duterte envies and would like to try out on drug users and drug dealers.

So, thanks, Bibi. You just went and did it again. You shot us all in the foot.

Here we are, refusing to hang with Farrakhan — and even refusing to hang with people who hang with Farrakhan — and you go throwing the gates open to a detestable human being like Duterte.

You realize, of course, that you’ve just blown apart our whole “we are not doing anything that associates us with Farrakhan” argument, don’t you? Because if you can welcome Duterte for all of your subtle and not so subtle political reasons, and file those reasons under realpolitik and the need to create allies and relationships, we might as well say to our black allies: “Who are we to micro-manage your relationship with Farrakhan?”

Because, Bibi: next time we protest Farrakhan’s presence at an event with which we might otherwise agree, someone is going to raise his or her hand and say: “Wait a minute. Didn’t Netanyahu welcome a killer to Israel?”

And when that happens, we will have nothing to say.

Finally, let’s realize something else.

As with everything that we do in Jewish life, and in life in general, our young people are watching.

When they ask us: “Why did the Prime Minister of Israel — a state built, in part, on the memory of the Shoah — welcome someone who wants to be a local version of Hitler?” — what are we supposed to say?

The last time an Israeli action made me this nauseous was on a particular bumpy flight on El Al.

At least when that happened, the pilot apologized — for something over which he had no control.

Prime Minister Netanyahu: in this season of repentance, I urge you. Apologize to the world for inviting Duterte to Israel.

For your sake. For Israel’s sake. For world Jewry’s sake.

For God’s sake.

About the author

Jeffrey Salkin

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., and the author of numerous books on Jewish spirituality and ethics, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and Jewish Publication Society.


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  • So, you value the lives of the drug-crazed persons more than what the Philippines had done to Israel? If you are not aware, the Philippines gave refuge to your people during the Holocaust and it also provided the tie-breaking vote when the creation of the state of Israel was debated at the UN in 1947. Links: &

  • What does what The Philippines did over 50 years ago have to do with the despicable ass who is president of that country today? He personally gets a pass because The Philippines made honorable acts in the past?

    God values the lives of everyone, even drug addicts. Even you, which is really scraping bottom.

  • The invitation honors the nation and people of the Phillipines, not Duterte.

    Only an American Jew would equate that with Farrakhan.

    The widening chasm between Israel and American Jews reflects the fact that Israelis live in the real existential world, while their cousins in the USA live elsewhere.

  • “Here’s another thing I [Jeffrey Salkin] don’t understand” – after reading the good news that:

    – “Filipinos Are Better Off Under Duterte”, Forbes, February 3, 2018.

    – “Survey shows Filipinos more satisfied with Duterte government than any other”, Reuters, January 18, 2018.

    – “Philippines’ Duterte continues to see high trust, approval rating: poll”, Xinhua, January 18, 2018.

  • Yes, strongmen like Duterte, Netanyahu and Trump are often popular with voters. That’s why they’re called populists.

  • If anyone wants to know why “Col. Erran Morad” fooled so many conservatives, it’s this^ kind of sabra worship. This isn’t existential, it’s business. Those of us in the US that love Israel but oppose the Netanyahu government are well versed and concerned with the Israel/Palestine problem. But we’re also well versed and concerned at the steps the government is taking to remove Israel from its status as a liberal democracy as intended by the Declaration of Independence and the Basic Laws. You want to know what “real” problems are? Insufficiently religious women getting spit at by the ultra-Orthodox. Conservative/Masorti rabbis being subject to arrest and interrogation for the crime of conducting weddings. African Jews and non-Jews being refused entry while the right-wing parties scoop up every FSU voter they can find. Gender segregation on the streets and buses. Liberal Jewish groups being stabbed in the back on the egalitarian Western Wall agreement. The nation-state law. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad there’s a Manila-TLV flight, good for tourism, there are plenty of Filipino home health aides in Israel already so the ties are there. But that doesn’t mean they have to roll out any red carpets.

  • While looking for friends in an increasingly Israel-hostile world, the government honors a country which went the extra mile when the chips were down.

    Good move IMHO.

  • Correction: According to Oxford University, a “populist … [is] a person, especially a politician, who strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups.”

    Netanyahu ain’t one.

  • You clearly don’t know anything and just believe the mainstream media that was presented to you. If only that were true. Even the local media here says the same thing. Only the ordinary people know what is really happening. Rather than complaining, why don’t you contribute to our country in establishing drug rehabilitation centers and prisons? I hate people who mouth about human rights and do nothing. Do something good than complain.

    We are a narco state, and I believe the President can eradicate that in 6 years term. Ever heared of Reagan of America? nope because he failed. and if you knew what the freakin businesses priests do on our colonial period on Spain. then you don’t really know our history. He is not a murderer. He is an implementor of the Philippine Constitution, our beloved President

    Many Filipinos are dumb and uneducated and exploited by the Oligarchs of this country. They control the Senate, House of Representatives, Congress, Judicial, Mayors, Chairmans, the Church, Youths, and the Poor. I am not one of them.

    It is once in a lifetime moment that someone as Duterte can win in our rigged election. Everyone knows because money speaks. So my advice for you is, research more.