A woman who started a blog after a deadly typhoon is an unlikely voice of the powerless.
Reporting from Seoul — Call her the accidental blogger, because Lila Shahani certainly never planned on becoming one of the Philippines’ most controversial Internet voices.
All she did was write a letter to her uncle last fall expressing disappointment over the government’s response to the deadly Typhoon Ondoy.
Granted, her uncle is former President Fidel V. Ramos. But supporters say the letter contained such elegant, well-reasoned arguments about what was wrong with her country that when the 42-year-old academic posted it online, people took notice.
Now, as the Philippines prepares to pick a new president Monday, Shahani has left her Manhattan home for her political and ethnic roots. She’s back in Manila, writing Notes From an Insomniac. In the post-midnight hours, she composes her thoughts about the intrigues of a nation where many live on less than a dollar a day.
“My subject of interest is the disempowered,” Shahani said. “I write what’s in my head and I don’t pander to the market, because I want to remain a social critic, nothing more.”
She inspires an avalanche of Jewish hate from her Facebook friends. Here’s a sample:
Jennifer C. Aquino responds: “The Embassies of Israel all over the world should be asked to leave the host countries. I personally do not like them in our country if they have the nerve to attack aid workers.”
Lila Shahani responds: “Huh! Tell that to the US government. At the UN, it’s the rest of the world versus Israel/the US all the time. It’s all about the Jewish lobby.”
Alfie Smith: “Sick and an outrag against humanity … then they ask why iran want to wipe them off the face of the earth. I cant say any more … unless you want to here my entire vocabulary of expletives …. Isreal today … your own front doorstep tomorrow … your choice, your Philippines!!!”
Louie Fernandez: “F*** that bullying, arrogant, Nazi Israel!”
I was curious what kind of person would make such remarks. I looked up Louie’s Facebook account and saw that he has a BS in Electrical Engineering from Marquette University and an MBA in Finance from Columbia University.
Lila Shahani writes: Hold on a minute, all: first, by no stretch of the imagination am I anti-Jewish. It is impossible to live in NY without having many friends and associates who r Jewish, and I lived there for well over a decade. I also have the highest regard for many brilliant artists, writers, thinkers, scientists, etc, etc, who happen to be Jewish and have no doubt in my mind that much of this creative power stems from the depth, substance and work ethic of Judaism itself.
But not all Jews and followers of Judaism r card-carrying Zionists, which I happen to be fairly critical of. While I condemn the Nazi “Holocaust,” I would just like to add that there were other holocausts/genocides (Armenia, Rwanda, Sudan, Serbia, etc, etc — even the treatment of the Native Americans in the US should not be above scrutiny here) all over the world as well. Sadly, no one country has a monopoly on systemic cruelty and injustice. But what the Nazis did to the Jews was the responsibility of the German SS under Hitler — not the Palestinian Arabs, sorry.
As far as the latter were concerned, there were living in the region until Theodor Herzl and co decided that the Jews had to go back to Israel en masse because of what they had experienced under Nazi Germany. While I sympathize with that sentiment, I don’t think it was right for them to have displaced the indigenous Palestinians who were living there to begin with just to make way for this new “homeland.” Do two wrongs make a right? What of people whose religion doesn’t recognize the notion of a “chosen people;” and what if they’re followers of Allah and not Jesus, in this case? Does that mean they have less rights in a larger philosophical sense?
The Jewish lobby is not a conspiracy theory: it’s a well-known reality in Washington and UN policy circles. I’m not talking about any old congregation of Jews either, most of which r quite innocuous and legitimate. I’m referring to the lobby that is very powerful in the US Senate, House and on Wall St who actively lobby lawmakers to push for policies that r specifically pro-Zionist.
Of course, not all forms of Zionism r negative, just as Hamas and the PLO have also been equally guilty of human rights violations. But the large-scale, systemic violations (please see Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Council on Foreign Relations, the UN, etc, etc) have predominantly come from the israeli side on this particular issue, at least in my humble opinion. For instance, did u know that white phosphorus, which was used by the Israelis in the recent attack on Gaza, is prohibited as a weapon against civilians under international law? Look it up: it’s a pretty ghastly chemical and burns the skin for hours, all the way to the bone.
If there had been weapons on board, they should’ve found a way of neutralizing them without killing civilians. A pre-emptive defensive strike sounds too much like George W Bush, sorry, and goes against the basic principles of international law.
And, finally, there IS a Jewish lobby in the US and saying so does not mean that one is necessarily anti-Jewish (speaking only for myself here). In the same way, just because one critiques Wall St or some sectors of the Philippine government, say, it does not follow, by definition, that one is anti-US or anti-Filipino. Surely we r not advocating censorship and welcome both freedom of speech and constructive criticism here.