20,000 march in Madrid against Gaza ‘genocide’

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MANILA: Filipino stand-up artists performed at a sold-out show over the weekend in solidarity with Palestine, as they seek to raise funds for Palestinian refugees living in the country.

Of the 137 Filipinos who were living in Gaza when Israel began its bombardment of the enclave in October, over 116 were flown to the Philippines, some alongside their Palestinian spouses.

They were left to their own devices several days after their arrival, with over a dozen families of evacuees struggling to find a place to live just last month after government support ceased. Their temporary housing was eventually organized by a civil society task force.

Their struggles were at the heart of the fundraiser on Saturday evening, which saw performances from nine of Manila’s comedic talents, who took turns delivering snappy 10-to-15-minute routines over a two-hour show to dozens of people at the Meshwe Lebanese Restaurant in Quezon City, Metro Manila.

The show quickly got traction online after it was announced by Meshwe’s owner Nathaniel Mounayer, who said it was sold out within a week.

“I’m overwhelmed by the positive reactions. Even with people just resharing (the posts online), it went viral. The sharing was really authentic, so we didn’t even have to pay for any advertisement,” Mounayer, who is also a comedian and performed a bit on Saturday, told Arab News.

“It is important that we stand by what is just and be on the right side of history. A worldwide movement and awakening for the liberation of Palestine is taking place. People around the world outside of the Middle East are learning about the 75-year struggle of the Palestinians. It is important that we uphold the value that all lives are sacred and that all people have the right to live free from oppression and occupation.”

The money raised from the show will be used to purchase a month’s worth of household essentials for the Palestinian refugees in Manila, including Arab kitchen staples like olive oil, zaatar and tahini, Mounayer said.

More than 2 million people living in the Gaza Strip are facing dire shortages of food, water and supplies, as Israel has allowed only limited amounts of aid into the besieged enclave. Since October, more than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed and over 64,000 others are injured as relentless Israeli attacks continue to also target crucial health facilities.

For the stand-up artists who took part in the Manila show, the fundraiser was their way of showing support for Palestine.

Joshua Dias, a Filipino-Indian stand-up comic based in Dubai, took part as a guest performer in the event after initially learning about the fundraiser online.

“It’s a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and I said that I would love to come and support the show,” Dias told Arab News. “We see what is happening over there (in Gaza) and how it’s turned into (a) genocide.”

Comedians tend to get together to raise funds for an important cause, said Aldo Cuervo, one of the stand-up artists at the show.

“We care about what’s happening,” he told Arab News. “I (hope) that these shows inspire people to speak up more, and make Filipinos realize that we can offer great solidarity.”