Conflict in Gaza Angers Indonesians

When I visited with religious leaders in Indonesia last November, many of them – even those from the most remote villages – spoke at length about the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Although the leaders had diverse interpretations of Islam, there was one point nearly all of them agreed on: the occupation of Palestine and the embargo on the territories was an affront to Muslims everywhere – and the U.S. support for Israel was always cited as a sore point.

Now, as the current incursion into Gaza stretches into its second week, Indonesians are expressing their outrage.

Tarko Sudiarno / JP
Indonesian boys at a rally in Jakarta earlier this week. Tarko Sudiarno / JP

The conservative Islamic groups, including the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), have called for Indonesia to send jihadists to Gaza to support the population there. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has resisted the call while condemning the attacks and pushing for humanitarian aid instead. He’s called the current conflict a territorial issue in an attempt to de-emphasize the religious aspect of the violence.

In West Java, hundreds of Muslim students rallied outside a McDonald’s, promising to boycott American products unless the Indonesian government sends humanitarian assistance immediately.

And in the port city of Surabaya, protestors sealed off a Jewish synagogue and hundreds more rallied in front of the U.S. embassy.

“If Israel doesn’t stop its attacks on the Palestinian people immediately, we will conduct raids on sympathizers, supporters and Israeli agents in the province,” a rally organizer warned.

Indonesians are also looking to Obama to speak out on the issue. There are some indications that his silence is straining the close bond that many Indonesians feel for the president-elect. See an opinion piece by Bramantyo Prijosusilo here in which he makes the case for Obama to come up with a concrete peace plan for the region soon.

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