Maxwell Lane – On November 5, nearly 2 million people packed the central Freedom Square in Jakarta, Indonesia to express solidarity with Palestine. This was the largest rally registered in recent weeks coming on the heels of several smaller events organized by human rights and political groups over the last month.
The rally was called by the Peoples Alliance for Palestine, a coalition based around major religious institutions, including the Indonesian Ulama Council as well as Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, and Buddhist institutions. Indonesia's Minister of Foreign Affairs also attended the rally and addressed the crowd. Other prominent members of government were present, including Puan Maharini, Speaker of the House of Representatives and a central figure in the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), as well as Anies Baswedan, former Governor of Jakarta and now a Presidential candidate for the 2024 elections.
During the rally, six demands were read out by representatives of the different religious denominations. These demands were:
- An immediate end to the war and an international investigation into humanitarian and war crimes by Israel to be submitted to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
- For the sake of humanity, peace and justice, we strongly oppose Israel's occupation of Palestine and strongly condemn the politics of apartheid, genocide, holocaust and terrorism that continues to be committed by Israel. Thus we call on the governments of Islamic countries, Arab countries, to cut diplomatic ties or not open diplomatic ties with Israel until the state of Palestine is independent and standing firm as a sovereign state. As a form of solidarity with Palestine, the Indonesian nation should, as a nation that loves peace and justice, boycott and not purchase Israeli products or products such as clothing, food and beverages that contribute to Israel.
- We express our appreciation to the United Nations (UN) for its decisions and resolutions on Israel including [declaring Israel] to be a gross human rights violator. However the UN needs to take concrete and firm steps in upholding its resolutions by abolishing the right of veto by countries that demonstrate double standards over the Palestinian problem.
- We support and respect Indonesia's firm and consistent stand since the era of [Indonesia's founding] president Bung Karno until now, the era of President Joko Widodo, in continuing to reject the Israeli occupation, supporting Palestinian independence, and appreciate the firm diplomatic stand taken by Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, both at the Conference of Islamic Organisations (OKI) and the UN General Assembly. We urge the Indonesian government to collaborate with OKI country members, ASEAN, as well as countries such as Russia, China and Bolivia, which have taken a firm stand against Israel.
- We express our thanks to all parties that have assisted the Palestinian nation and Gaza with diplomacy and demonstrations, funds and prayers. We hope that all of this can open the world's conscience, save humanity and common sense to help open people's hearts and create just and peaceful policies in the Middle East region and throughout the world with an independent Palestine and expel the Israeli invaders from the Earth.
- We call on the various religious communities to say a prayer to God the Almighty to provide material and spiritual strength to the people of Palestine in bearing this suffering and creating an independent nation and state.*
Indonesia has never had diplomatic relations with Israel. Indonesia did move to establish a Consulate in Ramallah in 2012 but withdrew from the process when the Indonesian Foreign Minister was denied entry.
Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world and there is a widely felt empathy among Muslims across the world with the suffering people of Palestine, who are seen as sharing the same identity. The initiative from within the Indonesian elite to hold this ecumenical rally would seem like an attempt to pre-empt the Palestine issue from being hegemonized on the streets by more fundamentalist groups, which are also active in Indonesia, although remain small. Additionally, there is still a very strong echo of Indonesia's leadership of the Asia-Africa solidarity movement in the era of President Sukarno within society today. No matter how much Indonesian governments promote integration into the global capitalist economy, they still do not dare openly or directly buck either of these sentiments among the people.
The rally speakers, while presenting strong demands, did not urge for more concrete actions from the Indonesian government. It remains to be seen whether they will call further such rallies. Given the genuine sense of empathy among ordinary people in Indonesia, whether or not the government backs another such rally, there will be a myriad of smaller actions and discussions happening in many places.
Earlier, on October 27, several Indonesian human rights groups, including Amnesty International, also held a protest outside the United States Embassy, calling for a ceasefire and contrasting the US opposition to ceasefire moves in the UN with Chinese and Russian support for a ceasefire.
Socialist and progressive groups have also issued a statement (https://peoplesdispatch.org/2023/10/30/indonesian-socialists-express-solidarity-with-palestine/) supporting the demand for a ceasefire and an end to the occupation. Thirteen of these organizations are now meeting to plan their own joint campaign activities.
[Demands translated by James Balowski: https://www.indoleft.org/news/2023-11-05/thousands-join-inter-faith-rally-in-jakarta-calling-for-end-to-israeli-palestine-war.html.]