Ahmad Qisa’i, Jakarta
This article was published at Jakarta Post (27/4/07)
After the fall of Thaksin’s government by a bloodless military coup in September last year, Indonesia must now bear the brunt. Thailand was scheduled to host this year’s Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) meeting but in the absence of a democratically elected parliament in Thailand, Indonesia has been asked to host the meeting which will be held in Bali from April 29 to May 3.
Established in 1889, IPU now has more than 140 members, including Indonesia. The appointment of Indonesia as host for this year’s meeting should be welcomed with open arms and recognized by the international community as an indicator that Indonesia is a working democracy. On the contrary, protests and objections have been raised by various Muslim organizations. Israel is the focus of these protests.
As a member of IPU, Israel will participate by sending a delegation of its MPs. But as the scheduled meeting draws near, protests and objections intensify over the proposed visit by the Israeli MPs to
Indonesia. The chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, Hasyim Muzadi, said in Jakarta on Monday that
Indonesia would bear a heavy psycho-political and security burden if the government allows Israeli MPs to attend the meeting. The IPU is responsible for inviting the Israeli MPs to participate in the meeting, but the Indonesian government is fully responsible for their safety and security during their stay in
Indonesia. According to Muzadi, imminent danger from various elements in Indonesian society threatening the visiting Israeli MPs should be seriously considered by the Indonesian government before granting visas for them to attend the meeting in Bali. Security and safety is the main concern.
Furthermore, he predicted that considering the possible reaction from Indonesians, the Israeli Parliament would abandon the plan to attend the meeting in Bali. But on the contrary, he doubted the firmness of the Indonesian government to reject any visa application from Israeli MPs regardless of the pressure on the government.
Rejections have also come from the president of Muhammadiyah, Din Syamsuddin. He said that Israel has been illegally occupying Palestine and is practicing colonization. In the opening of the Indonesian Constitution, it clearly states that Indonesia rejects any form of colonization. Thus, it is understandable that Indonesians will reject the proposed visit by the Israeli MPs to Indonesia.
Furthermore, according to Syamsuddin, as a sovereign nation, Indonesia possesses traditions as well as rules and regulations that must be observed. Indonesia cannot just bow to foreign pressure. Protests will continue if the government holds its ground and allows Israeli MPs to visit Indonesia. These protests are aimed to pressure the Indonesian government to be steadfast in following its own principles, he argued.
Other Muslim organizations such as the Forum for Muslim Community (FUI) also reject the proposed visit. Discarding the claim by the Indonesian foreign minister that Indonesia is bound by international convention and thus must accept the proposed visit, a written statement from the FUI says that the Indonesian government does not have any diplomatic relations with Israel, therefore it must reject the visit.
On these grounds, it would be unwise for the Indonesian government to allow the delegation of Israeli MPs to visit Indonesia. Aside from security issues, allowing Israeli MPs to visit the country would mean the recognition of Israel as an independent state. The Indonesian Constitution is clearly against colonization, hence allowing Israeli MPs to visit Indonesia would indicate perpetuation of colonization.
However, it should be noted that the Indonesian government has been inconsistent in its policy toward
Israel. Even though the Foreign Ministry forbade the Indonesian Fed Cup team to play a mandatory tie with the Israeli team in Tel Aviv last year, citing the absence of any diplomatic ties with Israel, the Indonesian government allowed members of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (KADIN) to visit Israel in June 2006 to seal a deal with the Manufacturers Associations of Israel (MAI).
Both these issues had no political implications for Indonesia as they involved sport and business, yet each received different treatment. If the Indonesian government allowed President George W. Bush to visit Indonesia, when the U.S. has been illegally occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, what is the problem with Israeli MPs visiting Indonesia?
In my opinion, regardless of what the Israeli government has done toward the Palestinians, their visit to Indonesia is the responsibility of the IPU, in which Indonesia is a member. As a responsible host, the Indonesian government should allow the delegation from Israel to attend the meeting. I think it is time for Indonesia to re-think its policy toward Israel. If India, a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, can work hand-in-hand and form diplomatic ties with the Jewish state without decreasing or jeopardizing its support for Palestine and the Palestinian people, why can’t Indonesia do the same?
The writer is a political scientist and freelance writer with a Ph.D. in political science from
Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India. He currently lives in Jakarta.
Picture Note: The writer was taking a Focus Group Discussion at Secretariat of PPI India, New Delhi on October 20, 2006.
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