Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Should we protest the visit of Israeli MPs to Indonesia?

After the fall of Thaksin’s government by a bloodless military coup in September last year, Indonesia must now bear the consequences. 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 honored to host this meeting which will be held in Bali from 29 April – 3 May 2007.

Established in 1889, IPU has now more than 140 members and Indonesia is also a member of this Union. The appointment of Indonesia as a host for this year’s meeting should be welcomed with open arms and should be seen as a show of recognition from the international world that Indonesia is a working democracy. On the contrary, protests and objections have been raised by various Muslim organizations towards the government. Israel is the main point of argument in these protests.

As a member of IPU, Israel will participate and send its MPs as a delegate in this meeting. But as the scheduled meeting is getting nearer, protests and objections have been raised even louder over the proposed visit by Israeli MPs to Indonesia to attend the meeting.

The President of Nahdlatul Ulama (the biggest Muslim organization in Indonesia) KH Hasyim Muzadi said in Jakarta on Monday (23/4) that Indonesia would bear a heavy psycho-political and security burden if the government allows Israeli MPs to attend the meeting. Politically speaking, the arrival of these MPs in the meeting is the sole responsibility of the IPU, but Indonesian government is fully responsible for their safety and security during their stay in Indonesia.

According to Muzadi, imminent dangers from various elements in the Indonesian society towards the visiting Israeli MPs in Indonesia should become an important consideration for Indonesian government before granting them visa to attend the meeting in Bali. Security and safety is the core issue in this matter.

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 Indonesian government to reject any visa application from Israeli MPs regardless of any availability of pressures towards the government.

At the same time, rejections also come from the President of Muhammadiyah (the second biggest Muslim organization in Indonesia), Din Syamsuddin. He said that Israel has been illegally occupying Palestine, it is practicing colonization. In the opening of Indonesian Constitution 1945, it is clearly stated that Indonesia rejects colonization in any forms. Thus it is normal for Indonesians to reject the proposed visit by the Israeli MPs to Indonesia.

Furthermore, according to Syamsuddin, as a sovereign nation, Indonesia possesses tradition as well as rules and regulations that must be observed. It cannot easily bow to foreign pressures. Protests should be continued if the government is still stubborn and allows Israeli MPs to visit Indonesia. These protests should be used as pressures to the Indonesian government to consistency follow its own principles, he argued.

Other Muslim organization like the Forum for Muslim Community (FUI) also rejects the proposed visit. Rejecting the claim by Indonesian Foreign Minister that Indonesia is bound by international convention thus must accept the proposed visit by Israeli MPs to Indonesia, the written statement of FUI says that Indonesian government does not have any diplomatic relation with Israel thus it must reject the plan.

Considering the reasons described above, it would be unwise for the Indonesian government to allow the delegate of Israeli MPs to visit Indonesia. Besides security as the main reason, allowing Israeli MPs to visit Indonesia would mean the recognition of Israel as an independent state. Indonesia has never recognized Israel since it is practicing colonization. Furthermore, the Indonesian Constitution is clearly against colonization thus allowing Israeli MPs to visit Indonesia means perpetuation of colonization.

However, it should be noted here that Indonesian government has not been so consistent in its policy towards Israel. Even though it forbade Indonesian Fed Cup Team to play a mandatory tie with the Israeli team in Tel Aviv, Israel, last year citing the absence of any diplomatic tie with Israel, the Indonesian government allowed the members of Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (KADIN) to visit Israel last June 2006 to conclude a deal with the Manufacturers Associations of Israel (MAI).

Both have no political implication on Indonesia, purely sport and business, but yet received different treatments.

Thus, if the Indonesian government could allow President George W. Bush to visit Indonesia, the US has been illegally occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, why it cannot allow the Israeli MPs to visit Indonesia?

In my opinion, regardless of what the Israeli government has done towards the Palestinians, but their arrival in Indonesia is the responsibility of the IPU in which Indonesia is also a member. As a responsible host, Indonesian government should allow the delegate from Israel to attend the meeting. I think it is time for Indonesia to re-design its policy towards Israel. If India, a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, can work hand in hand and even opened up a diplomatic tie with the Jewish state without lessening its support to Palestine and the Palestinian people, why Indonesia can’t do the same?

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