Defending Palestine, the only Indonesian synagogue is closed down

rani's picture

The Gaza conflict is indeed sad. It has resulted in the death of many civilians - women, children, old people. But what's sadder is that many Indonesians respond to Palestinian-Israeli conflict clinging to their stereotypical perspective about this conflict. Not only that, they actually take hasty actions based on their narrow stereotypical mind.

The synagogue and cemetery in Surabaya, the one and only synagogue in Indonesia, is closed down by a group of Muslim protesters claiming to defend the Palestinian cause. What does this have got to do with the conflict? The Jewish people in Surabaya (only a handful of them) did not bomb the gaza strip! And I thought Islam is supposed to defend the right of minority to practice their own religion? Should I be cynical about this?

Many Indonesians thinks that Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a war against Islam. The reality is much more complex than that, and I am certainly not an expert on it. But I know several things:

  • Palestine has a significant christian population, more than 10 percent. The conflict affects them too. Are Palestinian Christians included when Indonesians refers to "Palestinian cause"?
  • There is even Palestinian Jews. These are Jews who are Palestinians by heart and by identification status
  • Not all Jews support the occupation and the attack. I have personally met jewish people who is staunchly against the occupation. You want proof? Check out the picture below
  • Not all Israeli support the occupation and the attack. My Israeli friends are in fact sick of the war.
  • There are Muslim Israeli too. In fact, there is one Israeli Ambassador who is a Muslim and an Arab, Mr. Ali Yahya (another link here). (Let me guess, there is no Jew high-ranking government officer in the islamic majority coutries..)

Demonstration supporting Palestine by the Jewish people in Seattle, 2002

For me, the conflict cannot be reduced as a merely religious conflict. The issue is complicated, and it's dangerous to oversimplify and thinking in a stereotypical ways. A simple google search could help re-educate all of us and help us think with a more open mind.

Some Indonesians prefers to send people to Palestine to help fight the Israeli offensive. Why not sending people to rural Indonesia and help build villages, schools, teach people to read? Or if you really want to help Palestine, you can go ahead, boycott Israeli and American products if you want (this includes using the internet and softwares ya?). Just don't infringe other people's right to worship.

(Um on second thought.. go ahead and leave to the warzones, but don't ever come back to Indonesia... I hope you don't kill people along the way.. )


Your second thought...

is exactly what I've been thinking. If they want to fight, go ahead... I mean, we don't need more militant people in Indonesia anyway, why not sending them away?

But, Rani... Stereotyping is Indonesian culture!!! You can not abandon that culture! Yeah... Right.

Stereotyping is every

Stereotyping is every culture's culture. We see it more pronounced in Indonesian's because we live in it. *notice the word 'stereotype' is not of Indonesian origin? :)

About Gaza, I suppose we can play the blame game here and say that the Indonesian press are the ones to be blamed for not reporting even-handedly (but which press does?). And maybe that job falls on our laps, the one with more access to information to spread the knowledge.

People like to group, and to group we need something thats commonly shared with one another, and what common thing do we have with people miles away across the sea and with different customs, language, and culture other than religion? I think that's why people tend to see the conflict as a religious one rather than a political one. And a conflict of religious nature will always be perceived as good vs. evil.

Anyway... just my two cents.

the winner

Excellent analysis. I think the only winner in this conflict is the extremist (in both parties).

Rani, I find this article

Rani, I find this article very misleading (sori ya, no offence :))
of course closing the synagogue in surabaya was an act of mindless prejudice. of course the conflict in palestine is not driven by religion (but religion definitely makes it a lot more toxic). by why go on from there to cite the Arab ambassador for Israel, etc etc?? this just comes out as an apology for a country that has repeatedly and deliberately carried out both war crimes and long-term dispossession and repression against a largely defenceless population. against the 100:1 kill ratio, the proven widespread use of white phosphorous, the wholesale destruction of civilian livelihoods... we have a token Arab ambassador? come on! you also say many Israelis are sick of the war. again, I think this is a misleading diversion: 1) if the implication of 'many' is 'most' then it's not true - according to an editor of the jerusalem post interviewed on the bbc, the majority of israelis wanted the war to *continue*; 2) so what if they are 'sick of it'? they are the ones doing it, and overwhelmingly, they are NOT the ones suffering from it. yes, I recognize that there is an Israeli peace movement, dissenters and humanitarian activists trying their best to help palestinian victims.. but in a country where the government is democratically elected, they clearly represent a marginal minority.

some comments

No, she doesn't say "MANY Israelis are sick of the war", she says "My Israeli friends are in fact sick of the war. ". It is just her friends, not "many". And the whole point of this article is NOT justifying Israel attacks on Palestine or defending Israel in anyway.

As you have pointed out

As you have pointed out there are a lot of other things worth demonstating about in Indonesia. Sealing a Synagogue in Surabaya (no alliteration intended) only serves to confirm the Zionist belief that Jewish people can only protect themselves in Israel. Similar, but more violent acts by arabs after 1967 caused a large exodus of jews from arab countries...guess where at lot of them they ended up. On a more cynical note to what purpose sending people out to educate the masses? They might start to think for themselves instead of spooning up `whatever nonsense is currently bring fed to them by their leaders.
I have to agree that the situation in Palestine is complex. There are many families who have relations on both sides of the conflict, including the current Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh. There is a good article by Lisa Goldman that certainly shows a taste of the complexities in the ME.
Personally i'm not optimistic for a solution anytime soon as the short term political gains made by exploiting the hate on both sides drown out any voices calling for peace.


The more important question for me is, "how does this end?" How do we get to a place where there is peace, an ability to live in harmony with mutual respect for the right of the other to exist?

The closing of a synagogue in Surabaya reflects on the trivial understanding that some Indonesians have of the Palestinian / Israeli conflict.

By the way I am not so good with math and had to get the calculator out in order to post :D

i agree

i agree with u...palestinian-israel conflict is not religion war, or war against islam, but about politics, about 'promise land' in the past...


Peace all around the world....


I think it is better to let the Indonesians go "jihad" to Palestine. It helps lessen the population in our country. A lot. :)

Okay, that was a joke.

Regarding the synagogue, well, personally it is sad to see that hasty generalization is still within some of our people. Some people who protest this action seem also not to understand the matter precisely. It is just something about solidarity. Hmm.

Read here, inform

I wrote about this

I wrote about this (although in Indonesian) and yeah, I thought that although the Israelis are a-holes, doesn't mean that the war is a religious one. It's something else completely and I really don't get the Indonesians' (and Malaysians) insistence that it is.
I especially do not get why we want to send people over to Palestine to fight. I mean, I don't mind them going, it'll at least lessen the population in Indonesia but I just don't get their willingness to help and fight other nations 'just because' they share the same religion.
What about sharing the same race and nationality? Why is there less help for the unfortunates and the victims of natural disasters in Indonesia?
This sickens me.

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