Jakarta. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Friday strongly condemned the air strikes launched by the Israeli military in the Gaza Strip that have killed nearly 100 people since Tuesday.
Yudhoyono said at a cabinet meeting at the State Palace in Jakarta that he would call Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later on Friday to discuss what move the countries under the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) planned to take in response to the ongoing violence that has claimed mostly civilian lives.
“I will be communicating with the Iranian president in his capacity as the chairman of the NAM to discuss what the NAM countries can do to stop the violence,” Yudhoyono said.
He called the Israeli military’s action “too much,” and said that Indonesia would also call on the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to stop the air strikes.
“Besides condemning the overwhelmingly excessive military action, Indonesia has already made a diplomatic approach with the UN, the OIC and the NAM countries. The goal is to halt Israeli’s military actions,” he said.
A cease-fire is strongly urged and must be enforced under the UN’s supervision, the president said. He gave assurances that there would not be any retaliation by the Palestinian side if the Israelis ended the air strikes, which were launched in response to the firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas militants.
Yudhoyono said he and Rouhani would also discuss the provision of aid and other relief supplies for the Palestinians.
Din Syamsuddin, the Indonesian chairman of the Palestine Friendship Initiative (PPIP) and head of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-biggest Islamic organization, also condemned the Israeli Defense Forces for what he called “attacks on innocent Palestinian people” in Gaza.
He encouraged people to donate money for aid for the Palestinians.
The Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (MER-C), an Indonesian humanitarian group, previously built a hospital in Gaza, but Din said it lacked equipment and facilities to help treat the injured.
“The MUI [Indonesian Council of Ulema] and the PPIP are also calling on people during this holy month of Ramadan to give alms to help resolve the problem of the Palestinians so that the hospital can start running,” he said on Thursday in Jakarta.
Din previously said he hoped to raise up to Rp 6 billion ($516,000) to be sent to the Palestinian people.
He said the PPIP had initially planned a charity concert for Aug. 15, to feature Indonesian and Palestinian musicians, but had to put the plan on hold for now.
Din urged international organizations, such as the UN and the OIC to take concrete steps to stop the air strikes.
“There have been many resolutions from the UN, but they were either not enforced or ignored. So we will keep urging the UN to take immediate action,” he said.
“The OIC has to undertake concrete measures, including providing humanitarian help to the people of Gaza and Palestine who have been suffering from the attacks,” Din said.
Teuku Rezasyah, the executive director of the Indonesian Center for Democracy, a Jakarta-based think tank, noted that many past attempts to sanction Israel at the UN had been vetoed by its close ally, the United States, and called for a fundamental change in the structure of the UN Security Council to better reflect the contemporary global balance of power.
“The structure needs to be revised so that a more democratic decision can be produced to force Israel to halt its attacks,” Rezasyah said on Friday.
“So far it’s always been under the US’s command. Russia always tries to defend itself. It’s a complicated story in there,” he said, emphasizing that Israel always managed to come away untouched by sanctions over its actions because of the way the UNSC veto power worked.
Rezasyah said the UN should be restructured to enable other countries, such as Indonesia, Japan, Germany and Brazil, to as much of a say as the five permanent members of the UNSC, especially on matters of humanitarian urgency.
He added that another factor that rendered Indonesia unable to do more to help Palestine was its refusal to recognize the state of Israel, saying its decision not to have diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv had put it in a dilemma and would leave it incapable of being a fair mediator unless it could make its voice heard by Israel.
“Ideally we should establish a diplomatic approach with Israel in order to discuss this sensitive issue. But if Indonesia wants to be heard by Israel, it needs to be a prominent voice of Asean, the OIC and the NAM,” Rezasyah said.
Andreas Harsono, an Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said that despite the high number of victims from the Israeli military actions, Palestine deserved as much of the blame as Israel for the escalating violence.
“Under the international law, both countries attacked civilians, their homes, hospitals and schools. Innocent people risked being attacked and that violates the law already,” he said of Hamas’s rocket strikes into Israeli settlements.
He was quick to add, however, that this did not justify the Israeli’s own strikes in residential areas of Gaza.
He also said that major Middle Eastern powers such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey were in alignment with the US, making it difficult to reach any kind of satisfactory outcome at the UN.
Reuters cited Palestinian officials as saying that 11 civilians were killed n Friday in the fourth day of Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, raising the death toll in the coastal enclave to at least 96, most of them civilians.
Additional reporting by Faisal Maliki Baskoro & Natasia Christy Wahyuni