Jakarta – Defend Palestine actions have been held in several parts of Indonesia. In the Central Java city of Yogyakarta, thousands of protesters from the Islamic Community Forum (FUI) swarmed into the zero kilometre point across from the central post office on Friday afternoon, October 13.
The protesters began arriving at the location after Friday prayers at around 12.30 pm carrying Palestine flags of various sizes and posters with different demands such as "Save Palestine" (in English).
Speakers from the command vehicle took turns to scream and yell for support and urge the Indonesian government to take part in reducing the bloodshed in Palestine. They also promised to hold similar actions if the state remains silent and allows the conflict to continue.
"Takbir, God is great!", screamed one of the speakers.
FUI Yogyakarta public relations officer Ardianto said that today's action was spontaneous and was joined by all of the Islamic ormas (social or mass organisation) in Yogyakarta as an expression of concern about what is happening in Palestine, especially in the Gaza Strip. They also collected donations.
"Israel's attacks are increasingly brutal, it's even been reported that more than six thousand bombs were dropped in six days, which is the same as the number of bombs [dropped] by America in Afghanistan over one year. Access by air has also been closed off, electricity access totally [cut off], and humanitarian aid is not allowed to enter the Gaza Strip", he said.
"Therefore during this action the one demand that we are conveying is asking the Indonesian government to be pro-active in gathering global forces, gathering international forces [to support Palestine]", he continued.
The FUI issued five demands, namely urging the government to support Palestinian independence, calling on Israel to halt the oppression of the Palestinian people, asking the government to summon the US ambassador to protest US support for Israeli colonialism and human rights crimes, urging the Indonesian government to stop Israel's brutal bombardment, blockade and obstruction of humanitarian aid, and for the collection of donations, broaden public support through social media and pray for the victory of the Palestinian people.
The action ended with joint prayers for Palestine in the middle of the road at the zero kilometre point intersection.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people from various Islamic organisations in North Sumatra (Sumut) held an action in front of the Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) offices in Medan on Friday. They condemned the actions of Zionist Israel for destroying the Gaza Strip and Palestine.
"There are thousands of our sisters and brothers there who have been slaughtered by Zionist Israeli. We, as people who have the same beliefs feel what they are feeling. Today Allah has showed us that they will never approve of us until we follow their beliefs", said a representative of the protesters, Ustaz [Islamic cleric] Rahmad.
They also opened registrations for Islamic communities in North Sumatra who want to depart for Palestine.
Rahmad also warned the Indonesian government that it must immediately send reinforcements to Palestine and that the government should not forget that Palestine was the country that first recognised Indonesian independence.
"We are opening registration for defenders of the faith to go to Gaza. Are you ready? If indeed the rulers of our country don't care about our sisters and brothers in Palestine then that is the same as beans forgetting their skin [meaning to forget ones friends or family who have helped in the past]. The Republic of Indonesia's independence was first recognised by Palestine. We have a historical relationship with our sisters and brother in Palestine", he said.
"I call on this country, a country with the largest Islamic population in the world. Let us rise up, send help there, send military troops there", he asserted.
In the Central Java provincial capital of Semarang, the Islamic community took to the streets to hold a Defend Palestine demonstration in the midst of the attacks by Israel.
The protest, which was held in the name of the Semarang Islam Community Forum (FUIS), began after Friday prayers with a long-march from the Baiturahman Mosque in the Simpang Lima area to the Central Java governor's office on Jalan Pahlawan Semarang.
Carrying posters, the protesters gave speeches condemning Israel for bombarding Palestinian residents in the Gaza Strip and causing the death of thousands of Palestinians, including children.
"We condemn Israel which has bombarded Palestinian residents in Gaza. Just look at the thousands of lives lost, Palestinian residents have become the victims of Zionist brutality, not even sparing children", said action coordinator Wahyu Kurniawan in a speech in front of the governor's office on Friday.
To vent emotions, the FUIS protesters trampled on posters of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu who is seen as the most responsible for the death of thousands of Palestinians.
"Let us trample on these posters of Netanyahu, Takbir, Takbir", shouted Kurniawan.
Fitri, one of the Muslim women who joined the action said she hoped that the Indonesian government will continue sending humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
"Indonesia must continue to help or sisters and brothers in Palestine. Remember, we were also once helped by Palestine during our independence struggle. This is wicked, just imagine, Israel wants to take over the Palestinian homeland again though a war", said Fitri.
The action proceeded without incident under the guard of police officers from the Semarang metropolitan district police.
A similar action took place in the Central Java city of Solo where thousands of Islamic community members from Solo held a Defend Palestine action on Jalan Slamet Riyadi at the Gladag Traffic circle on Friday afternoon.
The action began at around 1.20 pm. The protesters brought banners and poster calling for independence for the Palestinian people. Not a few demonstrators brought red-and-white Indonesian flags and Palestinian flags.
The action began with speeches from Islamic figures and leaders of Islamic boarding schools (pesantren) in greater Solo. Wearing a white robe and cap, the founder of the Ngruki pesantren, Ustaz Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, fired up the rally with a short speech in front of the thousands of participants.
"The Palestinian people are our sisters and brothers. Therefore we are obliged to defend our sisters and brothers as we would defend ourselves because they are our sisters and brothers", said Ba'asyir.
He also demanded that the government take a firm position against Israel because the country is seen as injuring the feelings of the Islamic community in Indonesia.
"Attacking Palestine means the same thing as attacking the largest population in Indonesia, namely Islamic people", he said.
Aside from speeches, the Defend Palestine action in Solo was also marked by a theatrical action by Islamic youth organisations and Islamic boarding schools. They depicted the terror experienced by the Palestinian people as a result of the counter attack by Israel.
As well as the solidarity action, they also collected funds to send to Palestine. "Whatever funds are collected, we will channel them directly there through official institutions that are legal", said public relations officer Endro Sudarsono.
The protesters also held a salat gaib – prayers for the dead when there is no body – for the Palestinian people who have died as a result of Israeli attacks.
A Palestine solidarity action was also held by hundreds of people in the provincial capital of Makassar in front of the South Sulawesi (Sulsel) DPRD. The protesters asked the government to provide aid to the Palestinian people in the mist of the uproar of the Hamas and Israeli war.
The demonstrators began the action by marching from the Makassar Al Markaz Mosque to the DPRD offices where they unfurled banners and held up posters condemning Israel's actions in attacking settlements in the Gaza Strip which has claimed thousands of lives.
Action coordinator Sabrian said they are demanding that the government immediately take concrete steps against Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip which has resulted in the death Palestinian residents.
"Don't just provide diplomatic assistance. Because Israel always violates promises, so that Israel can be expelled from Palestinian land", said Sabrian on Friday.
According to Sabrian, the Indonesian government must intervene and not just condemn the Israeli attacks.
"The government shouldn't just condemn, because it's just criticism, the Sulsel people can also criticise. But there must be concrete steps to stop the attacks on Gaza", he said.
The demonstrators, who took turns in giving speeches, were also met by the South Sulawesi DPRD leadership. Following the meeting, the protesters disbanded in an orderly fashion. (fnr/kum/syd/dmr/isn)
[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Gelombang Aksi Bela Palestina di Indonesia".]