JAKARTA: Hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in central Jakarta on Sunday in Indonesia’s biggest display of solidarity with Palestinians since the beginning of Israel’s deadly onslaught on Gaza.
Indonesia has been a staunch supporter of Palestine for decades, with its people and authorities seeing Palestinian statehood as mandated by their own constitution, which calls for the abolition of colonialism.
Since the beginning of Israeli operations in Gaza following the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, Indonesians have been taking to the streets in small-scale protests to show their support, with activists declaring November as Palestine Solidarity Month.
On Sunday morning, Indonesians dressed in white and wore traditional Palestinian scarves as they crowded the National Monument square, waving Palestinian flags, carrying posters, and chanting slogans calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and a free Palestine, making it the biggest pro-Palestine demonstration the country has seen so far.
The interfaith rally was organized by the Indonesian Ulema Council with the support of other main religious organizations, including Christians and Buddhists. It was attended by government officials and prominent public figures, including Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.
“Every 10 minutes, a child is killed in Gaza. Thousands of parents have lost their children, while thousands of children have lost their parents,” Marsudi said as she addressed the crowd.
“My Indonesia and I will never back down from helping. My Indonesia and I will always be with you until the colonizers leave your home. Palestine, you are my brother. And I, and my Indonesia, will always be with you.”
The Southeast Asian nation has no diplomatic relations with Israel, and the Indonesian government has repeatedly called for an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories and for a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders.
“On behalf of the Indonesian government, we want to reaffirm Indonesia’s support for the struggle of the Palestinian nation. Ladies and gentlemen, we gather here today in diversity to show our solidarity for humanity,” Marsudi said.
More than 9,400 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, when Israel began its daily bombardment of the densely populated enclave in retaliation for the attack by the Gaza-based militant group Hamas, which left more than 1,400 people dead.
Tel Aviv has cut off food, fuel, water and power supplies to the enclave while airstrikes have hit hospitals, ambulances, schools and refugee camps.
Some Indonesians who attended the rally said it was important for them to show up for Palestine, including 40-year-old Isyana Artharini, who told Arab News that she was driven by her conscience.
“I think I’m actually powerless as a person, and showing up is the least that I can do,” Artharini said.
“When we read history books and wondered how the Holocaust happened, how did people then ‘allowed’ it?” she said. “At least for your conscience, don’t be on the side that allows this genocide to happen.”
Berlian Idriansyah Idris, a 46-year-old cardiologist, said the images of wounded Palestinian children and the devastation caused by Israel’s bombing in Gaza have brought him to tears.
“We are still humans with conscience. We condemn Israel’s atrocities, we support Palestine, and we demand immediate ceasefire,” Idris, who was at the rally with his family on Sunday, told Arab News.
For 22-year-old Syifa, taking part in the demonstration was about standing up for humanity.
“I wanted to take part in this march so that I can show to the public that here in Indonesia we have a huge number of people who care about Palestine,” Syifa told Arab News.
“I think it’s important, while you are able, to give out your voice for humanity. Especially because this Palestine issue is clearly not a conflict, it’s genocide.”