Tuesday, April 17th, 2018
1. Agung Nurwijoyo (Lecturer for Department of International Relations, Universitas Indonesia)
2. Muhammad Zulifan (Lecturer for Department of Arab Studies, Universitas Indonesia and researcher for Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Universitas Indonesia)
Moderator: Faqih Hindami
TOPIC 1: The impact of the conflict between Israel and Palestine to the surrounding countries
- The Arab world is united in their opinion regarding Israel-Palestine matters, example can be seen during the time when Trump first proposed his plan of moving the capital city of Israel to Jerusalem. The Arab world’s response, which proved to be against the plan, was uniform. This unity of supporting a free Palestine cannot be negotiated even despite the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s close ties with the USA.
- Indonesia itself has taken a clear stance of being in support of coexistence (two countries, Israel and Palestine, inhabiting one area). Indonesia has not initiated a diplomatic relation with Israel due to Israel occupying Palestine’s land and Indonesia’s constitution being against occupation.
- KSA has positioned itself as the leader of the Sunni world, but it cannot distance itself from its history with the west, particularly the Unites States, which dates back to their cooperation during World War II.
- Palestine has a special place in the Arab world. This can be seen from the fervent reaction of the Arab world whenever an incident happens in Palestine—for example the formation of OIC (Organiztaion of Islamic Cooperation) after the Al-Aqsa fire that was initiated by Dennis Rohan.
- More pessimistic views regarding the actions of Muhammad ibn Salman, who, since his appointment, has pushed for relations between KSA and USA. USA, because of its position as the negotiator in Israel-Palestine conflicts, should be neutral and countries who wish to be involved in the process of Israel-Palestine conflicts must not create ties with the negotiator.
- USA’s non-neutral stance might cause the appointment of a new negotiator, but Indonesia cannot act as a negotiator between Israel and Palestine because Indonesia has a very clear stance about occupation that supports the existence of a free Palestine.
TOPIC 2: Relations between USA and Israel
- Trump’s Jerusalem statement was a form of entry to the Middle East. It is a part of the war of influence that goes on in the Middle East.
- There was internal pressure in the USA that pushed Trump to declare such statement. The Jewish population of USA weren’t in favour of Trump before the election, while the Jewish lobby is known to be strong and influential in the US Senate. The majority of them were for Hillary Clinton. It is for this reason that Trump put Mike Pence and Jared Kushner, two people of Jewish descent, in vital positions in his government. Kushner was also sent to the Middle East.
Q&A #1: “Is USA the right negotiator? Is USA capable enough to act as a mediator between Israel and Palestine?”
- USA’s involvement in the Israel-Palestine conflict dates back to the first Camp David Accord.
- Originally, a peacemaker or a mediator should be appointed by the two sides involved. With the existence of Trump’s Jerusalem statement comes the question: is the USA still a suitable negotiator/mediator?
- It is still unknown whether or not there will be a new mediator, but should there be one, the new mediator must be appointed and legitimized by the two parties involved, and if one does not comply to it, the mediator is not allowed to take part.
- There are a few possible countries that might replace USA as the mediator in the Israel-Palestine conflict—France, for example, is trying to enter the Middle East as a mediator through the Syria conflict by ‘playing hero’.
- Attempts of establishing peace in Middle Eastern conflicts by Western agents have so far only aimed to create negative peace (absence of conflict) and not positive peace (presence of justice).
- According to Karen Armstrong, positive peace only existed in the Palestinian land during the time of Salahuddin Al-Ayyubi. (Read more: Armstrong, Karen. Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths. 1996)
Q&A #2: “When it comes to Middle Eastern conflicts, Indonesians are mostly very polarized in who to support and who not to support. How do we react to this drastic difference?
- There is a very distinct political difference in the Middle East. It started in the 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq War, where Iraq sided with USA and Iran with the Soviet Union, which continued to the Afghanistan War. USA aided Iraq under the basis of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’, which also means that the USA was only doing it for the downfall of the Soviet Union.
- Before the 1990s, there was no definition of ‘terrorist’ in the Arab world, and Afghan militants were helped and exalted as heroes.
- The turning point happened to be the 1st Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein, influenced by USA, invaded Kuwait. KSA, being a country that has direct borders to Kuwait, tried to stop Saddam Hussein from entering KSA. King Fahd, the king at the time, asked the help of USA to stop Saddam Hussein, while asking for the opinion of mujahidin organizations, namely Ikhwanul Muslimin. The mujahidin party rejected the proposition on the basis that it cannot be accepted to ask the help of a kafirun to kill Muslims. It was then KSA and the mujahidin separated ways and later on, the mujahidin were considered as militants and terrorists in KSA.
- Muslims around the world, also in Indonesia, are often very divided when it comes to giving support in Middle Eastern conflicts due to this reason. The most recent example would be the Yemeni conflict.
- It is important to be understood that there are two powers in the KSA—that is the political power, the kingdom, and the religious power, the ulama. These two powers often disagree with each other and it is not impossible to be supporting or not supporting only one of these two powers.
- Even so, it is the US and the Soviet Union that are the true perpetrators of Middle Eastern conflicts. Middle Eastern countries usually take part in conflicts only as participants, while there are bigger goals and plans proposed by the US and Soviet government.
- Regarding how to react to this kind of differences in opinion and support, it is sunnatullah that we will be divided as an ummah, but individually we must be able to think critically and assess the conditions of the conflicts.
Q&A #3: “The future of Israel-Palestine conflict: escalation or de-escalation?”
- The Israel-Palestine conflict has been going on for a long time but it is not the longest running conflict, the Kashmir conflict is.
- Like life cycles, all conflicts, including the Israel-Palestine conflict will continue to experience escalation and de-escalation, but we must not be fatalistic. There should always be actions proposed to find a solution the conflict.
Q&A #4: “What can be done by Salam UI?”
- Palestine is important, but Salam should also give reports on other Muslim communities around the world.
- Create analysis, studies, and lectures, apply the method of ‘peace journalism’. Do not involve too much emotion and even when we do have the need to side, we must know how to build the narrative with facts and arguments.
- Create guidelines and narration, be unique and reactive, use the social media.
- Shed light on the upcoming follow-up on Trump’s Jerusalem statement on May 14th.
- Do not limit Salam’s activities to only aiding Muslim communities that are close. Muslims communities all over the world deserve the same attention no matter how far they are.
- The Israel-Palestine conflict might no longer be appealing to the public, but it is the core of the problems in the world. It is there in the Al-Baqarah, and the End will not come until Palestine is freed.
Q&A #5: “What are the roots of the internal conflicts in Palestine (between Hamas and Fatah) and do they have ties with the Israel state?”
- There are two major factions in the Palestinian government: Fatah and Hamas.
- Fatah: Derivation of Yasser Arafat’s movement, is considered to be very cooperative with Israel, agrees with coexistence.
- Hamas: Takes the clear stance that says that Palestine is the land of the Muslims and Israel has no right of the said land.
- Fatah is preferred by the West. In 2006, Hamas won a democratic election, but it was deemed not democratic by the West.
- This era is the era of reconciliation, and both parties have meet often, especially in Qatar, and sometimes Turkey, but both sides are not really united up until now.
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