Thousands of people in Indonesia and Malaysia rallied over the weekend to show their support for Palestinians amid the Israeli government’s ongoing war on Gaza, which started after the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) launched a surprise attack on Israeli communities on October 7, killing over 1,400 civilians. Israel has besieged the Gaza Strip, preventing food, medicine, water, or electricity from reaching the enclave’s over 2.3 million residents, leading to what the United Nations News is calling an “unprecedented scale of humanitarian catastrophe.” Israeli military forces are carrying out countless strikes in Gaza, resulting in over 2,750 deaths so far.
In Indonesia, thousands gathered in Solo, Jakarta, and across the archipelago, chanting “Free Palestine” and waving Palestinian flags. Similarly, about 15,000 people rallied in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, over the weekend at the National Mosque. The rally drew support across Malaysia’s political spectrum, and several politicians, including former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, attended the protest. “No matter which party we belong to, we are united [in support of Palestine],” Yassin said.
Kelvin Yii, youth chief of Malaysia’s Democratic Action Party, which is part of Malaysia’s unity government, also voiced his solidarity with the Palestinian cause. “I am Chinese. I am a Christian. Today, I stand with the people of Palestine because this is a humanitarian cause. They have been brutalized by Israel’s military.”
Imams in both countries have been leading continuous prayer vigils at mosques, praying for the violence to end.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) condemned the attacks on Gaza and called on the Israeli government to end the bloodshed and their occupation of Palestine. He said in a statement:
Indonesia menyerukan agar perang dan kekerasan segera dihentikan untuk menghindari jatuhnya korban jiwa lebih lanjut dan kerusakan harta benda karena eskalasi konflik dapat menimbulkan dampak kemanusiaan yang lebih besar. Akar penyebab konflik yaitu pendudukan tanah Palestina oleh Israel harus segera diselesaikan sesuai dengan parameter yang telah disepakati PBB.
Indonesia calls for the war and violence to stop immediately to avoid further human casualties and destruction of property because the escalation of the conflict can cause greater humanitarian impact. The root cause of the conflict, which is the occupation of Palestinian land by Israel, must be resolved immediately in accordance with the parameters that have been agreed upon by the U.N.
Hundreds of Muslim religious leaders and supporters also gathered outside the US Embassy in Jakarta, condemning US President Biden's staunch support of Israel amid the attacks and calling Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “The real terrorists.”
Southeast Asia’s Muslim-majority nations, including Indonesia and Malaysia, have historically supported Palestine. Indonesia, in particular, has warm relations with Palestine and has had a historically fraught relationship with Israel. Indonesia has refused to recognize Israel until a peace agreement is reached between the Israelis and the Palestinians and thus has no diplomatic relationship with the country. Palestine was one of the first nations to support Indonesian independence in 1945 and has had an embassy in Jakarta for nearly 30 years.
This lack of relationship is posing a minor challenge for Indonesia in evacuating its citizens from Israel and Gaza. According to reports, there are currently 45 Indonesians in the Palestinian territories, 10 of whom are in the Gaza Strip. There are also 230 Indonesians in other locations throughout Israel for religious tourism purposes. Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said it is coordinating with embassies from the Philipines Amman, Beirut, and Cairo to evacuate citizens “as soon as it is safe.”
The protests in Indonesia and Malaysia were part of hundreds of rallies that took place last week around the world — from Washington DC to Cape Town, India’s Kashmir region, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Egypt, tens of thousands of people rallied to support Palestine.