Indonesia’s Pro-Palestinian Predicament

The recent escalation of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has once again placed Indonesia in a difficult position. As the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, Indonesia has a long history of supporting the Palestinian cause. On October 10th, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo called for the immediate cessation of violence to prevent further loss of life and to mitigate the growing humanitarian crisis. Ten days later, on October 20th, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) issued a joint statement condemning the escalating conflict, calling for the full respect of international law and unimpeded access to humanitarian aid. On October 27th, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution titled “Protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations,” with 120 nations voting in favor, 14 against, and 45 abstentions – Indonesia, as well as Malaysia, and Vietnam, voted in support, but the Philippines abstained1. Indonesia has consistently shown its commitment to the Palestinian cause, support spanning across the political spectrum, within Islamic organizations, as well as broader public support. Notably, in May of the previous year, Indonesia, along with Brunei and Malaysia, issued a joint statement condemning Israel’s actions during hostilities between Hamas and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), denouncing Israel’s policies as “inhumane, colonial, and apartheid” toward the Palestinian people2. More recently, we have also seen pro-Palestinian sentiments expressed through public demonstrations targeting American businesses, such as protests organized by the Indonesian Student Association (HMI) outside American fast-food restaurants on October 16th and the Indonesian Muslim Student Action Union (KAMMI) protesting in front of the US Embassy building on October 17th.


While the international community has called for a ceasefire resolution, support for Israel from the United States coupled with limited action from Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) nations—partly due to recent normalization of ties with Israel—places the onus of accountability and cessation on the global Islamic community and other pro-Palestinian nations, principally and most notably Indonesia and Malaysia3. The Indonesian government’s pro-Palestinian stance is popular with the public, but Indonesia must be careful to avoid taking drastic steps that could jeopardize its relations with the United States. This is particularly pertinent following the recent submission by the United States of three formal requests to Malaysia regarding its pro-Palestinian position. A refusal by Malaysia to “bend to the diplomatic pressure”4 exerted by the United States could strain their bilateral relationship. Indonesia has maintained a formal position in support of Palestine for decades and a speech by Retno Marsudi, its Foreign Affairs Minister, at a major pro-Palestine rally this weekend reiterated that position. Such requests may not be met in the current environment.  

[1] Shofa, Jayanty., (2023), “Indonesia Explains Why It Took Long for ASEAN to Respond to Gaza Conflict”, October 31, Jakarta Globe.

[2] Strangio, Sebastian., (2023), “Indonesia’s Jokowi Calls for Resolution of Israel-Gaza Conflict Along UN Lines”, October 11, The Diplomat.

[3] Mohamad, Aiza., (2023), “The Growing Significance of Malaysia and Indonesia’s Non-Recognition of Israel”, October 23, The Diplomat.

[4] Azmi, Hadi., (2023), “Israel-Gaza war: Malaysia will defy US pressure to label Hamas terrorists, PM Anwar says”, October 31, South China Morning Post. 


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