Trade ties with Israel?
According to a statement from the newly sworn-in Minister of Foreign Affairs, Indonesia will open trade ties with Israel for the sake of economic reasons (The Jakarta Post, Nov. 3, 1999). Foreign minister Alwi Shihab also stated that ties with Israel are needed to help further the Palestinian cause. In a television talk show about a month before election day, KH Abdurrahman Wahid, now the President, also said Israel is a country of faith, so ties with it are more reasonable than with Russia, which is known as an atheist country.
I would like to give some comments on our leaders' statements that we read and listened to from the mass media. Although we know that both prominent leaders are internationally recognized intellectuals, I am sure that everybody might make one or more mistakes in their life. The same goes for President Abdurrahman Wahid and foreign minister Alwi. I believe that the plan to establish trade relations with Israel is a mistake. It will be better if they do not realize it.
To be honest, the reasons for opening Indonesia-Israel ties are far from the truth. Of course, Jewish lobbies can give us economic benefits as their network can help increase investment in Indonesia, particularly from the West. But as Prophet Muhammad said, Muslims can be depicted as a human body which will suffer from fever if any part of it becomes in pain. How can we benefit as Palestinians are hunted, intimidated and killed by Jewish soldiers? Besides, economic benefits that will be earned by Israel may be used to buy guns and ammunition, which will be used for killing Palestinians. So how could we open trade ties with Israel at the cost of our brothers' pain?
Foreign minister Alwi also said even Prophet Muhammad traded with the Jews. The prophet's history shows that the trade relationship was not as simple as the minister's thoughts, as the Jews obeyed the prophet's rule to maintain peace in the city of Madinah. But since Israel's independence day, the Jews have been oppressing the Palestinians and have not been meeting with the same conditions in Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza.
Malang, East Java