Call for long-term peace effort in Gaza

A Palestinian man carrying a child, who was injured by what medics said was Israeli shelling during an Israeli ground offensive, from a hospital in Beit Lahita in the northern Gaza Strip yesterday.
A Palestinian man carrying a child, who was injured by what medics said was Israeli shelling during an Israeli ground offensive, from a hospital in Beit Lahita in the northern Gaza Strip yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

On Monday, after celebrating the joyous Islamic day of Eid al-Fitr with my fellow countrymen in peace and serenity, I could not close my eyes all night long. I watched on television the endless national and international reporting on rising human casualties in Gaza caused by violence and military actions. Most of those who died or were injured were innocent civilians who were powerless and helpless to escape from the deadly bullets and bombs. The screams of mothers who lost their children, as well as cries of helpless children who suddenly lost their parents, shook me to my deepest soul. I am convinced that anyone and any nation who witnessed this unspeakable tragedy will feel the same sorrow and sadness.

As President of the nation with the world's largest Muslim population, I cannot afford to be swept away by sadness and anger. I have actively pursued, together with my ministers and diplomats, diplomatic efforts, including with respect to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, and Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas, but the evolving situation in Gaza keeps getting out of hand. Therefore, from Jakarta, I feel obliged to make a moral call to all nations and to world leaders, and specifically to the leaders of Hamas and Israel, to immediately halt the violence and tragedy in the region.

With this call, I hope that world leaders will spare no time to take common responsibility to work out or impose a ceasefire and end the indiscriminate military operations which are adding more casualties each passing hour.

With this ceasefire, it means that the Israeli strikes through air, sea, and land will have to stop. Likewise the rockets launched from Hamas' side must be ended, in order to avoid retaliatory action or a vicious circle of violence.

Although I am a Muslim, I realise full well that this conflict is not a religious conflict. I do not associate my call and thoughts with Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, Christianity, and any other faiths or religious beliefs. The problems that we are facing now relate to the issues of humanity, morality, law, and war ethics, as well as actions from any side that have gone way beyond what is acceptable. This humanitarian tragedy and unbearable human misery is also attributed to the sense of responsibility from the leaders, which directly or indirectly has made this humanitarian tragedy an enduring problem.

To be clear, Indonesia has consistently and firmly supported the right of Palestinians to independence and statehood. The world community must work together to secure the birth of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine, recognised by the international community. It shall be an independent Palestinian state which lives peacefully side by side with Israel, and with other neighbouring countries. I am convinced that the "two-state solution" in a peaceful region is a realistic concept that can one day be attained.

All the horrific images of conflict, war, and violence that we have seen these days, and also in all these years, send the wrong message to our children, as if this is the way the world is. Whereas in the past decade, I have dutifully and tirelessly urged Indonesians of all faiths to always honour peace, brotherhood, tolerance and harmony. I have persistently fought against radicalism, extremism, and terrorism in Indonesia. I have been active in organising and participating in inter-faith and inter-civilisational dialogues within Indonesia as well as internationally.

I have tried my very best to initiate peaceful and democratic resolution to our conflicts, including in Aceh and Papua, communal conflicts, as well as disputes with other countries, including border disputes with neighbouring countries. I have done all I can to defend and preserve the moderate, tolerant and harmonious face of Islam against the global backdrop of rising radicalism, extremism and terrorism. I realise that we take none of what we have achieved for granted, and indeed we must continue our struggle to maintain and preserve the values.

What is happening in Gaza and other places in the Middle East or North Africa these days reminds us in Indonesia of the enormous importance that we must succeed as a nation in attaining our noble goals. What can I say to the hundreds of millions of Indonesians? This situation can lead to the growth of radical groups - in my country and possibly in other countries as well - who feel dejected and humiliated, and compelled to pursue their own course of actions to fight for justice.

I am certain that this same situation is also faced by other leaders, including political leaders, government leaders, humanitarian leaders, and even religious leaders. I am worried that pervasive indifference and lack of common responsibility will lead to the emergence of a hard generation marked by hatred and vengeance - even a generation with a thirst for blood and war.

If this is what transpires in the 21st century, the attainment of world peace and international security which forms the spirit and soul of the United Nations will only be more elusive than ever.

With all this, as Indonesia's leader, I propose that in the coming days, or hours, the decision- makers on international peace and security, particularly those in the UN Security Council, including those with veto rights, and the key countries in the Middle East, sit together and work out ways to impose a ceasefire. This should be pursued as a "peace-making" effort. Soon after the ceasefire could be established, we must intensify efforts to provide humanitarian assistance and advance a political process in a more inclusive and conclusive fashion.

We have to ensure that after the tireless efforts to stop the war, the political process does not lose steam. They should not repeat past mistakes. Listen to the cries of the Palestinian people, particularly those living in the Gaza Strip, who have long suffered from the existing blockade, as well as to the views of Fatah and Hamas that can hopefully be more unified, realistic, and constructive.

Listen also to the hopes of the Israeli people so that they will not be haunted by fear permanently once their neighbouring Palestine, Insya Allah, becomes an independent and sovereign state.

The conflict between the two nations will be ended when Palestine's independence becomes a reality and Israel will no longer feel threatened by it.

Of course, it will be attained once Israel becomes more conscientious and imbued with good neighbourliness, and ceases acting superior to others because it feels militarily stronger.

Other countries too have to care, act and contribute to this noble cause. Indonesia stands ready to be involved in the process of ending this critical humanitarian tragedy.

Let us not miss this opportunity so that our future generations will not blame or condemn us.