December 17, 2020
This is the seventh installment of a series on the State of Antisemitism Around the Globe, in which AJC experts share their insights about nine international communities where particular expressions of Jew hatred are on the rise. The next piece will focus on the Middle East.
Despite a miniscule Jewish population, hatred and suspicion of Jews is prevalent in Indonesia – home to the world’s largest Muslim population. Although the principles of moderation and religious tolerance, known as Pancacila, are enshrined in the Indonesian constitution, the country is threatened by a growing strain of Islamist extremism.
Sympathy with the Palestinians largely informs the anti-Jewish sentiment in Indonesia, which has no diplomatic relations with Israel. Those who express support for the Jewish state are likely to be deemed betrayers of Palestinians and, by extension, of Islam. When the U.S. moved its embassy to Jerusalem, protests erupted outside the U.S. embassy in Jakarta. The recent normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain sparked outrage, as well.
Discourse about Israel is also poisoned with lies that Israel destroys mosques and that Muslims are barred from the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Israel. Many Indonesians do not know that Israel is a democracy and that Muslims serve as judges, doctors, social workers, and members of the Israeli Knesset.
To change the tide of misinformation, AJC has launched a Facebook page in the Bahasa Indonesia language, invited Indonesian opinion makers and influencers on educational trips to Israel, and recently participated in the first-ever government sponsored interfaith workshops to include Jews.
“Very few Indonesians have met a Jew,” said Shira Loewenberg, Director of AJC’s Asia Pacific Institute, “and there is a huge gap in popular understanding of Jews, Judaism, the State of Israel and the relationships between them. We are pursuing a multi-pronged approach to garner greater understanding and lessening the demonization of each. We are hopeful of progress on this front, as well as of fostering a more productive relationship between Indonesia and Israel moving forward.”