Discourse: Palestine seeks strong message, tangible support from OIC
The Jakarta Post
Jakarta / Mon, March 7, 2016 / 08:18 am
At a time when the Middle East is transfixed by a multitude of issues ranging from the Syrian crisis to the diplomatic spat between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Indonesia has stepped up its efforts to support the struggles of the Palestinian people by hosting the Fifth Extraordinary Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit on Palestine and Al-Quds Al-Sharif in Jakarta on March 6 and 7. Long-time Palestinian Ambassador to Indonesia, Fariz Mehdawi, shares his hopes and insights on the conference with The Jakarta Post's Tama Salim. Here are the excerpts.
Question: What is the significance of having Indonesia host this emergency summit?
Answer: Right from the beginning, Indonesia decided where it belongs. When Sukarno decided to host the  Bandung Conference bringing together Asia and Africa, he had already defined that Indonesia belonged to the South, to the developing nations.
Pak Sukarno, just as he was a very loyal son of his own people, was also loyal to history. He could not forget that after 350 years of colonialism here. So it was not a surprise that he was unhappy about other forms of colonialism, anywhere. All successive presidents of this country have adopted the same line as Pak Sukarno.
As long as Israel is not giving room for peace, as long as Palestinians are not enjoying their rights, [Indonesia has said] 'We will not change the course; we will support those who are the victims of this conflict.'
So the foreign policy of this country is consistent in this case. Whoever will be elected in the future cannot change this line [of reasoning] because the [same] principles still apply.
Is cultural affinity the only reason to justify the conference?
While Muslims in the Middle East are polarized along sectarian lines, Indonesia is in a good position to offer a stage that can really bring everybody together to talk on this issue. That is what makes people come happily to Jakarta. We as beneficiaries ' as Palestinians ' are happy.
What tangible goals do you expect to come out of the conference?
This would be an opportunity for the leaders to discuss and consult among each other what kinds of follow-up actions might be possible to take so that Israel receives a very strong signal from a large constituency of the international community that is fed up. I don't know what measures are possible at the political and diplomatic level, but more pressure should be put on Israel.
Will the outcomes of this conference only apply within the OIC framework?
The theme of this conference is 'United for a Just Peace'. That is the message from Indonesia to the world. But the substance of the resolution touches upon what is practical for member states of the OIC and other international communities because Muslims are not going to talk about it as Muslims only. The religious factor here is not really that much of a thing [because] this is a political issue in the first place. So we are trying as OIC members to reach the rest of the world as well. That's why other people are invited to the conference. This is not just the OIC club.
What are Palestine's expectations for this conference?
This [conference] could help to moderate the situation, at least to put a hold on things. On the other side, Israel might even take it seriously that they need to normalize the situation, which is abnormal by any means. Israel should withdraw all their forces and leave Palestine, a state that has been recognized by 137 countries. They have conducted an illegal occupation since 1967 and the whole world knows it. It's long overdue.
The international community needs to change the tone and the language when dealing with Israel. They should be told, 'If you don't do anything, there will be consequences for your acts.' Just like other cases. This has been the language for Iran, for North Korea, for all other countries.
This could be one of the strong messages to come from the Jakarta Declaration, affirming the position of the organization, [revisiting] the principles that people should not forget. I think this is right, I think it is useful and I think it is the right thing to do.