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Prabowo Subianto: War in Gaza Must Stop, and an Independent Palestinian State Must be Established

ON APRIL 9TH, on the eve of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, the Indonesian Air Force conducted an airdrop of humanitarian aid in Gaza. In practical terms, this aid was just a drop in the ocean of horror and deprivation to which Gaza has been reduced lately. However, this gesture carried great symbolic value for the people of Indonesia and for me as their president-elect: it was a message of shared grief and pain, of solidarity and support, to our brothers and sisters in Gaza.

Over the past six months we have watched in horror as Gaza and its people have been subjected to a harsh campaign of collective punishment, in violation of international laws and norms. We had hoped and prayed that at least during the holy month of Ramadan the suffering of Gaza would stop, but it did not.

The holy month felt very different this time for Muslims all over the world. There was grief in our hearts because we knew what our brothers and sisters in Gaza were going through. They are in our minds, our hearts and our prayers every day.

Ever since October 7th, I have heard arguments that try to support the war in Gaza, as a justified reaction to the attack by Hamas. What happened that day was horrific. I truly feel for all those Israelis who lost their loved ones. But I cannot even begin to see how the events of October 7th can justify what has been happening in Gaza ever since.

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How could I? How can anyone justify the killing of tens of thousands of innocent civilians, the overwhelming majority of whom are women and children? How can anyone justify the level of destruction and the famine and deprivation to which the innocent people of Gaza have been subjected, in a campaign that billions around the world believe has broken every international law and convention protecting civilians in times of conflict?

I say this as a Muslim. I am the proud president-elect of the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. The people of Gaza are our brothers and sisters in faith. However, I say this first and foremost as a human being. You do not have to be Muslim to feel the pain of Gaza and you do not have to be a Muslim to feel outraged at what is happening there.

And yet outrage is clearly not felt by all. When Russia invaded Ukraine, the West led the global campaign of condemnation. It called for the world to denounce Russia in the name of human rights and international law. Today, however, the same countries are allowing yet another bloody conflict, this time in Gaza.

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How is the destruction of Gaza City less condemnable than the destruction of Mariupol? How is the attack on Bucha worse than the one at al-Shifa hospital? How is killing Palestinian civilians less worthy of denunciation than the killing of Ukrainian civilians?

More and more people in Indonesia and all over the world, in the global south and in the West too, feel that the failure of Western governments to put pressure on Israel to end the war indicates a serious moral crisis. How else can such double standards be explained, where we are asked to have one set of principles for Ukraine and another for the Palestinians?

Almost a year ago I called for a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine. I called for a ceasefire for the same reasons that I am calling for one in the war Israel is waging against Gaza. I called for the fighting to stop because innocent civilians are paying with their lives; because lives and livelihoods are being destroyed; because wars of this magnitude impact not just the countries and people involved but can spread and engulf entire regions and continents.

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I called for a ceasefire as a prelude to long-lasting peace because, as a Muslim, as an Indonesian, I believe in peace and co-existence, in moderation and harmony. These values are in the DNA of our country and our people. To us they are just as relevant when those suffering are Europeans as they are when the victims are Asians or Africans. And they are just as relevant whether those affected are Christian, Muslim or Jewish.

Alongside many other countries, Indonesia has done its best to help the people of Gaza survive. But whatever aid we provide, whatever airdrops or convoys we can send, are not enough.

We must unite to end this war immediately. But we must not stop there. If we do not want the cycle of violence and suffering to repeat itself with dramatic regularity, as it has done for the better part of the past eight decades, we must work together to resolve the conflict by establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside the existing one of Israel. ■

*Prabowo Subianto is the defence minister and president-elect of Indonesia.



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