06/12/2007, 00.00
INDONESIA – IRAN
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Counter Tehran Conference on the Holocaust in Bali

Muslims and Jews, victims of the Holocaust and Islamic terrorism, met today to assert that the Holocaust did take place. Jakarta however blocks UN Security Council resolution condemning Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s latest anti-Semitic statement, which it considers “mere rhetoric”. Iran becomes an issue in Indonesia’s domestic politics.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – A “Counter Tehran Conference on the Holocaust” is currently underway in Bali, Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation. The meeting has brought together rabbis, holocaust survivors and relatives of victims of Islamic terrorism which has struck the island of island several times in the past. However, in New York Indonesia has blocked repeated attempts to pass a resolution condemning Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his June 3 statement in which he said that the “countdown to Israel's end has begun”.

The Bali conference was sponsored by the Libforall Foundation in response to a Holocaust denial conference held in Tehran in December of last year.

Former Indonesian president, human rights campaigner and spokesman for a moderate Islam Abdurraham Wahid (aka Gus Dur) attended the e daylong gathering.

“Although I am a good friend of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, I have to say he is wrong,” Mr Wahid told the conference. “He falsified history . . . . I believe the Holocaust happened.”

“Since most of the stories of the Holocaust took place in the West, there are not that many natural witnesses within Muslim countries who can say we know the facts to be true,” said Rabbi Daniel Landes, director of the Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.

Iran and Indonesia’s domestic politics

Iran is becoming a hot issue in Indonesia’s internal debate insofar as it relates to its international role and geopolitical position, especially since President Susilo Bambang Yudhuyono’s government voted in favour of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1747 which calls for a tougher stance against Iran’s nuclear programme.

Reactions to the decision to back a position held by the United States and the United Kingdom were negative and eventually spread from Islamist, conservatives and pro-Iran groups in Indonesia to include major political parties in parliament like Golkar and the PDI-P.

Demonstrations were held on Sunday in Jakarta calling on the government to show greater support for the “Palestinian cause against Israeli occupation.”

For many analysts the role Iran is playing in Indonesian domestic politics is however largely a function of the different political parties vying for the Muslim vote ahead of the 2009 presidential elections. For this reason, opposition to the UN security Council’s censure of Ahmadinejad and his anti-Semitic speech, which Jakarta calls “mere rhetoric without threats” should be seen as an attempt to pacifying the more extremist and self-styled anti-imperialist groups at home.

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