05/19/2021, 12.27
INDONESIA – MIDDLE EAST
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Jakarta, the conflict between Israel and Hamas and the fear of sectarian tensions

by Mathias Hariyadi

A Sumatran school expelled a 17-year-old student for releasing a video in which she "humiliated" Palestinians. An investigation opened against a cleaner in West Nusa Tenggara for a similar reason. The misperception of a "war" between Christians and Muslims in the violence in Palestine. Maximum government and army alert.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - In Indonesia, the controversy is raging around the story involving a high school student, expelled from the school in Bengkulu (island of Sumatra) for having published a video on the popular social network TikTok which "humiliates" Palestine and its people.

Activists and exponents of civil society say the decision falls within the framework of a worrying social phenomenon, the result of a growing "authoritarian" drift of institutions - including educational ones - towards young people.

Following a resolution signed by the school administration, the police and the local military command in Bengkulu on 17 May, the student received an official note certifying her expulsion from the institute. The process reached the final act, despite the young woman - known only by the initials MS – having expressed remorse and apologized for the gesture made.

According to the accusation, the girl allegedly promoted hatred of the Palestinian people and fomented racial discrimination against Muslims. In her defence MS said the video had an ironic purpose and was intended to mock the recent violence between Israel and Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip. The previous day, a cleaner called HL from West Nusa Tenggara Province (NTB) was indicted by the police for spreading a video message in which he attacks and blames Palestine.

In Indonesia, any confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians has always been seen in the past - and incorrectly - as a religious and racial issue between Muslims and Christians. Several groups, especially among the radical Islamic movements, have launched initiatives and fundraisers to support the cause and the Palestinian people.

A government office in Karanganyar, in central Java, has also joined the initiative, but there are also spontaneous initiatives by private citizens who collect money in public parks or open spaces. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo also spoke on the violence, expressing the hope that the conflict could end soon after speaking with the Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the leaders of Singapore and Malaysia.

Addressing his fellow citizens, former intelligence chief and retired army general AM Hendropriyono recalled that the clash between Israelis and Palestinians is not a religious issue between Christian Muslims. "These are territorial claims between Palestinian Arabs and Jewish [settlers]." He said.

And the Israel-Palestinian conflict "is none of our business". Right now a directive is circulating among the military which calls for the ethnic-religious question to be dissolved around the conflict in Palestine these days.

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