Indonesia anti-Israel rallies draw wide spectrum

  • World
  • Sunday, 06 Aug 2006

By Telly Nathalia

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Protesters from a wide ideological and religious spectrum demonstrated in cities across Indonesia on Sunday against Israeli actions in Lebanon, but a key rally in Jakarta drew far fewer participants than forecast. 

The leader of Indonesia's second-largest Muslim group, Muhammadiyah, had spoken earlier of a million person march, but less than 2,000 appeared at the capital's main traffic circle to hear speeches condemning Israel and the United States and only about 5,000 after the protest shifted to the U.S. embassy. 

Indonesian protesters carry pictures of Hizbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah during a rally in Jakarta August 6, 2006 against Israel's attacks on Palestine and Lebanon. (REUTERS/Supri)

However, the protest attracted not just Muslims but senior Protestant, Catholic and Buddhist officials and members of various non-governmental organisations. 

Many participants wore headbands calling Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and U.S. President George W. Bush terrorists. Banners read "Go to hell Zionists", "Give a chance to Peace" and "Aggression is human crime". 

"My friends and I today together are called to say: Indonesia, Indonesia, get together. Israel, Israel, destroy it. America, America, terrorists," said Leo Sunkarisma, a Buddhist representative. 

The chairman of the Church Alliance in Indonesia, Andreas Yawangoe, said: "We are here because we disagree with the crime which is committed by Israel now. 

"Therefore we demand that the aggression be stopped right now and we ask the U.S. not to apply a double-standard on the Middle East problem." 

In Yogyakarta in Indonesia's Java island heartland, thousands of members of the Islamic-oriented Prosperous Justice Party also demonstrated on Sunday, according to the official Antara news agency. 

They called on Indonesian Muslims to assist Lebanon and the Palestinian territories against Israeli attacks. 

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, with some 85 percent of its 220 million people following the faith. 

Antara also reported protests in Surabaya, Indonesia's second most populous city after Jakarta, and in Medan, its third largest. 

Israel has been involved in military action in Lebanon since early July, when the militant Hizbollah group captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight in a cross-border raid. 

Hizbollah has put up fierce resistance and fired 2,600 rockets into Israel. The conflict has killed at least 741 people in Lebanon and 78 Israelis. 

Indonesia has no diplomatic relations with Israel and historically has been a staunch supporter of the Palestinians. 

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