A prominent Indonesian Muslim leader has been accused of betraying the Palestinians after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Yahya Cholil Staquf, the Secretary-General of Nahdlatul Ulama, met with the Israeli leader in Jerusalem in June. The invitation was arranged by the Israel Council on Foreign Relations.
After the meeting Netanyahu tweeted: “I’m very happy to see that the Arab countries and many Muslim countries are getting closer to Israel.”
A few days earlier, on June 10, Staquf also attended a conference arranged by the American Jewish Committee, which is a Zionist organisation.
In conversation with the International Director of Interreligious Affairs, Staquf stated: “We need to choose Rahma…[which he defined as compassion and caring about others]. If we choose Rahma we can begin to talk about justice because justice is … about willingness to provide justice for others.”
Nahdlatul Ulama is said to be the world’s largest Muslim organisation. It adheres to the sufi branch of Sunni Islam.
Staquf was a member of Indonesia’s National Electoral Commission during the nation’s successful transition from authoritarian rule to democracy, and served as presidential spokesman to Indonesia’s first democratically-elected head of state—Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid, who himself headed the Nahdlatul Ulama from 1984–1999.
With his position in the NU, has been primarily responsible for the expansion of NU operations to North America, Europe and the Middle East.
Commenting on Staquf’s visit to Israel, Massoud Shadjareh, of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said: “I am shocked that Mr Staquf agreed to this meeting. By meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and attending the AJC conference we believe Mr Staquf has succumbed to the planning and plotting of Israel and this demonstrates he has abandoned the Palestinian community.
“I believe that it is incumbent upon us as Muslims to voice our condemnation of Mr Staquf’s actions and to fight against the Zionist project of normalisation of Israel within the Muslim and Islamic community.”
Indonesia and Israel have no formal diplomatic ties, although they maintain quiet trade, tourism and security contacts.
According to a 2014 BBC World Service poll, 75% of Indonesians view Israel’s influence negatively, with only 7% expressing a positive view.