It is a great honour for me to join in this International Humanitarian Conference on Assistance for Victims of Occupation (Palestine). I commend the conference organizing committee for bringing together more than a hundred international non-governmental organizations here in Jakarta to discuss ways and means of helping our brothers and sisters in the occupied territories of Palestine.
This conference is timely and much needed. Sixty years have passed since thousands of Palestinians were driven out of their homes at gunpoint. Many were forced to wander as refugees in neighbouring countries and the rest had to languish under foreign occupation. Today there are some four million Palestinians living under oppressive Israeli rule. They suffer all kinds of persecution and even violent attacks. The casualty count keeps mounting.
Indonesia has persevered in supporting and advocating the cause of Palestinian freedom and independence. Generations of Indonesians have felt the pain of our Palestinian brothers and sisters. We have consistently condemned Israeli occupation and constantly appealed to all parties to seek a peaceful solution to the problem.
We have been moved to wage this advocacy by memories of our own arduous struggle for independence. Moreover, we are mandated by our 1945 Constitution, which affirms that “freedom is an inalienable right of all nations; hence colonialism must be abolished since it is not in conformity with humanity and justice.”
Indonesia’s position on this matter is therefore crystal clear: supporting the Palestinian struggle is a matter of principle and a moral as well as a constitutional obligation. We hold that the solution to this problem must be reached on the principle of land for peace, a solution that entails two states living side by side in peace and within internationally guaranteed borders. That is why we are consistent in not recognizing Israel until the Palestinian people have achieved a sovereign state in their own homeland with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
We have supported every international effort towards that end, including the Madrid Conference (1991), Oslo (1993), Oslo II (1995), Sharm El-Sheikh (1999), the Arab Peace Initiative (2002), the Roadmap to Peace (2003), and the Annapolis Conference of 2007.
To my mind, the Annapolis Conference was particularly significant because it revived the process of dialogue that had stalled for some time. Without dialogue, there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and the renewal of armed conflict becomes a daily possibility.
The vital importance of dialogue is well demonstrated in our own experience: our struggle for independence was both a military and diplomatic struggle. We won our national sovereignty as much on the negotiating table as on the field of battle. In the absence of dialogue, casualties on both sides would have mounted, without our attaining the sovereignty that was our goal.
Unfortunately that dialogue on Palestine has not prospered much. Earlier this year, Israel launched massive attacks against Palestinian territory. At the same time Jewish settlements continued to mushroom on Palestinian Occupied Territories, thereby undermining the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. The ever-expanding settlements encroach on the remaining 12 percent of what Palestine was in the 1940s. Not content with this usurpation of territory, Israel is also isolating Palestine from the rest of the world by constructing the barrier that is simply known as “The Wall.”
This travesty of international justice must stop. For there can be no long-term global security if there is no peace in the Middle East. And there can be no peace in the Middle East if no just and comprehensive solution to the question of Palestine has been reached.
We in Indonesia will stand by our Palestinian brothers and sisters as we have always done. As early as 1955, or barely ten years after we proclaimed independence, Indonesia as host to the Asian-African Conference, invited a Palestinian delegation to that historic event. In that gathering of the first generation of Asian and African leaders, which envisioned the demise of colonialism, Indonesia raised the issue of Palestine and drew international focus upon it.
Half a century later, at the Asia-Africa Summit of 2005 in Jakarta, Indonesia once again brought the issue of Palestine to the attention of the international community. Under the agenda of Political Solidarity, Indonesia embedded the issue of Palestine in the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP). On that occasion, the leaders of Asia and Africa expressed abhorrence that more than half a century after the Asian-African Conference, all the liberation movements that took part in that historic event had gained independence and sovereignty—except one: Palestine.
Lofty words were followed by concrete action. Since the Palestinian people are so much in need of practical help, Indonesia, within the framework of the NAASP, launched an effort to deliver to the Palestinian people the kind of help that they badly need, but which the international community had until then overlooked.
While the Annapolis Conference focused on the political dimension of the issue of Palestine and the subsequent Paris Conference on Palestine attended to the financial dimension, we in Indonesia thought that an essential third element must be also be provided: capacity building.
We know from our own experience of nation-building that political and socioeconomic institutions cannot fulfill their promise of serving the nation if these institutions are not run by competent and dedicated men and women. A nation’s human resources must be empowered with knowledge, skills and orientation if progress is to be sustained.
Thus Indonesia, in partnership with South Africa, our Co-chair in the NAASP, convened the NAASP Ministerial Meeting on Capacity Building for Palestine last July in Jakarta. The conference was attended by 281 participants from 56 countries, including three Latin American countries. It aimed at generating capacity building projects for 10,000 Palestinians over a period of five years, covering three sectors: governance, infrastructures and sociocultural development.
Participation would not be limited to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. It would include Palestinians in the diaspora, including hundreds of refugee camps in nearby countries.
I am happy to tell you that Indonesia had begun to fulfill its commitments to the cause of Palestine’s capacity building, even before the conference. We have been training and will continue to train Palestinian diplomats in the Training and Education Centre of our Department of Foreign Affairs. We are also offering programmes in the framework of Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC).
It is expected that the Palestinians who will take part in the capacity building projects, though small in number, will be a potent force for nation building. They will be agents of change. Through the exercise of their technical and professional competence, they will help transform and empower the entire nation.
There is one change that I am sure the Palestinian people are longing for and that is the achievement of greater unity within their nation. For the first and foremost source of a nation’s strength is its unity.
We Indonesians are only too aware of this, for during our struggle to defend and sustain our sovereignty and independence, the forces against freedom, as usual, sought to divide and conquer us. If we had allowed ourselves to be divided, we would have been easy prey to the enemies of freedom.
But we strove for unity and we achieved it. We stood against mighty odds in the armour of our unity—and we prevailed.
In the same manner, the Palestinian people will prevail against all odds and will surmount all obstacles to the attainment of sovereignty—if they are united.
If they are not united, Palestine would be no more than two separate territories, isolated and looking inward, going their separate ways when they are not actually in conflict with each other. If they are not united, they will never attain their full strength. And, finally, if they are not united, they will never be a viable sovereign state.
Hence, every effort to liberate the nation of Palestine from decades of oppression must begin with the restoration of national unity. That is the very first step towards establishing an independent, sovereign and viable Palestinian state. A Palestinian state that is capable of governance over all its citizens.
We in Indonesia will always try to help. I am sure the international community will always be willing to extend a helping hand to empower the people of Palestine.
The ultimate empowerment, however, is the achievement national unity. And only the Palestinians can bestow that upon themselves.
I thank you.