Israel launches Web site in Indonesian

Jerusalem seeking to promote dialogue with most populous Muslim nation.

indo web site 298 (photo credit: )
indo web site 298
(photo credit: )
In an attempt to promote Israel's image in the world's most populous Muslim country, the Foreign Ministry on Sunday launched a Web site in the Indonesian language. Although the site did not attract much attention from world media, it is an attempt to reach out to a nation that does not technically recognize Israel. The Web site presents Israel's view on foreign affairs. Current headlines concern Kassam rockets and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust. Yael Ravia-Zadok, director for Israeli Media at the Foreign Ministry, said the "goal of the site is to remove the language barrier and open horizons for tolerant Muslims to access proper information on Israel." Indonesia, a country of over 200 million, has expressed a desire to play a greater role in the resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. To that end, Indonesia committed a battalion to the UNIFIL peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon in August. Given Indonesia's traditionally pro-Palestinian stance, Israel originally opposed to the inclusion of Indonesian troops in UNIFIL. However, interaction between Israel and Indonesia has grown, as evinced by Israel's eventual acceptance of the Indonesian forces and its sale of unmanned drone planes earlier this fall. In July, the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce also raised eyebrows at the establishment of economic ties with the Manufacturers Association of Israel (MAI). Despite recent business deals, public opinion in Indonesia remains overwhelmingly opposed to diplomatic ties with Israel. Last July, the Indonesian Tennis Association failed to appear in Tel Aviv for a match with the Israel Tennis Association, and anti-Israel protests are a frequent affair in Jakarta. A quick Google search for 'Indonesia Israel' or a crawl through Indonesian blogs reveals a view of relations with Israel as not only immoral, but a violation of Indonesia's 1945 constitution, whose preamble expresses support for international movements of self-determination. Indonesian Muslims also burned flags in the wake of last year's Danish cartoon controversy, an example of the anti-Western sentiment that exists despite Indonesia's close contact with the United States. The Indonesian-language Web site is but a small step in Israel's attempt to address what Ilan Ben Dov, ambassador to neighboring Singapore, calls the "basic lack of information in the Muslim world about Israel." Ben Dov also recognized the potential for an Indonesian role in solving problems in the Middle East. The MFA refused to comment on a possible warming of Israeli-Indonesian relations, but committed its desire to "build bridges" and "open dialogue" with any Muslim community that is willing.