A researcher for Human Rights Watch warns the Israel/Palestine dispute is a ‘lightning rod’ for both moderate and radical Islamic groups in Indonesia, who would pressure their government to respond
Australia moving its embassy in Israel to the city of Jerusalem would risk a significant backlash in Indonesia including “mass rallies” and boycotts of Australian products, a Human Rights Watch researcher has warned.
The Morrison government announced it was considering the move earlier in the month, but has not made a commitment.
Andreas Harsono, an Indonesia researcher for the global human rights group, told SBS News he predicted “mass rallies” and “massive traffic jams” in the streets around the Australian embassy in Jakarta if the plan was implemented.
“Of course, the protests will be aimed at Australian embassies, consulates, Australian companies,” he said.
Mr Harsono said the push for Palestinian statehood had become a “lightning rod” for Muslim groups in Indonesia, which would likely pile pressure on the Indonesian government to respond.
“Politically, Palestine is becoming a lightning rod,” he said.
“Palestine is becoming a cause – campaign material – easily used within many, many Muslim organisations. Not only the radical, but also the moderate ones. If it is about Palestine, their position is more or less always similar.”
Mr Harsono said those same groups could direct their frustration at the Indonesian government for “cooperating” with Canberra on a major, pending trade deal – which the Morrison government insists is “on track” despite the tensions.
The mood within most groups was to “wait and see” if prime minister Scott Morrison proceeds with the plan, he said.
“No damage has been done yet. But if there are serious moves to go ahead with that proposal, I expect protests will start.”
The warnings from the human rights group were echoed by ousted prime minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday.
Mr Turnbull is in Indonesia, representing Australia at an oceans conference. He said the Indonesian president Joko Widodo had told him of “very serious concern” in his country over the potential embassy move.
His successor, Scott Morrison, has previously said he was “very pleased” at the response to his announcement from Mr Widodo.
Australia’s embassy in Israel is currently located in Tel Aviv, where many foreign diplomats are based.
US president Donald Trump has already announced he would move the United States embassy to Jerusalem and formally recognise the city – considered sacred in Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths – as Israel’s official capital.