|Outside the coffee shop where the January 2016 Islamist terror attacks were|
launched in Jakarta, Indonesia [Image Source]
Advice levels | Indonesia overall, exercise a high degree of caution | Central Sulawesi, Papua and West Papua provinces , reconsider your need to travel | Conditions can change suddenly... Latest advice, 25 Feb 2016 | Recent indications suggest that terrorists may be in the advanced stages of preparing attacks in Indonesia (see Safety and Security). The overall level of advice has not changed... We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Indonesia, including Bali, at this time due to the high threat of terrorist attack... The Indonesian Government has recently increased security across Indonesia, which underscores the ongoing high threat of a terrorist attack.Reuters adds that the Australian foreign ministry (the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) "did not respond to a request for more details".
It also notes that a similar statement was issued from the same Australian source this past Sunday, warning of the possibility of attacks in and around Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. That advisory was followed soon after by warnings of a similar nature from the diplomatic missions of the UK, New Zealand and Canada, among others.
As the Australian warning notes, Indonesia mounted an ongoing counter-attack on what Reuters terms "suspected militants" in the wake of a major terror attack in Jakarta, Indonesia, last month. We reported on that here ["14-Jan-16: In Indonesia's capital, a mall and a Starbucks now under terror attack"]
Australian tourism to Indonesia is a big deal:
Last year, 1.1 million Aussies travelled to Indonesia, and predominantly Bali, generating over $53 million in visa fees alone. As the biggest source of visitors to Bali... [Source]With a total Australian population of 23.1 million, those 1.1 million Aussie visitors to Indonesia in 2015 alone amount to nearly 5% of the country's population in a single year. A serious warning about terrorism is clearly going to make serious waves.
It is also likely to fall on receptive ears: Indonesia's deadliest terror attack far happened in 2002 when more than 200 people including some 88 Australians were killed in three terrorist bomb attacks in Bali. Members of an Islamist terror group, Jemaah Islamiyeh, were subsequently convicted. We posted about it here and published an open letter to the Australian victims in several newspapers at the time and in later years [link]. Australians are well-prepared to know about the dangers.
Perhaps because of the sensitivity that comes from our Australian background, we have posted in this blog a number of times in the past decade about terrorism in Indonesia [click "Indonesia"], and not always with the greatest of admiration. Indonesian Islamists have notably escaped punishment from the country's legal authorities ["17-Nov-06: Indonesia Shows the Way in Fearlessly Combatting Religion-Based Terror"], for instance, a matter largely ignored in the current political environment.
Indonesia is challenged by terror in ways that many other countries are not. To start with, it's home to the world’s largest population of Muslims. And as a survey last month in Time Magazine shows, this has consequences:
Indonesia finds itself facing a new threat. There are 22 local groups who have pledged allegiance to ISIS’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Even though the state officially banned ISIS in 2014, the groups have yet to face any legal challenge to their dissemination of propaganda, gathering of funds or recruitment of Indonesians... After the 2002 attacks in Bali, Indonesia’s government formed Detachment 88, a U.S.-trained counterterrorism unit, which became the country’s greatest asset in dismantling and deradicalizing the JI and al-Qaeda-affiliated networks between 2002 till now.
“Detachment 88 hunted terrorists, then killed or rehabilitated them,” says Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore... Today, ISIS has taken over the space in Indonesia once dominated by [Jemaah Islamiyeh] and al-Qaeda affiliates, says Gunaratna. Many of their followers have defected to ISIS... Gunaratna attributes ISIS’s online propaganda as a powerful recruitment tool, saying that out of the 3,000 pro-ISIS social media sites in Southeast Asia, over 70% of them originate from Indonesia. Furthermore, in the past two years, over 600 Indonesians are believed to have traveled to ISIS-held territories in the Middle East, compared with the 400 JI militants who trained with al-Qaeda in the space of 10 years. That’s still only 600 in a country of 200 million, and support for the group is limited “to a fringe of a radical fringe” of Indonesian Muslims, says a report on ISIS in the country by the Institute of Policy Analysis of Conflict. But even a handful of militants can still stage significant atrocities, as Indonesians saw once again this week... To fight the rapidly growing threat of ISIS, [Gunaratna] says Indonesia will have to double the numbers of Detachment 88, criminalize ISIS-affiliated groups and counter the propaganda on the web. Both it, and the world, are facing a truly global threat... ["Indonesia’s Long Battle With Islamic Extremism Could Be About to Get Tougher", Tara John, TIME, January 14, 2016]
Yet even today, knowing what we know about the savagery they practice against their own people and that they endlessly threaten and try against ours, there remain relatively respectable voices out there calling for a different, more open approach to the barbarians:
Former British prime minister and former Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair said that dialogue with Hamas was "worth trying" in the hope of unifying the Palestinian leadership and stressed that the terror group's stance on Israel could be changed... ["Tony Blair: Dialogue with Hamas 'worth trying'", i24news, December 11, 2015]for instance, and
This morning, Carter demanded recognition of Hamas’ “legitimacy as a political actor”. He did so on the grounds that Hamas “represents a substantial portion of the Palestinian people”. He did not suggest that Hamas should lay down its weapons or indicate any interest in peace before being granted such recognition. Rather, recognition would “begin to provide the right incentives for Hamas to lay down its weapons.” ["Jimmy Carter Calls For Recognizing Hamas "Legitimacy"", Forbes, August 6, 2014]If there are people calling for greater understanding of the Indonesian jihadists, of how it's "worth trying" to dialogue with them, of their being "legitimate actors", of how the murder-and-mayhem strategy behind these latest travel advisories can be changed, we're not hearing them. We wonder if anyone else is.
The Australian news media often give Israel's robust response to jihadist terror, particularly the kind emanating from Hamas and Fatah, hostile coverage. How fair are they when we compare that coverage with how they depict Indonesia, their huge and hulking northern neighbour?
Consider the following report from Australia's government-owned ABC a week ago ["Jakarta mosques, schools linked to Islamist terror group as Indonesia struggles to contain radicals", ABC News, January 18, 2016]. It starts this way:
A number of Indonesian mosques and schools, including in the capital Jakarta, are being used to preach the hardline Islamic State doctrine and recruit new supporters. 7.30 [an astute and very watchable ABC Television current affairs program] has been told of five Jakarta mosques where Islamic State dogma is preached and where fighters are recruited. The Indonesian Government has banned dozens of IS websites, and promised to crack down on extremist teachings at schools. But anti-terrorism laws remain weak, and authorities are losing the battle against Islamic State recruitment.And on it goes, describing the quiet growth of murderous extremism in the villages of the world's largest Moslem state. And clearly taking a stand: the terror needs to be blunted while the overtaxed right-minded Indonesian government "struggles" to "contain" the threat. The word "martyr", to describe the Islamists, appears exactly zero times.
Down a winding dirt road in Subang, West Java, sits a simple, no-frills Islamic boarding school with a deeply disturbing history. At least three of the terrorists involved in last month's attack in central Jakarta can be linked to the school...
Now imagine that instead of Indonesia, they were describing Gaza and the areas occupied by the PA/Fatah.
A report like that, if it ever went to air, would have to acknowledge that, unlike the authorities in Jakarta, the people who rule Gaza don't pretend to be against educating children to become killers and jihadists. Instead, they run huge programs to achieve just that.
And unlike in Indonesia, there is no need for investigative reporters to lurk around Gaza and try to dig up evidence of a handful of mosques and prayer halls where preachers issuing blood-curdling cries for knifings, shootings and rammings, because these, unlike in Indonesia, are a daily event in Gaza. Fresh video clips testify to this all over the web. And many of the Gaza and PA clerics doing the incitement are not outlaws but salaried government officials. Indonesia has "anti-terrorism laws [that] remain weak". But in Gaza, the laws (consider the Hamas constitution) call for terrorism; they justify it and elaborate on the different ways it ought to be done. And in the PA, if you are convicted on terrorism charges by the Israelis, you get a pension under their laws and become entitled as a matter of law to extremely generous rewards when you get out of prison.
The facts on the ground in terrorism-rich Indonesia are similar to those in terrorism-addicted Gaza and the PA-ruled West Bank except that (a) there is much more of it here compared with Indonesia, and (b) most reporters and their editors make bones about not viewing the Israelis, engaged daily in efforts to suppress a wave of daily murders and maimings, as being in a struggle.
As far as we can tell, no one in any part of the respectable news-reporting media ever calls the Indonesian bombers "martyrs".
Sitting here in Jerusalem, the lack of sympathy and the patent hypocrisy in major parts of the mainstream media are elements of a daily, obvious and painful reality.