In Indonesia, Jews Must Keep a Low Profile

Home to a Jewish community of about 3,000 on the eve of World War II, Indonesia now is thought to have a mere 200 Jews; only one synagogue remains in use. Olivia Rondonuwu writes:

In [the city of] Tondano, the Shaar Hashamayim synagogue sits close to several churches and residents of different religions live, work, and worship alongside each other without incident.

Indonesia has long been praised for its moderate, inclusive brand of Islam—and this enclave of diversity is a testament to that. But across the archipelago, intolerance has risen in recent years as more conservative forms of Islam have become popular, driven by increasingly vocal hardline groups.

Tensions in the Middle East, particularly between Israel and the Palestinians, spill over here and deepen religious divides. Outside the safe haven on the island of Sulawesi [where the synagogue is located], those who refuse to hide their faith have faced hostility. Yaakov Baruch, an Orthodox Jew who runs the Tondano synagogue, revealed how he was threatened with death in a busy Jakarta mall as he walked along with his pregnant wife [while wearing a kippah]. . . . Faced with such open hostility, the Jews in [Jakarta] worship in secret. . . .

Christian churches and mosques where Muslim minorities pray have been closed due to pressure from hardliners. Shiites and Ahmadis—regarded as heretics by some Sunnis—have been forced from their homes in mob attacks and on occasion even killed. . . . Due to their small number and the fact most live in the shadows, the nation’s Jews have not been a major focus of radical Islamic anger in Indonesia and have largely escaped the serious attacks directed at other minorities.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Anti-Semitism, Indonesia, Indonesian Jewry, Jewish World

“Ending the War in Yemen” Would Lead to More Bloodshed and Threaten Global Trade

Dec. 13 2018

A bipartisan movement is afloat in Congress to end American support for the Saudi-led coalition currently fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. With frustration at Riyadh over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, reports of impending famine and a cholera outbreak in Yemen, and mounting casualties, Congress could go so far as to cut all funding for U.S. involvement in the war. But to do so would be a grave mistake, argues Mohammed Khalid Alyahya:

Unfortunately, calls to “stop the Yemen war,” though morally satisfying, are fundamentally misguided. . . . A precipitous disengagement by the Saudi-led coalition . . . would have calamitous consequences for Yemen, the Middle East, and the world at large. The urgency to end the war reduces that conflict, and its drivers, to a morality play, with the coalition of Arab states cast as the bloodthirsty villain killing and starving Yemeni civilians. The assumption seems to be that if the coalition’s military operations are brought to a halt, all will be well in Yemen. . . .

[But] if the Saudi-led coalition were to cease operations, Iran’s long arm, the Houthis, would march on areas [previously controlled by the Yemeni government] and exact a bloody toll on the populations of such cities as Aden and Marib with the same ruthlessness with which they [treated] Sanaa and Taiz during the past three years. The rebels have ruled Sanaa, kidnapping, executing, disappearing, systematically torturing, and assassinating detractors. In Taiz, they fire mortars indiscriminately at the civilian population and snipers shoot at children to force residents into submission.

[Moreover], an abrupt termination of the war would leave Iran in control of Yemen [and] deal a serious blow to the global economy. Iran would have the ability to obstruct trade and oil flows from both the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb strait. . . . About 24 percent of the world’s petroleum and petroleum products passes through these two waterways, and Iran already has the capability to disrupt oil flows from Hormuz and threatened to do so this year. Should Iran acquire that capability in Bab el-Mandeb by establishing a foothold in the Gulf of Aden, even if it chose not to utilize this capability oil prices and insurance costs would surge.

Allowing Tehran to control two of the most strategic choke points for the global energy market is simply not an option for the international community. There is every reason to believe that Iran would launch attacks on maritime traffic. The Houthis have mounted multiple attacks on commercial and military vessels over the past several years, and Iran has supplied its Yemeni proxy with drone boats, conventional aerial drones, and ballistic missiles.

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Read more at The Hill

More about: Iran, Oil, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen