Last month, Rabbi Yaakov Baruch realized a long-held dream: opening a Holocaust museum in Indonesia, where he operates the country’s only synagogue. The unveiling was attended by more than 100 invitees, including the German ambassador and other foreign diplomats. But as Chris Barrett and Karuni Rompies point out, the move was not universally welcomed.
The Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI), a group of scholars that oversees Islamic affairs, has called for the museum to be shut. “I beg the local government; . . . this hurts the Palestinian people,” said Sudarnoto Abdul Hakim, the head of the MUI’s international-relations unit.
Hidayat Nur Wahid, a senior figure in the Islamist faith-based Prosperous Justice Party and the deputy speaker of Indonesia’s upper house, was also scathing. He said he believed the museum to be a ploy by Israel to try to normalize relations with Indonesia, which has long rejected diplomatic ties because of its support for the Palestinian cause.
It’s an issue that has been in the headlines lately after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised the prospect of establishing formal relations between Indonesia and Israel during a visit to Jakarta in December. The controversy about the photo exhibition prompted reporters last week to pose questions again to Indonesia’s foreign ministry about where it stands on Israel.