Jakarta (ANTARA News) - It might be a small step forward, but it`s a victory any way for Palestine which became a full member of UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) this year, while hoping to become a full member of the United Nations, and most of all an independent country, free from Israeli occupation.

Indonesia was one of the co-sponsors of the Palestinian bid for UNESCO membership, as the nation also supported Palestine`s bid for UN membership in New York, Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa said in Paris on November 1, 2011.

UNESCO voted to admit Palestine as a full member October 31. Palestine`s wish which required the approval of two-thirds of the number of UNESCO members, passed with 107 votes in favor, 14 against, and 52 abstentions. It was the first such vote by a UN agency.

Palestinian Ambassador to Indonesia Fariz Mehdawi in a seminar on International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People last November in Jakarta, said "We only hope to become a normal country like any other country in the world, we don`t want to cause problems or burden to other countries."

Mehdawi said that Palestine hoped to get out of the shackles of Israeli occupation for the last two generations since 1967.

ASEAN Foundation Executive Director Makarim Wibisono on the same occasion said that Palestine has the right to own freedom as it`s a right of humanity and justice.

"Whereas freedom is the inalienable right of all nations, colonialism must be abolished in this world as it is not in conformity with humanity and justice," said Makarim quoting the Preamble of the 1945 Indonesian Constitution.

Chairman of the People`s Consultative Assembly (MPR) Taufiq Kiemas also shared Makarim`s statement in a different conference later.

"In line with the mandate of the Constitution, Indonesia strongly condemns the colonization of Palestine by Israel, and fully supports the independence of Palestine," Taufiq Kiemas said when officially opening a Conference of Asia-Pacific Community for Palestine being held here on June 29 and 30, 2011.

The conference, themed "Striving to Fulfill the Rights of Palestinian People", was also in accordance with the spirit of Bung Karno (Indonesian First President Soekarno) to liberate Asian and African nations declared at the Asia-Africa Conference in 1955, the MPR chief said.

Indonesia has been a staunch support of Palestine in its struggle for its independence.

To help prepare an establishment of a Palestinian state, the Indonesian government has committed to providing concrete supports including through capacity building programs for Palestinian human resources.

The Indonesian government has been committed to providing capacity building assistance for 10,000 Palestinians within the period of 2008-2013, and to identifying capacity building program plan for Palestine from 2012 to 2013.

Marty on his annual speech in early January 2011 stated Indonesia remained committed to supporting the freedom of Palestine.

"The Palestinian cause is an Indonesian cause. The establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestine existing side by side with Israel is a comprehensive solution that would bring an end to the protracted Palestinian-Israeli conflict," Marty said.

Indonesia was not only bilaterally provided capacity building assistance but also worked to gather support from Asian and African countries, including Brazil, India, and South Africa, for the same purpose.

"So far 1662 Palestinians have benefited from capacity building programs involving 24 countries, including training for Palestinian diplomats by our Foreign Ministry," he said in January 2011.

In early December 2011, the foreign ministry held a workshop on the Evaluation and Identification of the Capacity Building program for Palestine, in Bandung, West Java.

The workshop was attended by representatives of ministries and organizations being involved in the capacity building program, such as the the public work ministry, the tourism and creative economic ministry, the education and culture ministry, and Indonesia`s Red Crescent, the foreign ministry said in a press statement.

The workshop was a follow up of a similar meeting held in Jakarta on February 28, 2011. All activities were carried out within the framework of the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP) programs.

Indonesia was also proven to be the first country to extend humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people in 2011.

"We welcome the humanitarian assistance from the Indonesian people to the Palestinian people, and this is the first foreign assistance for Palestine in 2011," Chairman of Egypt`s North Sinai Red Crescent Gen (retired) Osama Serghani in Rafah, Egyptian Gaza border gate, On January 2.

Also in January, a delegation of Lifting of Gaza Blockade Committee which included officials of the Palestinian foreign affairs ministry in Gaza and humanitarian activists of the House of Wisdom for Conflict Resolution and Governance, visited Indonesia.

Of the Palestinian officials, Hani Abouwda, secretary of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, expressed his hope that the Indonesian people can continue giving support to lift the blockade and free Palestine, according to dr Sarbini Abdul Murad, chairman of the presidium of Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (MER-C) Indonesia, who received the delegation.

The objective of the delegation`s visit to Indonesia was to express gratitude to the Indonesian people and government for helping and supporting the Palestinian struggle for independence so far, Hani said.

Three Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) were also signed by the Palestinian delegation and leaders of three major universities in Indonesia, namely the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB, Bandung West Java), the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB, Bogor, W Java), and the University of Mulawarman (Samarinda, East Kalimantan)

Indonesia has also been actively encouraging other countries to support Palestine, including during the 16th ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Bali, last May.

Minister Marty in the NAM meeting said that NAM so far consistently supported the existence of Palestine but there were still 29 members which had not yet recognized it based on various reasons.

Apart from the issue on Palestine`s independence, the faith of more than 600 Palestinian political prisoners, including legislators, in Israeli jails is also to be discussed in the Bali NAM meeting, which was also participated in by a Palestinian minister.

Another regional organization where Indonesia belongs to, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) during the 19th ASEAN Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali on November 18, 2011 expressed its support for Palestine.

"We reiterate our support for the capacity-building of the state institutions of Palestine and we also support Palestine`s wish to be a full member of the United Nations," the ASEAN leaders said in the statement`s 152nd point.

The Statement was agreed on by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as the ASEAN Chair, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei Darussalam, Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam, Prime Minister Thingsing Thammavong of Laos, Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, President Thein Sein of Myanmar, President Aquino III of the Philippines, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long of Singapore, and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of Thailand.

In the 18th ASEAN Summit held in Bali, May 2011, the ASEAN Leaders in the Chair`s Statement also mentioned about Palestine.

"We welcome recent developments in Palestine, particularly the reconciliation between Palestine factions, which was facilitated by Egypt. This reconciliation is fundamental in the struggle of the Palestinian people in attaining an independent and sovereign Palestinian state," the ASEAN Leaders stated.

In Gaza, the Indonesian Ministry of Health early this year planned to build a cardiac center at Al Shifa hospital in Palestine, at a cost of Rp20 billion.

"Heart disease is most prevalent in the area, so is in eye diseases, but we chose a cardiac center because it is more life saving," Health Minister Endang Rahayu said after signing an MoU in February 2011.

The MoU was signed by Health Ministry`s Secretary General Ratna Rosita and President of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Ahmed Mohamed Ali in Jakarta in the presence of the health minister.

It will take eight years to build the center with a grant from the Indonesian government, including the medical equipment. IDB is committed to provide 8 million US dollars for the Indonesian Cardiac Center.

MER-C Indonesia is also building an hospital in North Gaza close to the border with Israel.

The construction of the Indonesian hospital in Gaza was started from the mission of humanitarian relief team from Indonesia who brought medical supplies from the government and the Indonesians to Gaza people from 2008 to 2009.

"The hospital will be very beneficial to the victims of war because it is specially designed for traumatized war victims who need immediate rehabilitation and treatment," Dr Sarbini Abdul Murad, in April 2011.

He explained that with the capacity of 100 beds and spacious operation room, the hospital was expected to give health assistance and rehabilitation to war victims in Gaza Strip.

MER-C Indonesia had sent a construction team to the Gaza Strip in Palestine, to follow up on an Indonesian hospital construction program in Bayt Lahiya, North Gaza.

The team was led by Ir Faried Thalib, who is also chairman of the MER-C construction division, and the target of the delegation is to decide on the winner of a tender for the Indonesian hospital in Gaza.

According to Faried Talib in November, the construction of the hospital has been 50 percent completed.

Presidium of Mer-C Joserizal Jurnalis said in August 2011, that that the hospital itself covers 1,000 square meters and the land on which it stands 1.65 hectares.

The hospital was built with wakaf (money for religious purposes) from Muslims in Indonesia who cared for the people of Palestine.

Palestine, he said, is the first country in the international world, recognizing Indonesia`s independence when it was proclaimed on August 14, 1945.

Besides, Palestine had given assistance to Indonesia during the Dutch military aggression. "They sent help by using US and Indian private ships," Joserizal said without mentioning the US private company. (*)

Reporter: Fardah
Editor: Fardah Assegaf
Copyright © ANTARA 2012