Agam's Gecko
Monday, August 07, 2006

ore big talk from Suaib Didu and his ASEAN Muslim Youth League jihadis over the weekend. Since the group announced its intentions two weeks ago (and as I wrote on July 24), they have been touting their plan to engage in missions against "whomever is involved with Israel or Israelis," while vowing to avoid making attacks within Indonesia due to the country's many recent natural disasters. Australia for one is taking the threats seriously.

But in a disappointing showing on Saturday in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, most of Mr. Didu's promised 3,000 volunteers from his "Jihad Bomb Brigade" failed to show. He managed 160 black-hooded fighters to show off their martial arts skills. And after having promised a wave of hundreds of suicide bombers dispatched around the world, Didu on Saturday changed his tune and disavowed suicide attacks or those against civilians. "We don't want to carry out suicide bombing but jihad bombing. We can't carry out brutal bombings which kill women and children." He said his men would leave Indonesia through the Malaysian sections of Borneo which have borders with Kalimantan province, since they didn't have passports.

The previous day, in a news story touting the imminent mass demonstration of Indonesian jihad-ism, the country's genius Vice President, Jusuf Kalla (known for his recent declaration that tsunami warnings were unneccessary, since earthquakes provide a "natural early warning system") told reporters that the government was not aware of groups recruiting suicide bombers to go overseas. Other officials downplayed the seriousness of the group, although at least they were aware of it. Maybe Mr. Kalla doesn't watch the national news. I did like the comment of Din Syamsuddin, the leader of the Muhammadiya organisation. "There are too many obstacles for these people to travel there. It is too costly and the Israeli army is no match for them," he told reporters. Yep, I just bet the Israeli military is no match for these boys.

The fact that Indonesia, which has had its own problems with Islamist terror groups, allows the open and public advocacy and recruitment for terrorist activity intended for other countries, is astonishing. I expect something like this from Iran (with full government support as well), but I can't think of many other places where this would be tolerated. If Indonesia isn't careful, it will find itself painted as a terrorist-supporting state, thanks to these thugs and others like the FPI.

While information consumers in many countries may notice a news bias against Israel (it's pretty much expected almost everywhere), Indonesians are being treated to one side only. That is, it isn't an imbalance. It's the complete absence of the other side of the story. While your news organisations in other countries may title the general rubric of the current Lebanon situation along the lines of "Lebanon Crisis" or "Middle East Conflict," the Indonesian media that I've seen has settled on "Israeli Aggression" or variations on that.

Usually I watch the suppertime news programs on MetroTV, including the half hour "Suara Anda" (Your Voice) in which viewers call in to request one of six listed stories and are given opportunity to comment. Last Monday the first story chosen was "Israeli Aggression," and of course it was horrible and heart wrenching (after the killing of civilians in Qana). After the story played, the caller launched into a tirade about Jews and the United States, and how they were out to destroy Islam etc. The hostess began speaking over him and it appeared someone in the studio cut off the call at that point.

The following night a national story was first pick, but "Israeli Aggression" was number two. After the story played, the caller launched into a tirade against Jews, saying that he agreed with that American actor and praised his bravery. You know, the one who was quoted all over the world recently about how the Jews cause all the wars and death and stuff. Yeah, that Mel Gibson guy. The caller sounded like he was literally foaming, the hostess began speaking over him (and it looked like she cut him off this time, pretending that the line was dropped). So Marvelous Mel's words are certainly getting around. Recall what I wrote about the popular definition of Yahudi in Men in Black two weeks ago. There is fertile soil for Mel's drunken conspiracies in that country.

The following night, "Israeli Aggression" was not on the list of choices for Suara Anda (though it was well covered in all the normal news bulletins). I didn't see the program on Thursday or Friday, but tonight there were three stories on the crisis. #1.- Israeli Aggression, #2.- World Curses Israel, #3.- Prayers for Lebanon. First choice was #3, followed by 1 & 2. But no tirades this time, and #1 -- despite the title -- focussed on the Israeli reservists killed on the weekend. No mention of the 400 Hizb Allah rockets to hit Israel over those two days. And still no correction that I have seen to the casualty figures of Qana, which were originally reported at 56 deaths, but which the ICRC now confirms was exactly half that.

That is what happens across most of the world, I'm sure. Inaccurate or deceiving initial information is reported and played to the hilt, especially if it goes against Israel or the US. Corrected information, a week or more later, never makes it to air. The info-war field of battle is vitally important. And at a time where we see throngs in many of the world's streets praising a longstanding terrorist outfit which tries to kill as many civilians as possible, while condemning the country which has to live beside these thugs for defending itself while trying to avoid harming the innocent, fairness seems to go out the window.

If Israeli forces make a mistake, the wrong people can be killed instead of a rocket battery destroyed. If Hizb Allah makes a mistake, their rocket misses the intended civilian targets. Yesterday was the heaviest barrage of rockets since fighting began, and the highest losses for Israel. This for the side which tries to shield its civilians with bomb shelters, and which keeps military targets away from populated centres. Hizb Allah ensures that every offensive weapon has plenty of civilians around it, and brags that far more civilians have been killed than Hizb Allah fighters. Nothing much to be proud of, yet the Muslim world praises their bravery.

The Palestinian Arabs of Jenin, when nearly hit by a deep strike by Hizb Allah a few days ago, celebrated the event. Had it killed people in Jenin, what would they have done? More than likely, celebrated their martyrdom.

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