Protests against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza will increase and will also start to target firms in Australia supplying Israel’s military, organisers of a Sydney rally told thousands gathered yesterday in Hyde Park.
Speakers also demanded the Australian government cut ties with the Netanyahu government in Israel, claiming its support was enabling the genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza, and called for nationwide strikes.
With overcast skies and patchy rain numbers were significantly down on the estimated 50,000 people who attended last Sunday’s march, with officials estimating about 15,000 marched through the City from Hyde Park yesterday afternoon. Elsewhere in the world, 300,000 took to the streets of Washington DC in protest, the biggest rally since half-a-million marched through London last weekend.
Palestinian woman Jennifer Yard, from Jenin in the Israeli occupied West Bank, acknowledged the ongoing suffering of Palestinians in their land, but also the emotional toll on Australians watching the attack on Gaza from afar.
“Palestinian resilience knows no limits,” she said. “They can bomb us, they can massacre our villages. They can steal our land and appropriate our culture. They can mock our suffering and use apartheid tactics to try and diminish our will.
“But the very next day, do you know what happens? We show up. Rain, hail or shine, we show up.”
She added: “I know so many of us are feeling survivor’s guilt. We wake up in the morning and we scroll through social media and we see the absolute carnage inflicted.”
Many in the crowd, made up of a large cross-section of the community, carried pictures of men, women and children killed in Israel’s air strikes that have now claimed the lives of about 10,000 civilians in four weeks – two thirds of them women and children. Over 30 journalists have also been killed, as well as scores of healthcare workers and UN aid workers. In one of the latest strikes by Israel a convoy of ambulances, carrying wounded civilians was hit by a missile.
Co-organiser Josh Lee said the Palestine Action Group was stepping up affirmative action, including with boycotts, divestment and sanctions of Israel, and would protest the Israeli Zim shipping line at Port Botany this Saturday. The company has been accused of shipping weapons and white phosphorous to the Israeli military and arms to illegal settlers.
“Next weekend there’s going to be two protests, Saturday and Sunday. No moral outrage is going to move our political leaders, so it’s going to have to be us that forces them to move,” he said.
Lee accused the Australian government of having blood on its hands.
“[They] are openly carrying out a genocide,” he said. “Don’t believe us when we say genocide, listen to the Israeli politicians themselves. They call it that, they say they want to wipe Gaza off the face of the earth.
We must walk out of our jobs, walk out of our homes and come together in peaceful protest.
“And, then let’s talk about the Australian Government. Let’s talk about [Anthony] Albanese and Penny Wong. There’s blood on their hands. So much blood on their hands. They say that they stand with Israel. They say that they stand shoulder to shoulder with Biden and with Netanyahu.
“Well we say you should stand with Netanyahu in a prison, you should be imprisoned for the crime of supporting genocide. These are war crimes, these are open war crimes. This is an openly declared genocide carried out on the people of Gaza, and [Joe] Biden and Albanese and all the rest of them who support those things, they should be in the dock in The Hague right now answering for their crimes.
“So we demand Israel pull their troops out of Gaza. We demand an end to the siege of Gaza right now, access for all humanitarian aid. We demand an end to the bombing. And we demand the Australian government cuts all ties with this apartheid racist, criminal state of Israel.”
Wirradjuri woman Lynda-June Coe called for mass strikes in the face of government and media indifference.
“We have to come together to do it,” she said. “All of us, we must start organising collectively [a] mass strike. We must start the process to refuse to continue to participate in this settler colonial project. We must walk out of our jobs, walk out of our homes and come together in peaceful protest.
“There are not enough jail cells in Australia to lock us up.”
Trade unions in Belgian recently blocked the movement of weapons destined for Israel in response to the bombardment of Gaza, and there have been an increased number of trade unions joining rallies around Australia.
Ethan Lyons, an Indigenous activist and USyd student, slammed Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s response to the ongoing bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
“Albanese can say he will stand with First Nations people here in Australia all he wants, but if he doesn’t stand with the Palestinians… he does not stand with us.
“Albanese can’t push the message that he’s some woke Liberalist community man, when he’s actively enabling and supporting a genocide.”
A number of speakers called out the media for pushing a narrative that criticism of Israel was inherently antisemitic, and that Palestinians were waging a war on all Jews.
Many, many Jewish people, right now, are protesting against Israel’s crimes.
“We’re here to protest against the state of Israel and the criminals that run that sate, we’re not here to protest against Jewish people,” Lee said to loud applause. “We know that Israel lies and says that it speaks on behalf of all Jewish people of the world. That is a lie. Many, many Jewish people, right now, are protesting against Israel’s crimes.”
Support at the Hyde Park rally, while predominantly from Sydney’s Arabic communities, was widely representational, with groups included Jews Against the Occupation, Teachers for Palestine, Journos for Palestine and Nurses and Midwives Against Genocide.
Jewish Australian journalist Antony Loewenstein, also called out claims that Israel represented all Jews telling the crowd: “I’m honoured to be here as a proud, critical, dissident Jew. It’s important to say that because in so much of the media and political class it is presumed that the Jewish community is united on this issue. It is not true.
“Australia’s role in this war crime is so clear… the US intelligence base at Pine Gap, near Alice Springs, is directly involved in providing intelligence to Israel in its targeting in Gaza – right now!
“People in Australia and globally need to be aware what our own government is doing. We have Anthony Albanese and Penny Wong giving platitudes about human rights, they are deeply complicit in this problem.
“What should happen now is clear, ceasefire is just the beginning… the siege on Gaza must end. The siege is imposed on Gaza by Israel and Egypt.
“The role of Israel paying a political and diplomatic price for its crimes is key. Boycott, divestment, sanction is what needs to happen far more than now. Pressure on Israeli companies tied to the Israeli state.
“It’s inspiring for me to see so many people here today and so many people around the world, including the Jewish community, that says ‘not in my name’, ‘free Palestine’.”
Campaigner Assala Sayara said the protest movement would carry on as long as was necessary.
“Amongst all of you, each one of you here today, you are a truth teller,” she said. “What does the world need to see? What does the world need to take action? What does the world need to be reminded that the children of Gaza are just equal to any child?
“They want to silence us, but we will not be silenced. We will not be silenced. Whether this will take us five weeks or 10 weeks or 20 years. We don’t know what silence is.”
Main image by Central News of Sydney nurses marching.