Thousands protest Israel's war on Gaza

By Dani Barley

As Israel began dropping bombs on the Gaza Strip on December 27, Australian Palestine solidarity activists began organising protests. Despite occurring during the “quiet” part of the year, these protest actions snowballed in size during the weeks of Israel’s 22-day war on Gaza.

In Sydney, 2000 people attended a rally organised by the Gaza Defence Committee on December 29. There was also another rally on the same day in Lakemba, organised separately to the protest in the city, by Hizb-ut-Tahrir. A second Free Gaza rally was held on January 4 with around 4000 in attendance. After speakers at Sydney Town Hall, the participants marched past the Egyptian consulate in Surry Hills and then into Belmore Park. A third rally on January 18 attracted up to 10,000. In addition to these large rallies, weekly vigils and protests have been held at Sydney Town Hall on Thursday evenings.

In Melbourne, a joint action was called by Justice for Palestine (JFP: now known as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign) and the Palestinian Community Association (PCA) for December 30 and more than 3000 people turned up. JFP activist and Revolutionary Socialist Party member Kim Bullimore chaired the rally. A follow-up rally on January 4, chaired by Moammar Mashni from Australians for Palestine, drew around 6000 participants. On January 18 up to 5000 rallied and 500 attended a protest on January 23.

In Brisbane, a December 29 speakout in Brisbane Square, called by the Revolutionary Socialist Party, drew 110 people. A January 3 rally in Queens Park attracted 500 people. The following week, a rally called by the newly established Justice for Palestine (JFP) committee drew 2000 protesters. A January 17 rally, called by JFP, drew 400 people.

In Perth, the first protest against the bombing of Gaza took place at 12:30pm on New Years Eve. Initiated by Friends of Palestine WA members Alex Whisson and Nick Everett, the protest drew 150 people. A second FOPWA protest action was called out of the rally and held a mere four days later, attracting 500 people. Dr Ahmed Yusuf, a senior political adviser to the former Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh (of Hamas), was among those who addressed the crowd, via mobile phone from Rafah in Gaza. After expressing his appreciation for the show of solidarity with his people in such a far-flung corner of the world, Yusuf declared: “Israel may destroy all of the infrastructure in Gaza, but they will never break the will of resistance of the Palestinian people.” Perth’s third Gaza solidarity rally was held in Fremantle on January 10 with 350 in attendance.

In Newcastle, a January 7 speakout attracted 30 people. Another protest action was held on January 14, with 60 people. In Adelaide, an Australia Friends of Palestine Association (AFOPA) rally outside South Australia’s Parliament House on December 30 was attended by 150 people. Democrats Senator Sandra Kanck condemned the Israeli aggression, called upon the Australian parliament to do the same and said calls on both Israel and the Palestinians for peace missed the point as Israel was the aggressor. Greens Senator Hanson Young failed to take a side saying only that “something has to be done”. AFOPA speakers called for a UN peace keeping force to be deployed to Gaza.