The Newcastle Resistance Centre was packed to capacity on August 3 to hear Shamikh Badra speak about what is happening in his home city of Gaza.
Badra said his grandfather was forced from his village in 1948 and ended up in Gaza.
He described the geography of the conflict, and how Israel exploits religion to cover the fact that it is occupying Palestinian land.
“In 1948,” he said, “there was no Hamas, no rockets. Yet this did not stop them from invading and committing massacres.”
Badra said Israel was attacking Gaza now seemingly as revenge for the murder of three Israeli teenagers. When it turned out the murders were acts committed by criminals for ransom, and nothing to do with Hamas, Israel switched to saying it was fighting to end rocket attacks.
Now the reason has changed again: to find and destroy tunnels.
Gaza is a place that smells of blood, death and massacres, Badra said.
“For eight years they blockaded medicines, food, building materials,” he said. “They confined two million people, to the world’s biggest jail. In 20 days they killed 1700 people, most of them civilians — women and children. Eight thousand people are wounded. These are not scratches, but burns from phosphorus bombs, bodies with limbs missing.”
Palestine is not getting the support from the international community it needs. Latin American countries have cut diplomatic ties with Israel. But Egypt, Jordan and Turkey still retain ties with Israel. The United States and Britain supply Israel with weapons. Many of the Israeli soldiers come from other countries, such as France and Britain.
The UN is ineffective, Badra said. It has not even been able to protect innocent people seeking shelter in schools and hospitals.
He asked: “With all this, what more does Israel want of Palestinians? The question should not be why do Palestinians resist, but why is there this occupation.”
He called the occupation “the enemy of humanity, of peace”. What would be the point of a ceasefire, without Israel withdrawing from Gaza, without lifting the blockade, without promising not to invade again?
“We Palestinians have the same rights as the rest of the world to freedom, liberty, self-determination: Palestine will never surrender.”
Badra invited people to visit Gaza: “At the moment it is a bit difficult, but it will get better. We need your support, your solidarity to isolate the Israeli racist regime.”
The meeting planned to form a group in Newcastle to campaign for a boycott of Israel and to support Palestinians.
[For more information phone Niko Leka on 0406 296 141.]