Nakba protests hail student solidarity encampments

May 20, 2024
Protest in Magan-djin/Brisbane. Photo: Ember Leonard

Labor’s decision to side with One Nation and the Liberals to condemn their own WA Labor Senator Fatima Payman for calling out the party’s support for Israel’s genocide seems to have been the trigger for the establishment media to recruit a succession of far-right commentators to defend Zionism and demand the student encampments be shut down because of their alleged hate speech.

The pro-Zionist forces’ allegations that the encampments are stirring up antisemitism have not been substantiated.

Their insistence that the chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is antisemitic is also unfounded.

It was notable that speakers at the Nakba Day (“Catastrophe” in Arabic) protests around the country and the following weekend, congratulated the students for standing with Palestine against genocide.

Nakba, in 1948, has been marked across Australia for many decades, but not in such big numbers as this year.  

Even Mark Scott, University of Sydney Vice Chancellor, who is not happy with the four-week encampment, had to admit the chant is not antisemitic and that universities must support freedom of speech.

Curtin Students for Palestine, who have set up an encampment, held a 150-strong rally on May 15 to mark the 1948 Nakba (“Catastrophe” in Arabic) in Boorloo/Perth.


Students for Palestine rally at Curtin University. Photo: Alex Salmon

Alex Salmon reports that the students are pressuring Curtin University to disclose and divest ties to weapons companies selling arms or parts to Israel, including Lockheed Martin, Babcock and Huntington Ingalls Industries.

Students for Palestine organised a support protest on May 17 at the encampment, attracting more than 200 people, a response to a Zionist counter-rally which is part of a broader effort to eradicate the encampment by painting any support for Palestine as anti-Semitic.

Students for Palestine has maintained a policy of non-engagement with the Zionists at the encampment and at the counter-rally.

Among the speakers were Jewish anti-Zionist activists from Jews for a Free Palestine WA, who reiterated their support for the Palestinian and rejected Zionist claims of antisemitism.

More than 400 people also marked the 76th anniversary of the Nakba on May 18. Many brought keys to symbolise the right for the Palestinians to return to their homeland. The rally, organised by Friends of Palestine WA, protested Israel’s ongoing genocide in which more than over 40,000 people have been killed since last October.

They demanded that Labor cut all military and diplomatic ties with Israel.


Boorloo/Perth Nakba rally. Photo: Alex Salmon

The 32nd consecutive weekend of protest on May 18 in Gadigal/Sydney was smaller than some previous weekend rallies, and took place days after another protest on Nakba Day, May 15.

Peter Boyle reports that around 4000 people, defying the rain, took to the streets. There was huge support for the student encampments and anger against Liberal, Labor and Pauline Hanson for joining together to attack the students and pretending that expressions of support for Palestine are antisemitic.


Gadigal/Sydney rally on May 18. Photo: Peter Boyle

Waving Palestinian and peace flags, drumming and chanting freedom slogans, more than 400 people marched through Arakwal Country/Byron Bay on May 18 to commemorate Nakba Day and demand an immediate and lasting ceasefire in Gaza, reports Nick Fredman.

Speakers included Mashni and local activist Surya McEwen, streaming live from the Freedom Flotilla, which is attempting to break the blockade of Gaza.


Arakwal Country/Byron Bay march. Photo: Nick Fredman

Many of the local artists who have been outspoken supporters of the solidarity campaign also performed, including Juman, Lucy Gallant, Sasha Grace and Jay Squidge.

Organised by Northern Rivers Friends of Palestine, it was the 24th solidarity action in the region since October 7.

Also on May 18, hundreds of pro-Palestine protesters, including from different trade unions, protested outside the Victorian Labor Party conference at the Moonee Valley Race Course in Naarm/Melbourne.

The protest, organised by Unionists for Palestine, called on Labor to end its partnership with Elbit Systems and its secret memorandum of understanding with the Israeli Defence Ministry.

A motion calling on Victorian Labor to end a 2022 Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Israeli Ministry of Defence and end a partnership with Israeli weapons company Elbit was passed, with the support of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, Electrical Trades Union, United Workers Union, Maritime Union of Australia, Australian Services Union, Health and Community Services Union, Rail, Bus and Tram Union and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).


Photo: Labor Friends of Palestine NSW/@labor_palestine

CFMEU leader Christy Cain called out Labor for its complicity in the genocide at a protest beforehand. Independent First Nations Senator Lidia Thorpe and Greens MP Tim Read also addressed the protest, before it marched to the conference. A group of protesters managed to enter before the rest were blocked by police.

Kamala Emanuel reports from Magan-djin/Brisbane that the May 19 Nakba protest was probably the biggest Palestine solidarity rally this year.

Nasser Mashni, from the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, defended the chant “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free”, saying, “We cannot let them take that chant away from us”.


Protest in Magan-djin/Brisbane. Photo: Ember Leonard

He explained it was obvious that it not only spoke about freedom for the Palestinians, but all peoples. The movement intends to ensure that “all of Abraham’s children” are free, he said.

Palestinian speakers told powerful personal stories, including about the ethnic cleansing they and their families had experienced from the 1948 Nakba to the genocide today.

They also told stories of resilience and hope. The march included a sit-down protest.

Shutdown Ferra also held a protest at the Ferra Engineering plant on May 15.

Update: 300 people rallied in Gumbaynggirr Country/Coffs Harbour on May 19, hearing from Palestinian storyteller and public speaker Assala Sayara.


Gadigal/Sydney. Photo: Peter Boyle


Gadigal/Sydney. Photo: Peter Boyle


Magan-djin/Brisbane. Photo: Ember Leonard

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