Thousands rally to condemn murder of aid workers

Issue 
Thousands rallied in Sydney on June 5. Photo: Peter Boyle

On May 31, Israeli defence force commandos boarded an aid ship in international waters. The ship was trying to break the illegal military blockade of the Gaza strip and transport much-needed food and medical supplies. Nine aid activists were killed and several snap actions were held in Australia to condemn Israel’s actions and call for an end to the blockade.

On June 1, 250 people rallied in Brisbane to condemn Israel’s attacks on the Gaza aid fleet. ALP vice-president Wendy Turner, and socialist activist and lecturer in creative industries Gary MacLennan, spoke.

The rally voted to demand that the Australian government join the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and to immediately break diplomatic ties. People marched through the streets of the CBD chanting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” and “Boycott Israel”.

MacLennan said: "Our task is to commit our time, to commit our effort, ensuring the people who died, did not do so in vain.”

Referring to the killing of nine activists on the aid vessel, he said: "This was not an own goal, as [Israel says], this was deliberate, they knew what they were doing.

"There is no way they could do this without American funding and American help. Without US money, the Israeli economy would collapse.”

There was a second rally in Brisbane on June 4 of 400 people, organised by Justice for Palestine and Students for Palestine. Speakers included David Ford from the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) and Ross Price from the Electrical Trades Union.

Other speakers from the Arabic community attacked Israeli state terrorism and called for increased solidarity with the Palestinian people.

On June 1 in Sydney, 4000 people were on the streets. The protesters called on the Australian government to condemn this latest war crime by Israel. They also demanded an end to Israel's illegal blockade of Gaza.

Among the many speakers were Mal Tulloch from the CFMEU, Sheik al-Hilaly, Greens representatives Lee Rhiannon, Sylvia Hale and Ophelia Haragli from the Gaza Defence Committee.

A second Sydney rally on June 5 attracted about 3000 people. It was addressed by a range of speakers, including Palestinian activist Bashir Sawalha, Auburn deputy mayor Isset Anmak, Turkish community representative Ecevit Demir, Sheikh Taj El-Din Hamid Hilaly, Greens MLC Sylvia Hale, Vivienne Portzolt from Jews Against the Occupation, Dr Ghassan Ashi and Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union NSW Secretary Andrew Ferguson. A strong message of support from Labor MP Julia Irwin was also read out. Ophelia Haragli and Pip Hinman, from the Stop The War Coalition, chaired the rally at Sydney Town Hall Square.

The crowd applauded the decision of the Nicaraguan government to join Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba in cutting diplomatic ties with Israel. It also cheered the announcement that Turkey was also cutting back its military and trade links with Israel and was offering to to provide naval escorts for a future aid convoy to Gaza.

On June 1 in Perth, 150 marched to foreign minister Stephen Smith’s office and heard from the Greens’ Alison Xamon, among other speakers. This was followed by a vigil on June 4 and a rally on June 6.

Around 1500 people mobilised in Melbourne on June, and another 2000 protested on June 5. Big contingents came from the Turkish and Malaysian communities.

In Newcastle, 30 people rallied in support of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The protest was organised by the Newcastle NoWar Collective. Freelance photographer Conor Ashleigh, who visited Gaza in December 2009 and Socialist Alliance and Greens members, all spoke.

Newcastle Trades Hall endorsed the rally and later circulated the CFMEU resolution that condemned the Israeli attack and supported the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.

Over 300 people rallied in Wollongong on May 31. The action was organised by the Illawarra NoWar Coalition and featured speakers from the local Turkish and Lebanese community, South Coast Labour Council and the Socialist Alliance.


Above: Sydney protest June 5, 2010. Photos by Mat Ward.

Above: Perth protest June 1, 2010.

Comments

I have seen little reportage of the rally held in front of Sydney Town Hall on 5 June but the reportage that I have seen states they the demonstrators were "mainly of middle-Eastern appearance". I am a 10th-generation Australian and all my ancestors were from England. One branch of the family was from Swaffham in Norfolk. Many fought in WWI and WWII. I was at the rally. I support the people of Gaza. I say Israel is a murderous State. I say that Israel murdered 9 innocent Turks and abducted the rest of the people on the flotilla. I have been a solicitor for 32 years. I say that there is too much Jewish influence in the media and in politics. There is such a thing as right and wrong and Israel is wrong.