SYDNEY — Ten thousand boisterous protesters marched in bad weather on February 10 in a spirited demonstration organised by the Network for Peace in the Middle East. The march ended at the Domain with a rally chaired by journalist Jane Singleton, who is the federal vice-president of the Australian Journalists Association.
Rock singer Alister Hulett opened proceedings with some militant folk songs, culminating with the "Internationale". "Socialists don't need to keep their heads down in a movement like this", he told Green Left afterwards. "We have the only reasonable alternative to imperialism: socialism."
The chairperson of Community Aid Abroad, Dr Judy Henderson, saidthat the Gulf conflict amounted to a war on the Third World. "We are not a minority", she told the crowd. "We are part of the majority of the world's people who oppose this war.
"The power of global opinion can stop this war and show that there is another way."
Among the long list of speakers from various backgrounds, two of the best received were Wafa Chafic of the Islamic Council of NSW and Melanie Hood of Students United Against War. Wafa Chafic spoke strongly about the destructiveness of the bombing campaign against Iraq. She raised the demand of a Middle East peace conference to settle all the conflicts of the region.
Melanie Hood roused the crowd when she read out a long list of US interventions around the world which have not been opposed by our government. She linked the wastage of resources in this conflict with the cutbacks in education spending in Australia. "We want the ships home and we want them home now", she concluded.
Actress Noni Hazelhurst read an open letter from long-time peace activist Sister Veronica Brady on George Bush's "new world order". This "is only a continuation of the 'old order' of national rivalry and superpower attempts at domination", the letter said.
Afterwards she told Green Left about her faith in the peace movement. "It worked in Vietnam", she said. "If you keep trying, things change."
Michael Pearson, associate professor of Asian history at the University of NSW, said that if the West stopped its wastage of energy resources, then the whole rationale of the war would be removed. Later he commented to Green Left about Bob Hawke's attack on Dr Bob Springborg. "It's an utter scandal that Bob
Hawke, who is totally identified with one side in the Middle East conflicts, can try to silence Springborg for holding a different view", he said. "Bob Springborg is the best Middle east expert we have in this country."
Stan Sharkey from Unions for Peace outlined his organisation's four demands for ending the war: Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait, establishment of an Arab/UN peacekeeping force, a Middle East peace conference and settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Keith Suiter of the Conflict Resolution Network spoke of the victories gained by the nuclear disarmament movement of the early 1980s. He called on all those who took part in that campaign to campaign against the Gulf War. "There is no long service leave when you're in the peace movement", he said. "When you're in the peace movement, it's a job for life."