Sydney: Thousands march to end Israel’s occupation of Palestine

October 10, 2023
Palestine protest Sydney
Protesting Israel's war on Gaza in Sydney on October 9, Photo: Zeb Parkes

More than 1000 people gathered at Sydney Town Hall and marched to the Opera House on October 9, demanding an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine and for an end to the war on Gaza.

“Free Free Palestine!” rang out as people gathered at Sydney Town Hall. Speakers highlighted the atrocities committed by Israel, the brutality of the ongoing occupation and the importance of international solidarity with the Palestinian resistance.

“I am proud to be Palestinian," activist and academic Fahad Ali told the rally. "But the reality of being Palestinian is that every single day you are faced with cruel injustice, with the horrific atrocities that Israel delivers to our people.”

The Opera House was chosen as the end point for the march in protest at a decision by the New South Wales government to light the national icon in the colours of the Israeli flag.

The rally was called as Israel declared war on the Gaza strip, in response to Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack in Israel.

According to Electronic Intifada, in a coordinated and surprise attack, "on an unprecedented scale", Hamas fighters "infiltrated Israel from Gaza as thousands of rockets were launched from the territory over multiple hours".

Hamas militants destroyed parts of the border wall, took soldiers and civilians hostage and 900 people were killed, according to Israeli sources.

Israeli Defence Forces launched a massive bombardment against Palestinians in Gaza in response, cutting electricity, food and water access and levelling high-rise buildings. According to Palestinian sources, about 600 Palestinians have been killed so far. A ground assault by the IDF is imminent.

Israel has been illegally occupying Palestinian land for more than 50 years and has besieged Gaza for 17 years.

“This is not the first time that Gaza has been bombed,” Ali said. “But this is the first time that we have had so many people come together to say enough is enough.”

The rally was organised by the Palestine Action Group and drew participants from the Palestinian Muslim and Christian communities, Jews Against the Occupation, student, left and progressive organisations as well as Arab communities.

Awabakal man Jeremy Heathcote gave an acknowledgement of country and highlighted the importance of solidarity between First Nations people and Palestinians, who are both victims of occupation and colonisation.

Ali highlighted the hypocrisy of those who condemn the Palestinian resistance, quoting South African anti-Apartheid leader Nelson Mandela: “It was only when all else had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle. We did so not because we desired such a course, but solely because the government had left us with no other choice.”

Ali shared a statement released by the South African government, that said: “It can no longer be disputed that Apartheid South Africa’s history is occupied Palestine’s reality”.

“I want you to try to understand how Palestinians are feeling right now. We suffered 75 years of dispossession, we have been denied our rights to life and liberty under an ever-worsening occupation by a colonial regime that has perpetrated every kind of atrocity upon us…

“We have begged and we have pleaded for the world to intervene, we’ve organised protests and boycotts every single time bombs have dropped on Gaza … But governments have done nothing to support us.”

Jasmine Alrawi Students for Palestine said it was an “absolute disgrace” that the Opera House was going to be lit up with the Israeli flag “when every single massacre of Palestinians has been ignored by our government”.

She said it was shameful that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and other politicians had lined up behind the “murderous Apartheid regime of Israel, lining up alongside far-right Israeli politicians who are calling for another Nakba”.

Albanese had previously told 2GB that he thought the rally “should not go ahead”.

Josh Pallas, president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said “calls in the media from politicians and public figures for police to have prohibited or closed down the Free Palestine protest in Sydney yesterday are misplaced and fundamentally inconsistent with the right to protest”.

The Palestine Action Group released a statement on October 10 stating that “we have the right to demonstrate”. “At a conjuncture where anti-protest laws widen to target anyone who opposes the colonial and capitalist structures of this state from First Nations movements to the climate justice movement, the states attack on pro-Palestinian protesters is no different.”

It said the media was focussed on a tiny minority of attendees who had chanted anti-semitic slurs, despite those protesters being “quickly condemned” for their chants and asked to leave.

“The Palestine Action Group has a long-standing history of working with Jewish activists and organisers who oppose Zionism.”

The rally was met by a line of police at the Opera House, where crowds chanted “Free Palestine!” and “Shame Israel!” until late in the evening. Organisers pledged to continue the struggle for a free Palestine, announcing a follow up rally on October 15, 1pm at Town Hall.

“Resistance is justified as long as Palestine is occupied,” Palestinian activist Ahmed Abadla told the crowd.

“Resistance is justified as long as Palestinians continue to face massacres, pogroms, land confiscation day in and day out…

“Resistance is justified as long as more than 2 million Palestinians in Gaza are forced to live in an open-air prison for the past 15 years.

“As long as Palestinians in Jerusalem and the surrounding cities are being ethnically cleansed and forced to live under the boot of the Zionist, fascist occupation for the past 75 years.”

[Find upcoming protests for Palestine here.]

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