Protesters say 'Hands off Rafah', workers march in solidarity with Palestine

May 8, 2024
Save Rafah
Hundreds joined "Hands off Rafah" snap actions after reports that Israel had launched its ground invasion. Photo: Isaac Nellist

Reports that Israel had begun its long-threatened ground assault on Rafah drew big crowds to snap protests in Naarm/Melbourne and Gadigal/Sydney on May 7.

About 1.5 million people are sheltering in Rafah, displaced by Israel’s genocidal assault and destruction of Gaza. Israel has ordered more than 100,000 Palestinians in the eastern part of Rafah to evacuate. But they have nowhere to go.

The attacks on Rafah started after Hamas approved a proposal for a ceasefire, put by mediators in Qatar and Egypt, which included returning remaining hostages. Israel responded saying it would launch its ground invasion regardless.

Speakers at the snap protests demanded Labor cut all ties with apartheid Israel and put real pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the genocide.


snap action to save Rafah in Naam/Melbourne
A snap action in Naam/Melbourne on May 7 in response to Israel's assault on Rafah. Photo: Jacob Andrewartha

Commenting on Israel’s apparent rejection of the ceasefire deal, Amal Nasser, co-chair of the Gadigal rally, said: “This proves it was never about the hostages. It was always about using ethnic cleansing to clear Palestinians out of Gaza.”

Nasser said the federal government's calls on Israel not to invade Rafah are not enough. “The Israeli government will not listen to calls when the Western governments around the world have provided Israel with complete impunity for the past 76 years.

“Massacre after massacre after massacre has been conducted by the Israeli regime, they have been able to completely annihilate the Gaza Strip because of the impunity our government has given them…

“Since October, our government has sent more than $1.5 million in arms to Israel, to be used to conduct a genocide.”

She said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and foreign minister Penny Wong must do more than “condemn” Israel’s invasion.

“We need sanctions on Israel, the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, a two-way arms embargo, which includes cutting over $1 billion in contracts with Israeli arms dealers.”


Labour day rally in Brisbane
Labour day rally in Magan-djin/Brisbane on May 6 featured strong Palestine solidarity. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Weekend marches for Palestine on May 4–5 combined with May Day rallies in some cities, highlighting the importance of international solidarity between workers.

Jacob Andrewartha reported that thousands joined the May 5 rally in Naarm/Melbourne, which brought together union continents from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), Australian Services Union, United Workers Union and others.


Melbourne May day rally
The weekly Palestine rally joined with the May Day rally in Naarm/Melbourne. Photo: Jacob Andrewartha

In Boorloo/Perth, about 300 people joined the combined Palestine bloc organised by various groups including Friends of Palestine WA, Unionists for Palestine and Students for Palestine at the annual May Day march, reported Alex Salmon.


May Day in Boorloo/Perth
May Day in Boorloo/Perth. Photo: Alex Salmon

Friends of Palestine WA is planning its next rally on May 18, to mark the 76th anniversary of the first Nakba. 


turning their back on premier Stephen Miles
Protesters turn their back on Queensland Premier Stephen Miles at the Labour day rally in Magan-djin/Brisbane on May 6. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Protesters turned their backs on Premier Stephen Miles as he addressed the Magan-djin/Brisbane Labour Day march on May 6, reported Alex Bainbridge. 

Solidarity with Palestine was a recurring theme at the march, with a vibrant contingent organised by Justice for Palestine Magan-djin and many unionists carrying pro-Palestine signs and symbols.

One person was arrested for shouting his opposition to Israel's genocide during Miles' speech.

Tens of thousands of workers participated in the event, for which there is a public holiday. A number of union campaigns were highlighted as well as calling for freedom for Julian Assange and supporting Queensland Labor's recent decriminalisation of sex work.


strike for Palestine in Hobart
Students and workers went on Strike for Palestine in nipaluna/Hobart on May 3 to mark May Day. Photo: Resistance Lutruwita

A strike for Palestine was held in nipaluna/Hobart on May 3, with students, workers and community members joining a rally in Franklin Square. 

An open mica format allowed for many voices. Many speakers called on workers to play a role in the liberation of Palestine, and for First Nations justice and peace.


Trade Unionists for Palestine contingent at the Sydney May Day rally
Trade Unionists for Palestine contingent at the Gadigal/Sydney May Day rally. Photo: Isaac Nellist

The May Day rally in Gadigal on May 1 also featured a vibrant Palestinian contingent, reported Jim McIlroy. 

Paul Keating, MUA NSW state secretary, called on Premier Chris Minns to get scrap the repressive anti-protest laws and take a stand on Palestine. “Israel is an apartheid state … we demand a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and sanctions on Israel immediately.” 

Palestinian speaker Jana Fayyad thanked unions for their support, but said it still not enough to stop a genocide.

“You hold the power and you can say no to apartheid Israel. You can say no to any kind of work that is complicit in the genocide and occupation of Palestinians. You have the power to stand up and take a stance against the genocidal state of Israel.”

In Magan-djin, a protest was organised against the promotion of Carolyn Weiniger — a Zionist, Israeli doctor who has  supported Israel's bombing of hospitals and denial of medical aid to Gaza — by the Australia-New Zealand College of Anesthetists at their conference.


Doctors for a Free Palestine
Magan-djin/Brisbane. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Alex Bainbridge reported that Noor Aljassim told the rally: “Innocent people are dying of preventable and curable conditions” in Gaza. She highlighted the mass graves found at hospitals in Gaza, which included the bodies of children, elderly people and hospital staff. 

More than 450 healthcare workers have so far been killed by Israel.

Gaza solidarity encampments have been set up by students on universities across the country, including Deakin University, La Trobe University, Australian National University, University of Wollongong, University of Adelaide (UoA), Monash University (MU) and University of Tasmania.


University of Melbourne Palestine rally
Students at the University of Melbourne occupy the West Building on May 3. Photo: Jacob Andrewartha

They joined students at the University of Sydney (USyd), University of Melbourne (UoM), Curtin University and University of Queensland to demand their universities disclose all funding agreements and divest from weapons companies and other companies which make the university complicit in Israel’s genocide in Gaza. 


University of Sydney rally for Palestine
Hundreds rallied at the University of Sydney in response to a Zionist protest against the encampment. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

Hundreds gathered to support the encampment at USyd on May 3, in response to a Zionist counter-protest, reported Isaac Nellist.

The pro-Palestine rally was significantly bigger than the Zionist rally, which drew less than 100 people. The rally featured anti-Zionist Jewish groups the Tzedek Collective and Jews Against the Occupation 48’, who disputed claims that the encampments were “antisemitic”.

Peter Slezak, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of NSW, said this was a “historic moral moment”.

“It is like the cases in the past of South Africa and East Timor where the world is rising up against the crimes and atrocities which our governments and our universities are complicit in.

“It’s very impressive that the students are the ones standing up and speaking out when everybody else is remaining silent.

“For me it is a particularly poignant moment, my parents were survivors of the Holocaust, both my mother and grandmother survived Auschwitz, and they always asked ‘why did the world turn away? Why did nobody do anything?’

“We now know the answer to that, our leaders and the politicians and the universities are doing exactly that and after 6 months, it is to your credit that you are standing up and speaking out so loudly. 

“I congratulate you all and I am proud to stand with you.”


Students protest at Uni melb
Students protesting at the University of Melbourne on May 3. Photo: Jordan AK

On the same day, at UoM, hundreds of students and workers occupied the Arts West building and chanted “Disclose, divest, we will not stop we will not rest” and “Uni Melb, you can’t hide, you’re supporting genocide”.


May Day in Cairns
May Day in Gimuy/Cairns. Photo: David Anthony


Demands at Adelaide Univeristy
A list of demands at the University of Adelaide encampment. Photo: Jordan Ellis


Monash University encampment
The Monash University encampment. Photo: Jacob Andrewartha


University of Tasmania encampment
The University of Tasmania encampment was set up on May 6. Photo: Kristy/Resistance Lutruwita


Queensland labor day
Socialist Alliance contingent at the Labour Day rally in Magan-djin/Brisbane. Photo: Alex Bainbridge


Palestine protesters outnumber small Zionist rally at the University of Sydney.
Palestine protesters outnumber small Zionist rally at the University of Sydney. Photo: Zebedee Parkes


May Day rally in Boorloo/Perth.
May Day rally in Boorloo/Perth. Photo: Alex Salmon


Deakin univeristy encampment
A rally establishing the Deakin Univeristy encampment. Photo: Jacob Andrewartha


'Hands off Rafah' snap action in Gadigal/Sydney on May 7.
'Hands off Rafah' snap action in Gadigal/Sydney on May 7. Photo: Isaac Nellist


University of Adelaide encampment.
University of Adelaide encampment. Photo: Jordan Ellis

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