By ALLISON HORE
Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters filled George Street in Sydney on Saturday in response to escalating violence in Gaza.
Upwards of 2,500 people marched along George Street to mark what Arabs call “the Nakba,” that is the “disaster” surrounding the of establishment of Israel in 1948 and the mass exodus of Palestinians.
The rally in Sydney was just one of a number of protests and vigils held across the country. Large gatherings of pro-Palestinians protesters bearing flags and holding placards calling for an end to violence also took place in Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra.
As well as standing in solidarity with pro-Palestinian protesters around the world, speakers at the Sydney rally urged the Australian government to stop pursuing a potential free trade agreement with Israel and condemn the nation’s actions in Gaza and East Jerusalem.
While Nakba protests occur frequently, as a result of escalating violence in the West Bank and a massive aerial bombardment of Gaza, this year’s rallies were particularly large.
According to local media, since the start of recent bombardments at least 139 people have been killed in Gaza, including 39 children and 22 women. On the same day the protest took place, an airstrike on a house in Gaza City killed at least seven Palestinians, the highest number of fatalities from a single airstrike.
— Allison Hore (@AllisonM_H) May 15, 2021
Speaking on the steps of Town Hall at the Sydney rally, Greens senator, Mehreen Faruqi, said what was happening now is nothing new and is part of a much broader system of oppression facing Palestinian people.
“What is happening in Palestine now is not an isolated incident. It is part of a broader pattern of destroying the lives and livelihoods of Palestinians,” she said.
“It has been generations of secular colonial violence against the Palestinian people and it has to end.”
In December 2020, 145 nations voted in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution on Palestine, which called for Israel to “cease altering the demographic composition of the occupied territories,” including East Jerusalem. Australia and the USA were among the seven nations which voted against the resolution.
“We call on the Australian government and Labor opposition to demand Israel stops its attacks and condemns crimes against the people of Gaza and East Jerusalem,” said Sydney Stop the War Coalition.
Following the speeches at Town Hall, the protesters marched along George Street blocking the light rail corridor in the CBD for hours and chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The slogan, popular with pro-Palestine activists, refers to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea encompassing both Israel and Palestinian lands.
Despite the large and impassioned crowd, the protest was peaceful. One 20-year-old man was arrested following a stunt where he climbed onto the top of Town Hall to wave a Palestinian flag. He has been charged with a trespassing offence of “entering closed land without an excuse.”
Pro-Palestinian protesters will take to the streets of Sydney again on the 22nd of May.