By Bella Beiraghi
Streets around the country were a sea of red, white, black and green this weekend as tens of thousands of people marched in solidarity with Palestine.
Brisbane and Perth had their largest ever Palestine solidarity protests. Estimated crowds of 4,500 and 6,000 rallied to demand an end to Israel’s criminal siege and bombing of Gaza. Nearly 1,000 people came out in Canberra, and more than 15,000 marched in Sydney and Melbourne.
The horror of watching a genocide unfold, and rage at our government’s complicity in it, has jolted thousands of people across Australia into action.
Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip for more than two weeks. More than 4,600 Palestinians, including nearly 2,000 children, have been killed in the territory.
“Israel has bombed homes, whole neighbourhoods”, Palestinian Ayman Qwaider said in a speech at the Perth rally. “Palestinians are not disposable. They are people who deserve life!”
Only two hours after speaking, Ayman was told his sister and her three young children had been killed. “My hearts aches for my sister Alaa”, he tweeted, “she was killed by an Israeli airstrike at her home along with her precious children, Eman, Faiz and 7-month-old Sara”.
Hundreds of Palestinians like Ayman’s sister and children are killed by Israel every day. Yet our political leaders continue to defend this genocide.
In Melbourne, Egyptian-Australian activist Inas Mahboub slammed Western media for dehumanising Palestinians. “I lived in Egypt, and I can see how the media is not hearing the Palestinian side”, she said. “The west needs to condemn the slaughtering of Palestinians.”
In Sydney, Palestine solidarity activists doubled their numbers on the streets after winning the right to protest. Josh Lees, co-organiser of the rally, declared: “[NSW Premier] Chris Minns threatened to ban another Palestine march. But we fought against that, and we won”.
Palestine supporters were not going to be intimidated by the government’s threats of repression. Campaigner Assala Sayara rejoiced at the rally: “Today, we have come to tell the world that we stand on the right side of justice!”
Solidarity was on the streets this weekend. Palestine supporters made clear that Israel’s atrocities, and our government’s complicity will not go unopposed. Chants of “Shame, shame, Labor shame!” and “Free, free Palestine!” echoed in every major city across Australia.
Nasser Mashni, co-organiser of the Melbourne rally, pledged to be back on the streets next Sunday. “We joined as a community to shout to our leaders that they are supporting Israeli genocide—but not in our name. We haven’t forgotten the people of Gaza; we want them to know that they are not alone.”
In the closing speech of the rally, Victorian Socialists member and long-time Palestine solidarity activist Omar Hassan hammered home the call to action:
“We need to draw together all the links between Israel’s crimes, Western imperialism and the whole capitalist system that profits from all this horror. The Palestinian freedom struggle is a long one, and a hard one. But if we stand together, we will win.”