Hundreds of protesters in Melbourne have held a National Day of Action for Palestine, demanding Israel end its violent suppression of Palestinian aspirations.
The activists gathered at the State Library in Melbourne’s CBD (left) to speak out against the violence that has unfolded in the West Bank and Gaza as Israel clamped down on Palestinian demonstrations.
The crowd included Australians of Palestinian heritage, supporters of Jews against Apartheid Israel, Palestinian veterans and the Socialist Alliance. The peaceful protest was called to create “broader awareness” of what is happening in Palestine.
The protest followed a month of unrest in which 10 Jews have been killed and 50 Palestinians shot dead by security forces, sparking fears that the region is slipping into another intifada, or general uprising.
Palestinians had been angered by what they say is Jewish encroachment on the al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, one of Islam’s most revered sites. Coming on top of the impasse in talks about a settlement that grants Palestinians their own state, including East Jerusalem, tempers have flared over the past month and confrontation increased. A spate of so-called lone wolf attacks in which Jews were apparently randomly targeted and attacked by Palestinians resulted in another swift and deadly clampdown by the Israeli security forces.
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, deployed more Israeli security forces and military units across Jerusalem’s public transport network and the Gaza Strip to tame the unrest. Most of the Palestinian deaths, however, have occurred not in defence of Jews under attack by Palestinians, but as Israeli forces opened fire on demonstrations on the West Bank and in Gaza.
Mr Netanyahu had warned that “anyone who raises his hand to harm us – will pay dearly. And we will not hesitate to use all means at our disposal to restore peace to the cities of Israel”.
The Melbourne protesters said they were dissatisfied with Mr Netanyahu’s recourse to violence to end the conflict and called for a national boycott of Israel.
Ms Reem Yunis, a member of The Coalition against Israeli Apartheid, told The Newsroom she’s determined to see an end to Israel’s racial discrimination.
The Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid demands “No Australian ties with apartheid Israel! Demand the Australian government break all military, political and economic ties with Israel. Support the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign until Israel abides by international law.”
The rally organisers plan to keep protesting until the violence ends and urged Australians to stand up and speak for Palestine in future demonstrations. – Report and photo by Zena Chamas