Following the thousands-strong protest in Sydney’s Town Hall last Saturday, thousands gathered in Hyde Park today to protest in solidarity with Palestinians calling for an end to the occupation, blockade and apartheid in Palestine.
A ceasefire between Hamas and Israel was announced in the early hours of yesterday morning. Israel’s devastating military assault on Gaza killed over 240 Palestinians. Since then, Israel has continued its incursions into the Al-Aqsa compound in occupied Jerusalem, attacking Palestinians expressing solidarity with Gaza and residents in Sheikh Jarrah with tear gas and stun guns.
The rally kicked off with an Acknowledgement of Country, linking the struggle against apartheid in Palestine with the Indigenous struggle against colonialism in Australia, followed by chants of “Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.”
“We come here in defiance and to stand and recognise the people of Palestine,” said NSW Greens Member of Parliament Jenny Leong as she began her speech.
“A ceasefire alone won’t end the blockade, a ceasefire alone won’t end the land theft, will not end the apartheid,” said Leong. “There can be no peace without justice.”
Dalia al-Hajj Qasem, a Palestinian activist, also spoke to Australia’s complicity in Israel’s atrocities against the Palestinian people.
“As an Australian living on stolen land, I feel a great sense of disappointment. I am appalled by the complicity of our government and our media in Israel’s continued ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.”
Ahmed, a Palestinian from Gaza and an activist with BDS Australia, also described Gaza as an “open-air prison”. “For the past 14 years, 2 million Gazans have been living in an open-air prison, including my family.”
Speakers emphasised the importance of taking action against Israel, primarily through boycotts.
“Now is the time more than ever to continue mobilising, to continue to boycott Israeli products, continue to push our government to place sanctions on Israel,” said al-Hajj Qasem.
“More than 16 years ago, the Palestinian civil society have called upon the international community to join their BDS campaign against Israel,” said Ahmed. “That is the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions.”
“Israel is heavily dependent on large international corporations to thrive economically. Some of which are deeply implicated in the ongoing human rights violations against the Palestinian people.”
Once the speeches were concluded, organisers asked protestors to kneel, observing a minute of silence as a performance was staged in commemoration of the 65 children who were killed in Gaza.
Protestors then marched through the CBD towards Belmore Park chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, “Israel you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide”, and “resistance is justified when Palestine is occupied.”
The march ended at Belmore Park where crowds congregated chanting “Free free Palestine,” with pleas from organisers to keep up the fight.
A rally in support of Palestine will be held next Sunday 30 May 1pm at Town Hall.