An upwards of six thousand people showed up at Hyde Park on Sunday 15th October to demonstrate their allyship and solidarity for the innocent Palestinians who have been suffering in Gaza due to a 16 year blockade, and now Israeli strikes.
On Monday 9 October, pro-Palestine groups gathered to protest against the NSW Government’s decision to light up the Opera House sails in solidarity with Israel. Following the release of footage depicting a group of protesters — unaffiliated with the Free Palestine movement — yelling vile, anti-semitic phrases,, organisers from the Palestine Action Group (PAG) were quick to release a statement, wholeheartedly condemning the atrocious behaviours and remarks demonstrated by these individuals. PAG stressed that they are an “anti-racist and anti-colonial movement and [they] refuse to fight racism with racism”.
The moral panic that ensued set the precedent for the state’s response to Sunday’s protest. Over six thousand people filled Hyde Park, despite Premier Chris Minns discouraging pro-Palestine groups from engaging and participating in protests.
Police were granted “extraordinary powers” to conduct searches without cause, and protesters were warned of being arrested if they marched. These powers included protesters being stopped, searched and their names being taken.
‘Twas a treacherous two-hour journey due to the utter coincidence of Inter-City and Western train line shutdowns. Train Lines including the T3 Bankstown line, the Inner West and Leppington line, and the City Circle lines, were running either at a reduced frequency or not at all. Nearby stations including Museum and St James stations were closed down completely for the day. Upon arrival, police and riot squad presence was disturbingly ubiquitous. Police were stationed at every corner, leaving no stone unturned.
An estimated 1000 police officers were plotted around the CBD and surrounding areas of Hyde Park, where the protest was held. As it happened, NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Tony Cooke declared the protest to be “largely peaceful”, with zero arrests made.
During these demonstrations, protesters proudly waved Palestinian flags, and displayed signs bearing powerful messages such as “Stop the genocide of Palestinians”, “End the Apartheid” and “Free Palestine”. These messages were a collective outcry against the injustices perpetrated by Israel and the unreported injustices and atrocities faced by Palestinians in Gaza, which Australian media outlets and politicians have neglected to acknowledge.
PAG organisers continually fortified the protests’ integrity, vehemently deploring anti-semitism under the guise of Palestinian liberation. One PAG organiser forcefully shut down what appeared to be failed attempts to start racist chants “How dare you weaponise the Palestinian struggle for your racist chants? I’ve had it.” The crowd applauded and cheered in support, indicating that anti-semitism had no place in Palestinian liberation.
Politicians, including Senator Mehreen Faruqi and Jenny Leong MP, attended the rally. “The atrocities being committed by Israel are war crimes. They are the very definition of collective punishment”, Senator Faruqi said. “The NSW Police and government have made shameful attempts to silence us and stop us from coming together to shine a light on the worsening crisis in Gaza. Any attempt to silence us is an unjustifiable abuse of political power.”
Suzan Wahhab, President of Palestinian Christians in Australia (PCIA), opened her speech on the verge of tears. Her voice shakes in agony as she briefs the crowd on the worsening situation in Gaza. Gaza’s population of 2 million, 40% of which are under 14 is “showering in a bucket, relying on UN food rations of flour, oil and sugar”.
Wahhab condemns the “one-sided narratives that humanise the Israelis while dehumanising Palestinians”; as a shameful product of Western media and its self-serving Zionist agenda. It refers to the language used to contextualise Palestinians as dying, and Israelis as being killed.
The crowd was told “The people of Gaza have been under an inhumane blockade for the last 16 years … what did Israel or the world community expect?” and that “It’s not self-defence to starve the people of Gaza. That’s pure barbarity and a crime against international law.”
Jewish allies also condemned the violent atrocities being committed by Israel against Palestinians in Gaza, including Peter Slezak, professor at the University of NSW and deputy convenor of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) Movement.
Professor Slezak stated that “we must be able to mourn both Palestinian and Israeli deaths” and that “We can’t ignore the recent atrocities perpetrated on Israeli civilians”.
The rally concluded with prayers led by community leaders from the Islamic, Jewish and Christian faiths – “we have space for all faiths and for no faiths”, said one PAG organiser, underscoring the inclusive and communal spirit of the rally. The demonstrations aimed to address the injustices and atrocities suffered by all innocent beings impacted by Israel’s violent occupation, and did so peacefully and respectfully.
“The Palestinian movement is not just for Palestinians to support. It is for everyone who stands for justice” – Assala Sayara.
Powerful chants echoed across Hyde Park, “Gaza, Gaza don’t you cry. Palestine will never die”,
“In our thousands in our millions, we are all Palestinians”, “Shame, shame Israel. Shame, shame USA”
“1, 2, 3, 4, we don’t want your bloody war…5, 6, 7, 8 Israel is a terrorist state”
The besieged Palestinian enclave in Gaza has witnessed the deaths of approximately 2,382 Palestinians since the Israeli government declared “war” and has furthered its efforts in committing genocide and ethnic cleansing.
According to the Palestinian health ministry, Palestine Red Crescent Society and Israeli Medical Services, more than 9,714 were injured in Gaza, and at least 53 were killed in the West Bank with an approximate number of 1,100 injured. At least 1,300 Israeli civilians have been killed and 3,400 have been injured.
Rallies have been held worldwide in protest against the massacres of innocent Palestinians. Other Australian cities including Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane have also held protests against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.
The PAG has announced that another Sydney-wide rally will be held in Town Hall on Saturday the 21st of October.