Students and staff rallied on Eastern Avenue today in support of Palestine, before marching from New Law Annex to the United States Studies Centre (USSC).
Chaired by Jasmine Al-Rawi on behalf of Students For Palestine, the rally’s focus was on calling for the University of Sydney to cut its ties with Israel and Israeli-backed institutions. Of particular interest were the University’s interdisciplinary unit “OLES2155: Experience Israel” and its continued association with weapons manufacturer Thales.
The first speaker was Associate Professor Jake Lynch, whose involvement with Staff For BDS (Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions) has been met with crackdowns from University management. Lynch characterised the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus as “a war crime under the Geneva Convention,” explaining that it is “built on land that everybody identifies as not Israel.”
Lynch recounted how he and other staff were “targeted by the apartheid regime” and sued for their support of academic boycotts against Israel, but “thanks to the solidarity of students, staff and allies across Australia, we took on that court case and we won.”
As the rally continued to grow in size as multiple contingents arrived on Eastern Avenue, both campus security and NSW Police convened at a distance.
The next speaker was outgoing SRC President Lia Perkins, who highlighted the importance of First Nations solidarity with Palestinians. Perkins also condemned the international community’s response to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, stating that “we are seeing clear as day the power of imperial Western countries who are willing to accept the murder of thousands of Palestinian civilians.”
Perkins continued, “it is appalling that the atrocities and anti-semitism from racist Europeans during the Holocaust and the pogroms are used to justify the oppression of innocent Palestinians,” powerfully stating, “no one Holocaust justifies another.”
Between speeches, Al-Rawi led students and staff in chants of “Free, free Palestine!” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”
Current SRC Vice President Rose Donnelly recounted Australia’s historical support of Israel, explaining “Australia has a long standing friendship with Israel. That friendship is why it is crucial that our government calls for a ceasefire in Gaza and stands for a free Palestine.”
Donnelly read Tweets from Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant as “clear examples of the project to dehumanise Palestinian people,” explaining that “these racist rhetorical tactics are used to dampen our outrage.”
The focus of the rally turned its attention to the Federal Government, chanting “Albanese, you can’t hide — you’re supporting genocide!” and “Israel, USA — how many kids have you killed today?”
The next speaker was Palestinian activist and NTEU representative Fahad Ali, who began by extending his thanks to students and colleagues attending the rally: “it’s really important that we come together to shine a light on what is happening right now, not just in Gaza but in the West Bank as well.”
Ali continued, “we’ve seen Palestinians in the West Bank be beaten, brutalised, kicked out of the places where they live. This is not acceptable. This is racial violence on a wide scale.” Ali questioned the absence of moral consistency expressed by the international community, asking “why is it okay that 8,000 Palestinians can be killed and nobody will say anything, but we can condemn the killing of 1,400 innocent Israelis?”
The final speaker was Students For Palestine member Shovan Bhattarai, who led the crowd in a chant before highlighting the scope of destruction experienced by Palestinians in Gaza: “so far, Israel has dropped 12,000 tonnes of explosives on Gaza.”
Bhattarai also condemned the US Government under Joe Biden, and in particular the University’s relationship with the (USSC). “One of Joe Biden’s first acts when this conflict began was to fly to Tel Aviv to embrace Netanyahu. One of Albanese’s first acts was to fly out to the White House for a state sponsored dinner while the bodies piled up in Gaza,” Bhattarai stated.
After reaffirming students’ and staff’s commitment to continue rallying and marching until Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank ceases and the international community condemns Israel’s actions against Palestinians, the crowd marches from Eastern Avenue to the United States Studies Centre.
There will be a speak-out outside Anthony Albanese’s office for this Friday 3 November.. Palestine Action Group Sydney have organised a rally for 1pm this Saturday 4 November at Hyde Park.