Tens of thousands gathered in Hyde Park for the fifth week in a row on Sunday to protest the continued genocide taking place in Gaza. Rally organisers estimate 60,000 people were in attendance, making it the largest rally yet.
The rally was opened by Assala Sayara, whose captivating speeches and powerful chanting have made her a mainstay as the chair of these rallies. Sayara spoke about the need to continue rallying in mass numbers, “Gaza needs to hear us, Gaza is bleeding. It is mourning. Gaza needs our voices to tell the world that we will not surrender them to the Israeli occupation.”
She then defended the chant ‘from the river to the sea’, which has drawn condemnation among conservatives and Zionists internationally as well as from the White House for being antisemitic and even genocide-inciting. “This chant reminds us that what is happening is occupation and a crime against humanity. It is not an antisemitic chant.”
Co-chair of the rally, Josh Lees from the Palestine Action Group Sydney, said “our eyes are on Gaza and our hearts are with the 11,000 people who have died.” Lees criticised Israel’s announcement that they would begin daily four-hour pauses of military operations in the midst of their attempted perpetration of another Nakba. Discussing the reports of babies dying in Al-Shifa Hospital, Lees cried “we will never forget what’s being done to Gaza. We will never forget who has done it and who has allowed it to happen.”
Lees offered a small note of hope too, adding that “our eyes are also on London, where a million people came out to protest. That is the glimmer of hope in all this madness, that all around the world people in their millions have come to the streets and will not stop until Palestine is free.”
Uncle Colin, a Dharug elder, welcomed the crowd, noting “I stand before you because I know what it’s like to have my land taken away and the truth contested. But the truth is the truth and that will never change.” Pro-Palestinian rallies have consistently emphasised strong connections between Indigenous communities and the Palestinian community, with great effort made to emphasise the “solidarity from Gadigal to Gaza.”
The next, speaker, a Palestinian Christian women with family in Gaza noted decried the allegations of antisemitism thrown at anti-Zionists, noting that “contrary to what the media will have you believe, this is not a battle between Muslims and Jews, rather Zionists fighting to cleanse Palestine of its people and Palestinians fighting for their land and right to exist.” They continued, “visits between family members spread across Gaza and the West Bank require approval by the Israeli state. One side controls every aspect of the other side’s life and yet they claim the right to self-defence and gag anyone who speaks against the occupation in allegations of antisemitism.”
Sayara introduced the next speaker, Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Mehreen Faruqi, praising her as a “politician with conscience…who led the Greens boycott of senate question time during the week.”
Faruqi used her speech to criticise the government’s unfailing support for Israel, noting that “many have said that Palestine is a litmus test for morality, human rights and social justice and Anthony Albanese and Penny Wong have failed this test miserably.”
Randa Abdel-Fattah continued in this vein, noting that “how far we move [towards freedom and liberation] is up to our collective courage and commitment…we long for the day that the only Israeli Defence Force uniform is the one in the genocide museum in Palestine.” She stressed the importance, however, of the goal not being a return to the “already intolerable conditions of siege, occupation and apartheid prior to October 7.”
Abdel-Fattah again highlighted the importance of anti-colonial solidarity, imploring the entire crowd to turn up to Invasion Day, just as Indigenous groups have supported Palestinian liberation. As Faruqi did, Abdel-Fattah allocated a portion of her speech to expressing disgust at the Labor Party, “today my rage is not for the Liberals, of whom we expect this, but for the Labor Party, the Democrats and other so-called progressive parties around the world. They are the Diet Coke and Pepsi Max of white supremacy and have given us undeniable evidence that you will be exterminated if you threaten geopolitical alliances that serve global interests.”
The final speaker was Sheikh Wesam, who started with a powerful condemnation of the Labor Party, “to Anthony Albanese and the ALP I ask, what must Israel do to earn just one condemnation? Is the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim blood so cheap that you would spill it for your political cause? Your response should’ve transcended politics and the idea that Israel has the right to defend itself. It should be about humanity and preserving human life.”
He continued by highlighting the sickening stories of parents who “write their children’s names on each part of their body so that when they pick up the pieces from under the rubble they may bury all the child’s body parts together. Is not one child worth a ceasefire?” he asked.” Finishing with a call to action he commanded, “be courageous and do not cower. History will remember you for standing, or not standing, on the side of dignity, justice and courage. Palestine must be free.”
Sunday’s rally was the third consecutive day of large Sydney demonstrations for Palestine, with roughly 600 people gathering in Botany on Saturday to protest the Israeli shipping company ZIM and hundreds outside Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s office on Friday afternoon.
There will be upcoming actions for Palestine with a protest set for tomorrow 4pm outside Anthony Albanese’s office in Marrickville and Sunday 1pm at Hyde Park.