More than 150 people gathered at Sydney’s First Fleet Park to protest against Israeli apartheid on Palestine Land Day. Protesters demanded that SBS ban Eurovision 2019 from being filmed in Israel, as an extension of the internationally renowned Boycott-Divestment-Sanction (BDS) campaign.
There were multiple speakers, including Senator Mehreen Faruqi, NUS Ethnocultural Officer Hersha Kadkol, and speakers from BDS Australia. Despite the peaceful nature of the protest, there appeared to be kettling, racial profiling and physical assault on behalf of the police.
Student activist Paulie Bover commented, “Today marks one year since the Great March of Return protests started —peaceful weekly protests that seek to draw attention to the ever-degrading conditions in Gaza. Our protest was a response to the call for a global march of return.”
Police response to the march throughout Circular Quay was hostile. Multiple protesters told Honi that the police stated that once a protest becomes political, the protestors are “no longer members of the public,” a statement which has little legal basis.
The police also allegedly told protesters that it was illegal to film police officers, despite this not being the case. Civilians walking near police officers reported that they were approached by police if they looked like they were part of the protest — usually approaching those who looked like they were of Arab descent.
Autonomous Collective Against Racism (ACAR) convenor Swapnik Sanagavarapu commented that “NSW Police used physical force — including violently shoving elderly men and preventing an onlooker from entering and exiting the procession.”
Bover commented that “Eurovision 2019 is an attempt to whitewash apartheid.”
Land Day dates back to when Palestinians organised against illegal Israeli appropriation of land in 1976. Protesters brought to attention the increasingly violent nature of the Israeli occupation.
Kadkol brought to light Australian involvement in weapons trade with Israel, who she decried for selling steel tanks and other machinery to tear down Palestinian villages. Demands were made to the Australian government to not replicate the move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem of the United States embassy.
The positive reception of Kadkol’s radical speech by the large crowd marks a heightened consciousness in Australian complicity to the Israeli occupation, noting in a statement to Honi that “our state is just as much responsible for apartheid and colonialism as the US. Australian politicians give cover to Israel’s crimes against humanity, and drive racism towards Arabs and Muslims.”
“The courage and heroism of Palestinians who resist should be our inspiration. We must meet them in solidarity and outrage to spread the resistance everywhere.”