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USyd Students for Palestine protest Israeli occupation

Activists gathered to protest ethnic cleansing and Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine yesterday.

Students gathered outside Fisher library this afternoon to call for an end to Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Organised by USyd group Students for Palestine, the rally followed the latest assault by the Israeli state on Palestinian citizens at the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in East Jerusalem last Friday. 

Ban Hasanin of Students for Palestine called out the flagrant human rights violations under Israel and criticised the piecemeal outrage on settler colonialist states, where there was a failure to recognise Palestinian oppression. 

“You cannot claim to condemn violence but choose to remain silent on the atrocities and appalling footage we’ve seen of the complete degradation of Palestinians. We’ve seen worshippers tied up on the floor, women locked up, tear gassed, and rubber bullets fired,” Hasanin said.

Students for Palestine President Owen Marsden-Redford decried the military domination of Israel and underlined the anti-apartheid struggle of Palestine as a “fight for the liberation of Palestinian people.”

He also paid tribute to Pro-Palestinian activist and member of International Solidarity Movement Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death by an Israel bulldozer while trying to stop the demolition of a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip in 2003. 

“To this day there has been no justice for Rachel Corrie. There has been no official recognition of her murder,” he said. 

Marsden-Redford also condemned generations of dispossession and violence, and the complacency of every other country “complicit” in the colonisation of Palestine, and Australia’s own status as a “project of colonialism and dispossession”.

He raised the Australian state’s support for the oppression of Tamil people in Sri Lanka during the massacres in 2009 as an example of occupied countries being “on the receiving end of the imperialist violence of Australia”. 

“As activists we should stand in opposition to the Australian state and its ruling class that backs oppression across the world. Rachel Corrie is an important reminder of that,” he said.

For Palestinians, a key demand is the right to return, which is not recognised by the Israeli state. Marsden-Redford asserted that standing in solidarity with Palestine’s struggle also meant opposing the “oppressive and torturous regime of refugees in Australia”. 

“Many Palestinians still hold the keys to the homes of which they were kicked out of by Israel, and that right of return means supporting the rights of refugees everywhere,” he said.

Tamil Refugee Council Spokesperson Renuga Inpakumar spoke about the parallels between Palestine’s oppression and the ongoing persecution of Tamil asylum seekers under the Sri Lankan regime. 

“For the Palestinians in 1948, it’s Al-Nakba The Catastrophe. For Eelam Tamils, 1948 also marks the beginning of national oppression and the growth of singular Buddhist chauvinist ideology imposed on Eelam Tamils,” she said.

“Brutal pilgrims. Mass displacement. Inequality under the law and state violence are too familiar to both Palestinians and Eelam Tamils. The national oppression of one group at the hands of a supremacist state run by increasingly radicalised far-right politicians who often justify their abhorrent actions in religious terms.” 

Inpakumar asked for a moment’s silence before beginning her speech, calling for activists to remember her Eelam Tamil brothers and sisters that died under the Sri Lankan genocidal regime and Palestinian brothers and sisters that have died under the genocidal Israeli regime. 

Global Solidarity Officer Jasmine Al-Rawi criticised heightened Israeli security measures and the state’s efforts to intimidate Palestine into submission. Al-Rawi denounced Scott Morrison’s “no country is perfect” response to Israel’s apartheid state, arguing that his nonchalance undermined the years of dispossession and displacement of entire Palestinian communities. 

“It’s so shameful that the Australian government has done nothing to support Palestinians. The government denies the existence of an apartheid state in Israel,” she said.

She also mentioned similar attacks occurring in Al-Aqsa during Ramadan last year which catalysed a massive revolt and led to an eleven-day siege on Gaza. 

Hasanin celebrated the resistance and bravery of Palestinians who continue to visit Al-Aqsa: “They continue to travel and congregate for prayer in thousands. We need to stand in solidarity with all Palestinians by opposing Israeli apartheid and defending the right of return.” 

Inpakumar emphasised the strength of Palestinians and Tamil Eelams in the collective fight against  “media silence, the capitalist class and chauvinist governments.” 

“Since 1948, both Palestinians and Eelam Tamils have had an intergenerational cry that should never be ignored,” she said. 

“Let them be reminded that whilst the massacres continued, a daughter or son was born to carry on the flame for our Eelam and Palestinian people. Today that flame that continues to be a light is a constant reminder that Tamil Eelam and Palestinian people are not fragile. And a flame is hard to put out when there’s a blaze on a mass area, like our Tamil and Palestinian diaspora, who promises to continue to fight for justice. 

“When I remember the fight for Tamil Eelam and the fight for Palestine it’s this: this is our land, the land in which we were born, the land which bears the footprints of our forefathers, the land in which our culture and history are rooted. Palestine is your land. Tamil Eelam is my land.” 

The rally ended with protesters chanting, “Free free Palestine, Free free Gaza”, and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” 

The Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound – Islam’s third holiest site – has been the centre of days of violence this month, including an attack on 15 April where hundreds of Palestinians were arrested and over 100 wounded. Israeli police raided the compound, wounding at least 57 Palestinians using stun grenades and firing rubber bullets during prayer on Friday. 

In solidarity with the Eelam Tamils and Palestinians, who have endured generations of dispossession and violence not recognised by their colonial-settlers, Israel or Sri Lanka, students are encouraged to attend upcoming rallies for both groups next month. 

The event details are linked below: 

Tamil Genocide Day Rally on 8 May  to commemorate 13 years since the Mullivaikkal massacre.

Rally to Commemorate Al Nakba, protesting the Israeli Occupation on 15 May.