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Protestors join Palestinians outside Sydney Town Hall to condemn attacks on the Al Aqsa Mosque

“It is a total indictment to the normalisation of Israel, that there is no surprise that the Al Aqsa mosque was attacked. This is the price the Israeli occupation wants Palestinians to pay for their simple existence.”

Photography by Tyberius Seeto.

Students and activists gathered with Palestinian communities at Sydney Town Hall on Saturday, rallying against the recent attacks by Israeli occupying forces on Palestinian worshippers inside the Al Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan.

Organised by the Sydney Palestinian Action Group, over one hundred people stood before a massive Palestinian flag, in solidarity with the victims of the attack, opposing the Israeli government’s rhetoric of dispossession and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land.

Chaired by USyd SRC Ethnocultural Officer Rand Khatib and Palestinian Action Group member Jay Ma, the pair demanded that the Australian and all international governments get “their hands off Al Aqsa” and established the rally as a commemoration of the 75 years of occupation and apartheid in Palestine.

After chants of “Free Gaza”, Jay Ma thanked the rally for joining to “politically defy the violence of the colonial settler state that is Israel.” Ma was critical of the Australian Government for being “radio silent” in the wake of the Al Aqsa atrocity.

Before the rally kicked off, Awabakal man Jeremy Heathcote linked the struggle of First Nations Australians and Palestinians together, calling on everyone to listen to the voices of people fighting against dispossession and settler-colonialism.

USyd NTEU Branch President Nick Riemer spoke on the need to rally against the Israeli apartheid state and highlighted the extreme violence Palestinians were met with during the raid despite the deeply calm and personal nature of worship at Al Aqsa.

“These attacks that were seen are part of Israel’s rolling, ongoing genocidal Nakba against Palestinian lives. And as these attacks are made more deadly and vicious, we need to intensify our solidarity with Palestinians.”

Riemer emphasised the role of unions in this solidarity, with the NTEU nationally committing to active solidarity with Palestine: undertaking opposition of Zionist attempts to stifle criticism of Israel on campus and pledging to uphold members’ conscientious right to participate in the Boycott, Divestment Sanctions Movement (BDS). The National Union of Students (NUS) and Sydney University SRC also passed solidarity motions.

Jasmine Al Rawi, USyd SRC Global Solidarity Officer and Student of Palestine member criticised how despite ongoing genocide and apartheid, where homes are demolished and lives are cut short by bans on medical supplies, Israel’s impunity remains the same.

“It is a total indictment to the normalisation of Israel, that there is no surprise that the Al Aqsa mosque was attacked. This is the price the Israeli occupation wants Palestinians to pay for their simple existence,” said Al Rawi.

Al Rawi was also critical of the Labor government’s ongoing support of the Israeli state, saying, “there is no consequence for such outright brutality, no whisper from our government to condemn the violence.”

Khatib was also critical of the United Nations’ relationship with Israel, criticising a statement that said the UN only condemns extreme violence, “as though everyday violence is not that bad.” Khatib demanded complete resistance to all occupation and all settler colonisation.

Assala Sayara, a Palestinian activist, counsellor and storyteller led a powerful chant “Gaza Gaza, don’t you cry, Palestine will never die” and spoke to the power of resistance. Sayara mentioned how resistance has been passed down from generation to generation and how young people are at the forefront of anti-colonial resistance like the First Nations’ struggle for Land in Australia.

A moment of silence was observed for all Palestinian lives taken at the hands of Israeli occupation.

“Israel has already killed 5 times as many Palestinians in 2023 as it has by this time last year. Israel is an apartheid state, it’s been planned as an illegal state, breaking international law and not facing any consequences,” said Sayara.

Once the speeches concluded, protestors marched through Pitt Street holding a large Palestinian flag.

 On Tuesday 18 April, a vigil is being held outside of Randwick Town Hall to demand that the Israeli flag is not displayed around the Randwick Council in celebration of 75 years of Israeli Independence.

On Saturday 13 May, a rally is planned to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Al-Nakba at 1 pm outside of Sydney Town Hall. 

More information on these rallies can be found through the Palestine Action Group Sydney.