Students for Palestine from Sydney University led a convoy to Parliament House on the 15th of November in the Australian Capital Territory to demand that politicians take action against the military assault on Gaza.
Between one to two hundred people, students and those in solidarity, gathered together, many making the journey from Sydney early in the morning in cars or in the bus organised by the USyd Students for Palestine. Palestine Action Group Sydney, Students for Palestine UNSW, and Palestine Action Group Canberra were also in attendance.
The rally began at 1pm on the front lawn of Parliament House, with a message for politicians from across the country and across political parties. Protestors came with a clear message to the politicians inside the white walls of Parliament: the state of Israel is massacring the people of Gaza, and the Australian government, alongside its Western allies, are complicit in and partners to it.
Protestors chanted powerful slogans heard at Palestinian rallies across Australia, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” as well as specific chants directed at the Labor Government in, “Albanese you can’t hide, you’re supporting genocide”.
Deaglan Godwin, a student from the University of Sydney, and Amal Naser, a UNSW student, chaired the rally. Universities across Australia were condemned for their ties with weapons companies that sell to Israel, and the Australian government’s involvement in the occupation of Palestine.
Godwin stated, “The ties between our government and the powerful institutions of our society and Israel, they run deep, and they run deep because Israel has always been a project to support the profits and the power of the ruling classes of Australia, of England, of the United States”.
Awn Nuwwar, a Palestinian activist, described the apartheid state of Israel which existed well before the Hamas attacks on 7 October. Yasmine Johnson, a USYD student and one of the organisers of the convoy, read the words of Bisan Owda, a young woman from Gaza who has been documenting the attacks on Gaza by Israel on social media. Leah House from the Tent Embassy also gave a speech.
David Shoebridge, Greens senator for NSW, advocated for the Australian government to call for a ceasefire. “I don’t care about borders, and I don’t care about religion, and I don’t care about nationality,” he said, “every single child matters, every single civilian matters.”
The Albanese government has been firm on its stance that Israel has a right to defend itself, a stance in line with other world hegemonies, including Britain and the United States, after 7 October, when Hamas entered Israeli territories and killed 1,200 people and took more than 240 hostages. However, with the death toll in Gaza now over 11,000, and after numerous violations of international law, including the deliberate targeting of civilians, refugee camps, children, medical workers, and journalists, and intentionally starving citizens, the description of Israel’s actions as ‘self-defence’ is becoming increasingly harder to account for.
Franceseca Albanese, the UN Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, stated at the National Press Club that Israel has a right to defend itself, but not to wage a war, especially not against a militant group which is not recognised as a state force. Other voices are reminding the world that the violence far predates 7 October, with Israel acting as an occupying colonial force against the Palestinians for 75 years.
The Federal Labor government has not called for a ceasefire with Penny Wong, Senate Minister for Foreign Affairs, saying that the prevention of food and water into the Gaza strip was difficult to make a judgement on, only asking for Israel to stop attacks on hospitals and abide by international law. It is important to note that the Australian government does not currently recognise the existence of a Palestinian state. Australia abstained on the vote at the United Nations General Assembly for a humanitarian truce.
Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi has been vocally critical of the Australian governments response to the war crimes committed in Gaza, and has been in attendance at protests for Palestine in Sydney. She led the Green’s boycott of question time in the Senate last week over the refusal of Labor to call for a ceasefire.
Inside Parliament House, an hour before the protest began, The Parliamentary Friends of Palestine, an informal cross-party group, held a forum for an International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Francesca Albanese was there and spoke to the violence that the Israeli state has exhibited since its inception, stating that the entirety of occupied Palestine acts as an open air prison for Palestinians, who are subjected to strict and immoral laws that limit most aspects of life, including freedom of movement.
When the protest outside the Federal Parliament came to a close, spontaneous calls for ceasefire now broke out from the crowd. A reflection of the simple call for humanity that continues to prove too difficult for the leaders of the so-called free world.