Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Ultimo offices in Sydney to protest their coverage of Israel’s war on Gaza.
The rally was chaired by Gina Elias, a member of Students for Palestine UNSW. Elias began by criticising the media outlets across Australia, saying that “The ABC, the Guardian, none of the so-called progressive, neutral media outlets are doing what they say they’re all about. Often you hear a myth that these are media outlets that are going to hold the system to account […] But all of them, every single media outlet has backed Israel to the hilt. Every single headline has ignored the crimes of Israel.”
Elias then continued to contextualise today’s rally explaining that “on Monday night, people would have seen there was an atrocious episode on Q&A, where the Palestinian guest, Nasser Mashni, was subjected to an interrogation. He was subjected to a smear campaign from the ABC journalist, Patricia Karvelas.”
The first speaker of the rally was Wiradjuri and Wailwan activist and incoming USyd SRC First Nations Officer Ethan Floyd. Floyd spoke both “as an activist and as a journalist to join all of you in expressing my outrage and my contempt for the fact that the ABC, our national broadcaster, has been so wilfully asymmetrical in its coverage of Israel’s genocide in Gaza.”
Floyd expressed his “disgust” for the latest Q&A episode, continuing that “this week was not an isolated incident. It’s emblematic of a broader pattern in our media landscape ecosystem — in particular, the ABC’s coverage in a post-referendum landscape. This is a landscape which welcomes disinformation and asks readers and viewers to check their criticality at the door.”
Floyd also highlighted Karvelas’ hypocrisy in continuing the smear campaign against Mashni.
“This [behaviour] from Patricia Karvelas, the former right-wing shill for the Murdoch media, who supported the Howard Liberal government’s intervention, and who in 2007 wrote a piece aptly titled ‘Aborigines Must Learn English’. Give me a break, this is a joke!”
As a final message, Floyd called for the ABC “to correct its course. I’m calling for it to reaffirm its commitment to fair and accurate reporting on all issues, but particularly on Palestine. I’m calling for Patricia Karvelas to be replaced as the host of Q&A — that’s step one. And I am calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, and a free Palestine.”
Palestinian activist and long term member of Palestine Action Group, Samikh Badra, then spoke “My message to the media in general and ABC [is] that we are indigenous Palestinians, not Arabs in Israel. Israel doesn’t defend itself. Israel is carrying out genocide against people in Gaza. They are Israeli colonial settlers, not civilians. It’s ethnic cleansing, not eviction. It’s Palestine, not Palestinian territories. It’s resistance.”
Badra then spoke of his friends and family in Gaza, saying that “yesterday they bombed a mosque close to my home in Gaza. Around 50 people were killed. They are my neighbours, my friends. Until now we don’t know the names of the people. We don’t know any of them because the ambulance can’t go to rescue them.”
In continuing actions of resistance, “Palestinian people in Gaza are not only resisting the Israeli occupation, but also colonial powers around the world. For that, we should take action and boycott the Israeli colonial state and businesses that are complicit with the apartheid regime.” said Badra.
2023 USyd SRC President Lia Perkins then followed “to represent University of Sydney students who are fed up with our universities, governments and media institutions endorsing and justifying genocide.”
Perkins commented on USyd’s double standards where “the University of Sydney sent me emails questioning the wording of a student protest that said, ‘cut ties with Israel’ because they were worried that the phrasing might mean, we wanted student visas cancelled. Like, that’s just ridiculous. You are connected institutionally to Israel. But they had no problem with a student event which involved writing letters to IDF soldiers. What the fuck were they writing on these letters?”
Palestine Action Group organiser Ahmed then made an announcement on the progress of the ZIM protest campaign. Flyers were shared for urgent action organising. “Last time we were trying to do the event when the boat was there, we were trying to block the boat, but they avoided us. And they intentionally changed their timetable,” said Ahmed.
“This time we’re gonna make it. We’re gonna make sure that the boat is on dock. And then we’re gonna send it back to where it belongs. There’s no place in Australian ports for ZIM Israeli apartheid ships.”
Final speaker for the rally, Palestine Action Group member Josh Lees commented on Patricia Karvelas and Anthony Albanese’s history of “lefty” politics in their “youth”, saying that “it’s almost as if when you rise up within the institutions of Australian political and economic establishment, you become party to all the crimes of Australian imperialism in the world. And the imperialism of the Western governments and the rich and powerful who back Israel, back Israel for their own cynical geopolitical agenda.
“The last thing you ever want to see in the world is democracy, equality, people to have their basic dignity and their basic rights. And that’s what the top heads of the ABC and all the other key institutions and political institutions of Australia are doing right now.”
The protest then made its way to Central Grand Concourse where a sit-in was performed.
Incoming USyd SRC Education Officer Shovan Bhattarai chaired the sit-in, connecting it to the one that took place in New York City’s Grand Central Station, saying that “We stand in solidarity with the activists in New York, across America, the Jewish Voice of Peace activists, who’ve been organising sit-in after sit-in in major hallmarks to American power and pride — the Statue of Liberty — calling out that the American project of imperialism worldwide is covered in blood from head to toe.”
Incoming USyd SRC Vice-President Deaglan Godwin spoke of the need to “disrupt the system,” saying that “millions of people from all around the world are rising up and saying we will not sit idly by, that we will not let this happen. Never again means no one, and never again means now.”
“We have to get in the way. We have to disrupt the system. That the business as usual of our society can’t continue while there is a genocide being committed in Gaza. Getting in the way, putting your body in the way, disrupting the system, that is how we change things.
“That is how movements for justice have been won, whether it’s the civil rights movement in the US South. Or the movement against apartheid in South Africa. All those movements took sacrifice. They took rising up.”
SRC President Lia Perkins spoke to the Australian government’s complicity in the slaughter of Palestinians, saying that “the government is endorsing the war on Palestinian people, on Palestinian children. And our government is letting this happen with no consequences. We will not support that. Everyone here said it.
“We cannot sit quietly while the government in power in our country is committing or endorsing war crimes. There will be no business as usual.”
Palestine Action Group are holding weekly weekend rallies, the next one being Sunday 19 November at Hyde Park. Students for Palestine hold weekly Friday rallies at Anthony Albanese’s Marrickville office at 4pm.