In Australia, a day of solidarity with Palestine

Hundreds of activists occupy a major intersection in Melbourne in protest of Australian support for Israeli apartheid. (Omar Hassan)

In an important show of solidarity, 500 individuals participated in pro-Palestine activities on Friday 19 March in Melbourne, Australia, protesting against both the brutality of Israel’s actions in recent weeks and the ongoing support of the Australian government for Israeli apartheid.

The day started off with a Students for Palestine forum at RMIT University discussing the reality of Israeli apartheid. At least 170 persons attended. In one of the emotional highpoints of the forum, one of the speakers read a quote from Desmond Tutu — a leader of the anti-apartheid campaign in South Africa — which argued that the situation in Palestine is worse than anything he saw in his struggle.

Not content to limit themselves to discussions amongst friends, the forum participants then marched down to the state library where they joined around 500 persons in a rally with the slogan “Break Ties with Apartheid Israel.” As many of the speakers at the rally made clear, the Australian government has always been one of the staunchest allies of the Israeli state. One speaker after another denounced the Australian government for this slavish support for Israel.

Nazeem Hussain from the comedy duo Fear of a Brown Planet said: “The government that we voted in is one of the only countries in the world that votes alongside that terrorist nation. Australia and the US, in the last couple of weeks, didn’t vote to investigate war crimes committed by Israel. Shame on Australia. Shame on this supposedly left-wing party of this great democratic nation.”

Inaf Sammak from the Federation of Australian Muslim Students and Youth said: “Shame [Australian Prime Minister Kevin] Mr. Rudd. We demand that Australia cut ties with Israel — apartheid Israel. We demand that the transgressions of the holy sites be condemned. We demand that the right of resistance of the Palestinian people be recognized. How can we remain silent while Palestinians fight?”

Just last year Julia Gillard, deputy prime minister of Australia, announced her total support for Israel in the midst of the slaughter of Gazan civilians, asserting that “Israel has the right to defend itself.” One of the Palestinian speakers asked: “How can Australia remain silent while Jerusalem cries?” The hundreds of students and community supporters involved in the day of solidarity’s actions are committed to campaign for Palestinian rights as long as long as is necessary, until the apartheid nature of the state of Israel is abolished and the Palestinian people receive justice.

Omar Hassan is a leading member of Students for Palestine in Australia