Australians for Palestine - Women for Palestine
It’s not over yet!
Protestors in Melbourne fill the streets again, despite Israel’s unilateral ceasefire.
by Sonja Karkar. 19 January 2009
The newspapers and TV news reported that some 12,000 people came out this Sunday in Melbourne to voice their disgust at Israel’s assault on Gaza. The surrounds of the State Library were packed with protestors as far as the eye could see. Placards, flags and banners all attested to Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinian people and Australians for Palestine’s “Gaza Ghetto” pamphlet was distributed to help explain the catastrophic developments in Gaza over 60 years in a six millennia history.
Shortly before the rally, Israel had announced a unilateral ceasefire after it had rejected Hamas calls days earlier for an immediate week-long ceasefire followed by a year-long renewable truce on the proviso that Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip and opens the border crossings.
That did not deter the crowd. Most knew it was a farcical ceasefire: Israel’s occupying army is even now in the centre of Gaza City amongst the corpses of some 1,200 it has recently killed, more than 5,000 it has wounded and the 1.5 million terrorised population suffering from deep shock during Israel’s three weeks’ non-stop bombardment of this tiny strip of land.
If Israel and its Western supporters – including shamefully Australia – think the protests will stop now, they could not be more wrong. The turnout in Melbourne was filled with people outraged by Israel’s savagery and many of them were not the usual seasoned protestors, but ordinary Australians coming out for the first time to say “NO” to Israel’s litany of war crimes against the Palestinians, particularly its latest attacks on Gaza.
Michael Leunig, famously known for his cartoons depicting his deeply-held views against war and destruction - most recently in Gaza – made a rare appearance to address the Melbourne crowds and was overwhelmingly received as he touched every heart with his impassioned plea for an end to the attacks.
Dr Peter Slezak from Independent Australian Jewish Voices (IAJV) gave a forceful address to the hushed crowd saying that Israel could have preserved the six-month ceasefire that it had violated in November. Instead, it falsely accused Hamas and widely trumpeted it as the reason Israel had to launch its attacks. Only later did the truth come out, but too late to convince world leaders who have just kept repeating the lie.
Church leaders, Anglican Archdeacon Philip Newman and Uniting Church Moderator of Victoria and Tasmania, Rev Jason Kioa showed that the churches are no longer prepared to remain silent in the face of such brutal aggression and their presence and supportive speeches provided a staunch example to their congregations of speaking out for peace and justice.
Regrettably, Sheikh Fehmi, Australia’s Grand Mufti was unable to attend because of medical complications, but his statement was read by Australians for Palestine co-Convener, Nasser Mashni with all the emotion of one who suffers for his people. He called on Israel to stop the slaughter of innocents letting Australians know that “the children have no hope for a peaceful future when they see Israel occupying their land, killing their parents, destroying their homes, mosques and schools. Israeli leaders must not kill their hope; they must not kill their future.” Sheikh Fehmi’s message could not have been put more passionately.
The absence of any government representative or member of the opposition was all the more noticeable by the presence of Federal Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young who spoke movingly in support of Palestine and called on the Prime Minister to make a statement condemning the crimes in Gaza. Also, former leader of the Democrats Lyn Allison gave unequivocal support as she has always done over years of fearlessly speaking out against, and reporting on, Israel’s crimes. The ACTU International Director, Alison Tate added her support on behalf of the unions who know only too well the force of power against those unable to speak for themselves.
The speakers were all voices for key segments of Australian society rarely heard at rallies for Palestine and that is due in particular to our public advocate Michael Shaik who had put a lot of thought and effort into making the approaches. As with all large public gatherings, those who lead them must have the ability to keep that energy positive and again an unenviable, but truly sterling job was done by Moammar Mashni, ably assisted by Reem Yunis.
After the rally, a special service for peace was held at St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral attended by Anglican Archbishop Dr Phillip Freier and the head of World Vision, Tim Costello.
Successful as this rally was to bring public attention to Israel’s crimes in Gaza, the momentum must not be lost. There is no sign that Israel’s army is leaving any time soon, nor that it intends to open the crossings. According to one military spokesperson, this could be the “final act”, indicating something much more sinister ahead. Every supporter of Palestine must be poised to rally again and again until Israel is called to account for its crimes. A failure to do so would be disastrous for the people of Palestine and shameful for our nation.
Thousands march through Melbourne to condemn Israel-Gaza war
Thousands march in Melbourne against Gaza war
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