Peace and Justice in Lebanon – Rally and March 22 July

As Israel’s attack on Lebanon intensifies, so also the protests continue. In Melbourne the numbers were perhaps not as great as in Sydney, where police estimated 15,000 took part, but the rally was larger and even more varied than last week’s

One obvious difference was in the speakers: this time there were representatives from the peace and union movements, as well as Bob Muntz for the Greens – and a message from the Democrats – in addition to the Lebanese community and religious leaders. And perhaps reflecting the much-improved weather, there was a wider range of participants, both in age and background, including Indigenous Australians and Jews. Striking was the emphasis on children, and there were many elderly people who were there right to the end. Kevin Bracken of the MUA expressed the unionist viewpoint, while David Spratt condemned the double standards implicit in the attitude of the Bush/Blair/Howard axis towards the Arab world. The rally was also addressed by a young Lebanese-Australian who had just escaped from the conflict, and by Sheik Fahmi Imam, who called upon President Bush to say to Israel ‘Enough is enough!’ Amongst the many banners and placards there did not appear to be any representing the ALP or the Coalition, but they may have been lost amongst the multitude.

Numbers were hard to gauge and were not constant: the grounds outside the State Library were pretty full once things had got going, but not everyone stayed for the march down Swanson Street.The procession itself was more tightly packed than last week, but still stretched at one point for more than two full blocks. Some stopped at Federation Square while others continued part of the way across Princes Bridge, where there was a brief halt and minute’s silence to mark those killed, before reassembling at the Square for final speeches. Channel 2 news on Saturday evening gave an estimate of 5,000, but didn’t specify a source.

Sea of flags at State Library

Outside the State Library before the march

Kevin Bracken, Secretary of the MUA

Kevin Bracken, Secretary of the MUA

“Workers on all sides are paying the price. Since July 12th Israel has been carrying out a disproportionate and murderous war on Lebanon… It has destroyed much of the infrastructure, creating a humanitarian disaster. Those who suffer most are workers and the poor. At the same time the Israel Defence Force continues to pummel Gaza, here too killing innocent civilians. The goal behind all tbis destruction is to restore the country’s power of deterrence. It needs this power so that it can continue to behave unilaterally, without concessions to the Palestinians or the Syrians…. But Israel too … has suffered civilian casualties both dead and wounded … The working classes on both sides of this conflict have nothing to gain from this war no matter what its outcome…. We call on political parties, workers’ organisations, including the trades unions of the world, to demand a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces back to the international border. Israel justifies its massive destruction by claiming it was attacked first, but if it were truly interested in peace it could have reached a treaty years ago with Syria, with Lebanon, and most importantly with the Palestinian people … without a comprehensive Israeli withdrawal there will be neither peace not stability …”

David Spratt of the Victorian Peace Network

David Spratt of the Victorian Peace Network

This is the war by terror. What we are witnessing is an obscenity. what we are witnessing are war crimes. When we look at Iraq and Lebanon and Palestine we can only ask this question: Do Bush and Blair and Howard care about the slaughter of innocent Arabs? Or is this racism that says that some lives are worth less than others? This war is justified on the grounds that there are three Israeli prisoners of war. But there are more than nine and a half thousand Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners held in Israel’s jails […] Is there one rule for Israel and one for the Arab world? […] The Palestinians do not occupy Israeli land, Israel occupies Palestinian land.



Media release from Australian Democrats read to rally:

Senator Lyn Allison
Parliamentary Leader and Democrats Senator for Victoria

Dated: 19 July 2006
Press Release Number: zwnhujkz
Portfolio: Foreign Affairs

DEMOCRATS URGE CEASE FIRE AND PEACE PLAN IN LEBANON

The Democrats today urged the Government to call for an immediate ceasefire in Israel and Lebanon, criticised Mr Downers handling of the repatriation of Australian citizens.
Democrats Leader, Senator Lyn Allison said Instead of declaring that Israel must do what Israel must do Minister Downer should be calling for an end to hostilities.
Rather than encouraging the conflict, Australia should be insisting on compliance with the Geneva Convention which outlaws collective punishment and reprisals against non-combatants.
Killing civilians and destroying Lebanons power plants, airports and other infrastructure is out of all proportion to the threat to Israel by Hezbollah and risks escalation of the conflict to involve other countries.
Mr Downer must rescue as soon as possible the many Australians caught in Lebanon by the attacks and the best way to do this is to insist on an end to hostilities and a UN-brokered peace plan.

Similar statements have been issued by the Australian Greens: by Senator Kerry Nettle on 19 July – http://greens.org.au/mediacentre/mediareleases/senatornettle/190706a (PM wrong to support Israel’s tactics in Lebanon and Gaza), and by Senator Bob Brown on 20 July – http://greens.org.au/mediacentre/mediareleases/senatorbrown/200706a (The Greens have again called on the Australian government to help engineer an immediate end to hostilities in Lebanon.) [These links no longer return results.]


Omar speaking

Omar, one of two young Lebanese-Australians on the platform who had just escaped from Lebanon, told of his experiences

We had fun for the first couple of weeks [he had gone to Lebanon for a holiday, to meet his family and so on]until one morning I woke up and I heard, I heard that the airport was hit by the Israelis. It was a terribly big shock, and the whole, the whole country had stopped. There was no more people on the streets. Everybody had stopped. … No-one could do anything. … All these innocent people they were sitting in their homes with their families watching the news, 24 hours a day, no-one could even sleep knowing that their country was being demolished … And then waiting for the Australian government to do something about it. Well, it’s been ten days, ten days. Where have they been? “[He got out by organising a taxi to Damascus, something only done with great difficulty, especially after Israel bombed the road. But the worst thing was saying goodbye to his family:]” … knowing that I was leaving and coming back safe, to a safe [place]… I felt like I was betraying my family, leaving them alone and running away. But I promised my grandmother … that we will never stop and we will try to get the Australian government and Mr Howard to do something about it…

Sheik Fahmi Imam

Sheik Fahmi Imam

Long live Lebanon! Long live Palestine! …[George Bush … must say to Israel] Enough is enough! Yes, give [the Israelis] the green light to extend the bombing of Lebanon for another week! What for, Mr Inhuman […] George Bush, what for? … Do you want the whole population to be annihilated? … No, Mr President, No, Mr George Bush, the inhuman president, we will not be totally annihilated, we will not be totally annihilated in Lebanon. You know why, Mr Bush? Because we are humanitarians, Muslims and Christians together … We, Christians and Muslims together, are going to rebuild Lebanon … there will be Lebanon for ever and ever. God is with us! … Long live Australia! We are proud of Australia. […] Australia has a proud history as a pioneer in the field of Human Rights …

Placard with mesage to Israel

The message of this placard refers to images published a few days earlier showing Israeli children chalking messages on shells about to be fired into Lebanon. See also the placard in the next photo.

The upper part of the placard has photos of Israeli children chalking mesages on shells about to be fired into Lebanon

The upper part of the placard has photos of Israeli children chalking messages on shells about to be fired into Lebanon

More photos from the rally and march:

The march went as far as Princes Bridge, where there was a brief halt and minute’s silence to remember the dead, before returning to Federation Square for final speeches. (The bridge was chosen to mark the destruction of bridges in Lebanon.)
Crowd on Princes Bridge, many kneeling

[Further rallies were held on Friday 4 August and Saturday 19 August and were reported at the time on Melbourne Indymedia, but these pages are no longer accessible.]

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