For the third week, Melbourne’s Lebanese and Palestinian organisations, along with supporters from across the community, rallied to demand an end to Israeli aggression and an immediate ceasefire.
There is a short video of this event on EngageMedia
Called by the Melbourne Palestine Solidarity Network and endorsed by many other organisations, including the Federation of Australian Muslim Students, the Islamic Girls/Womens Group, the Palestinian Community of Victoria, Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative, and Resistance, under the banner of ‘Rally for Peace – Stop Israeli aggression against Palestine and Lebanon’, Sunday’s rally and march were marked by a definite raising of the temperature compared with previous weeks: the speeches, including those from non-Muslims, were more strongly worded, and there was more visible and audible anger in the crowd. Although there was a large police presence, they had not brought the horses this time, and it should be acknowledged that police as far as I could see showed much good sense – looking back, I think one could say that there was more heavy-handedness on display during the recent march on World Refugee Day, a pretty harmless assembly one would think. When the marchers reached Parliament House, there have been far more innocuous events where police have chosen to defend the steps more aggressively, and indeed on this occasion they drew back to the top and made no attempt to interfere as marchers occupied virtually the whole front of the building. Neither did they intervene when a group of young men, including some in battle dress, first set fire to and then trampled an Israeli flag. (I left at the end of speeches at Parliament House. The march was due then to continue to Federation Square, but I can’t say what happened there, although I understood it was planned to deliver a letter of protest to SBS regarding its coverage of the issues regarding the Middle East.)
Apart from Lebanese and Palestinian speakers, the initial rally at the State Library was addressed by David Glanz of Unity for Peace, Margarita Windisch of the Stop-the-War Coalition, and Senator Lyn Allison of the Democrats – as before, the major political parties were conspicuously absent (perhaps displaying the better part of valour, given their leaders’ recent statements?). We also heard from Layal Allaf, a young Lebanese-Australian just back from visiting her family in Lebanon. A notable feature of the halt at Parliament House was the reading of a detailed condemnation of Zionism and the acts of the State of Israel from the point of view of Torah-Judaism, a reminder that, as the statement stressed, the State of Israel does not speak in the name of the Jewish people. And indeed, as on previous occasions, there were Jews among the protesters. (The statement can be found in full on the website of Neturei Karta International, Jews United against Zionism, here.) As at previous rallies, Sheik Fahmi Imam also spoke, inviting the rally to join him in lamenting the death and burial of international law and the Geneva Convention. As already mentioned, during this halt a group of young men, some in battle dress, burned an Israeli flag. Extracts from some of these speeches can be heard on the short video clip linked to above.
Numbers at the rally and march certainly went up and down, probably peaking at around 2,000, but falling off during the march and subsequent halt. Again, families made up a large part of the crowd …
Next Sunday, August 6, Hiroshima Day, was due to be marked by an anti-war, anti-nuclear rally; this year the current conflict will now be added to the agenda.
These photos are stills from a camcorder.
He called for an immediate halt to the Israeli attacks. The US claims to be bringing democracy to the Middle East but is punishing the people of Palestine for making a democratic choice … punishing the people of Lebanon for their democratic choice. “We stand here to condemn the apologists [of Israel] in the West, in America and in Australia who said we should go to war against Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction, but say nothing about the 200 Israeli nuclear warheads hidden in silos in the Negeb desert. We stand here to condemn that hypocrisy.” What is happening now is another chapter in the US programme to ensure it retains its position as the world’s only superpower. “I believe we have to take sides. It’s not enough to call for peace. We have to say the people of Palestine are right to resist. We have to say the people of Lebanon are right to resist. We have to reject comments from John Howard and on this occasion too often from Kim Beazley as well, that this is a war against terror. Hezbollah is not a terrorist organisation. It is a national liberation organisation. Hezbollah drove Israel out of Southern Lebanon, and Israel will never forget it. And we have to take sides with Hezbollah against Israel. We have to take sides with Hamas against Israel … [We] must get behind the demands ‘Stop the bombing, stop the aggression’. We must tell John Howard that Australia … must end its support for Israeli aggression, because Israel’s aggression is backed by its supporters around the world. … We have to tell John Howard to end military links with Israel, the exports, the imports, and the military collaboration. We have to say to this government, take Hezbollah off the list of terrorists …”