Hundreds rally to defend Sydney University Gaza solidarity camp

3 May 2024
Josh Lees
Palestine supporters rally in defence of the student Gaza solidarity encampment at Sydney University on Friday 3 May PHOTO: Supplied

More than 500 Palestine supporters, including hundreds of university students and staff, rallied on Friday morning at Sydney University to support the student Gaza solidarity encampment. The rally was called in response to a planned demonstration by supporters of Israel, who are calling for the students’ camp to be forcibly shut down. As in turned out, the Palestine rally was more than double the size of the Zionists’, which could muster only around 200 people who assembled a few hundred metres away.

This was a very important mobilisation for the Palestine solidarity campaign in Australia, as it comes in the midst of the vicious repression of student pro-Palestine protests in the US, and follows an attack by far-right Israel supporters on a student protest camp at Monash University in Melbourne at 2am on Thursday morning. In that attack, a dozen thugs tore down tents and destroyed donated food while blaring a far-right Israeli song celebrating the genocide in Gaza. The pro-Israel rally in Sydney today aimed to stir up and pressure the authorities to crack down on the student camp at Sydney University.

The big mobilisation of Palestine supporters to defend the camp sends a message that the students do not stand alone, that they will not be intimidated, and that any attempt to violently suppress their right to protest—whether by Zionist thugs, university management or police—will have to contend with hundreds of determined students, and the broader Palestine movement, which has mobilised thousands upon thousands of people weekly for the last 7 months.

The ideological attacks on the protest camp by politicians and the media have deployed the usual bogus claims of anti-semitism—arguing that a peaceful protest against genocide somehow makes Sydney University unsafe for Jewish students and staff. The protest today refuted those claims, with numerous anti-Zionist Jewish speakers addressing the crowd.

Protest camp organiser and MC of today’s rally, Yasmine Johnson, spoke of her Jewish family’s suffering during the Holocaust, and denounced the cynical attempts by Zionists to use that genocide to justify Israel’s current atrocities against the Palestinians. American Jewish academic Mark LeVine spoke of his son being one of the brave protesters at UCLA who had just been attacked by Zionist vigilantes and police.

Vivienne Porzsolt from Jews Against the Occupation ‘48, Maggie from Jewish collective Tzedek, and Jewish professor Peter Slezak also spoke, alongside Ahmed Abadla, a Palestinian activist from Khan Younis in Gaza, which was recently devastated by Israeli bombing. The National Tertiary Education Union’s Sydney University branch President Nick Riemer, and the university’s Student Representative Council President Harrison Brennan also spoke.

The activist group Students for Palestine established the protest camp at Sydney University on 23 April, following the lead of students in the US. Like many US universities, Sydney University has links with companies complicit in the genocide in Gaza, such as weapons manufacturers Thales and Ratheon, which are both involved in supplying Israel with the military hardware and software it uses to commit massacres of the Palestinian population.

Universities around the world have so far refused to meet student demands that they disclose and break their ties with Israel—indicating they would rather support a genocide, and in many instances the crushing of their own students’ democratic rights to protest, than deliver any change. The student protests continue to spread to new campuses around Australia, as well as the UK, France, New Zealand, and some Arab countries. At Sydney University, the students have vowed to stay as long as they can to break their university’s ties with Israel and stop the genocide in Gaza.

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