For decades, it was only Arab and Muslim communities and sections of the socialist left in Australia that turned out to demonstrate in solidarity with Palestine. Others were intimidated by the slander that opposition to Israel is anti-Semitic, were affected by Islamophobia or didn’t see Palestine as an issue worthy of their time.
That’s all changed. Israel’s genocide has provoked a historic movement across the country. Streets in major cities have become seas of red, white, black and green—the colours of the Palestinian flag—as tens of thousands rally each week to demand an end to Israel’s bombing of Gaza.
They are the biggest anti-war demonstrations since the mass marches against the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and have become one of the largest sustained anti-war movements in Australian history.
The protests are part of a movement for Palestine that has erupted across the Western world. Protesters in Germany and France last year defied heavy state repression to mobilise tens of thousands. Just last month in London, half a million people marched.
In an important development, layers of young Jews in the US are breaking with Zionism. Jewish Voice for Peace has organised and led dozens of occupations, rallies and sit-ins in solidarity with the Palestinian people, mobilising thousands of young anti-Zionist activists.
The endurance of the movement in Australia—entering its fourth month—is remarkable.
There have been massive and consistent weekly rallies, blockades of docks, occupations of train stations, historic high school walkouts, pro-Palestine motions passed in city councils and protests against weapons companies directly profiting from Israel’s war. Travel on public transport and you’re guaranteed to see a symbol of support for Palestine—stickers, posters, graffiti—or someone wearing a keffiyeh, a traditional Palestinian scarf and symbol of resistance.
Palestine is now an issue that wider layers of people are identifying with. That’s a victory in itself. The evidence was at this year’s Melbourne Invasion Day protest: Palestinian flags and Aboriginal flags waved in unison among a 50,000-strong crowd chanting: “From the river to the sea, always was, always will be!”
The genocide of the Palestinians is the epitome of capitalist horror. All the governments supporting Israel’s campaign of slaughter—from the USA, to Australia, to the Arab regimes, to Russia and China—are a part of the same blood-soaked club: the global ruling class, which owns and controls most of society’s wealth.
They carry out their own genocides, wage wars and oppress and exploit workers and the poor. The global ruling classes create immense suffering, death and destruction as they compete against each other for power and profit. Palestinian oppression is the outcome not only of Israeli aggression; it is baked into capitalist imperialism (the competition between ruling classes for the world’s resources and for global influence). So the movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people is connected to a wider struggle against the entire system and the criminals who run it.
The global Palestine movement has made history. Yet ruling classes across the world remain steadfast in their support for Israel. This isn’t the first time governments have supported industrial-scale slaughter—over the last two decades, US-led wars have resulted in millions of deaths, according to the Costs of War project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.
The war on Gaza won’t be the last time they do this.
The challenge for supporters of Palestine is to redouble our efforts to grow our movement to be as big, enduring and powerful as possible. We can’t let the horrors unfolding in Gaza become background noise, normalised by the mainstream media as just another “ongoing conflict.” We can’t let our governments mutter platitudes about “international humanitarian law” while green-lighting this genocide. We need to continue to build ongoing movements against them and the violent, blood-soaked system of capitalist barbarity they run.
Human Rights Watch, an international investigative and reporting organisation, says that it has “significant human rights concerns” about Australia’s treatment of refugees and Aboriginal people.
To drive a whole people out of their land—to turn it into something akin to the Zionist myth of Palestine, supposedly “a land without a people for a people without a land”—requires many things. Most obviously, it requires the killing and terrorising of Palestinian people on a colossal scale.
What would you do with $1.5 million? You could put down deposits on ten median-priced Sydney houses, or you could buy one outright and spare yourself the crushing mortgage repayments.
The level of suffering in Gaza is more than the human mind can comprehend. As the war enters its twentieth week, it feels increasingly obscene to be going about daily life while an entire people are being systematically destroyed, their lives, histories and culture blown to pieces or buried under rubble.
The Banyule Palestine Action Group has collected more than 600 signatures on a petition calling on Banyule City Council, in Melbourne’s north-east, to pass a motion supporting an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, in line with motions passed in other councils across Australia.
Asked how she stays hopeful as a 63-year-old socialist and Palestinian living in the diaspora, Reem Yunis replies: “I don’t have the luxury not to be inspired. My grandparents died without seeing a liberated Palestine, my parents died and were buried in the diaspora. Most of my people are living in the diaspora, and the ones in Palestine are being robbed of water, resources and every bit of land they have. We need to have hope and fight, because if we won’t fight for a free Palestine, who will?”