Over 6,000 people attended a pro-Palestinian rally in Sydney’s Hyde Park on Sunday 15th October 2023, despite opposition from NSW Premier Chris Minns and senior police to the rally going ahead.
The rally called for an end to the intensive bombing and total blockade of Gaza by Israel following attacks by Hamas militants on 7th October 2023. Both the ongoing bombing and blockade of Gaza’s civilian population were condemned by speakers as acts of collective punishment prohibited under the Geneva Conventions.
At the time of the rally, Israeli airstrikes had flattened parts of Gaza and left at least 2,200 dead and more than 8,700 injured.
Speakers at the rally included co-organisers, Josh Lees and Fahad Ali, as well as A/Prof Peter Slezak (University of NSW academic), Ramin Abdo Sultan (executive member, Australian Palestine Advocacy Network) and Dr Mehreen Faruqi (Greens Senator) among others.
Peter Slezak, a long term advocate of the Palestinian cause, stated that “it’s not anti-Jewish to protest the crimes of the State of Israel”. He said that he was one of many Jews in Australia and around the world who were “distressed and ashamed, not for the first time, by what Israel is doing in our name.”
Slezak described the people of Gaza as having been “under the most brutal, inhumane and illegal blockade … a crime in international law for the past 16 years.”
“The present assault on Gaza”, Slezak said, “is not a war but a cowardly act of terrorism. It is perpetrated by the most sophisticated military force against a defenceless population.” he said.
Slezak noted that Israel’s Minister of Defence, Yoav Gallant, “has openly, publicly admitted that they’re committing major war crimes … he has called the Palestinians of Gaza animals and he announced the full closure of the Gaza Strip including cutting food supplies, water, electricity and fuel. These are the most grotesque war crimes.”
Slezak added that entire civilian residential districts have been bombed to rubble. “This is not targeted at Hamas … This is a devastation of the civilian population”, he said.
In conclusion, Slezak stated that “we must stand in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and the Gazan struggle in particular, for national liberation and self-determination towards a very long denied peace with justice. We must demand an end to the Israeli assault on Gaza and we must have a shared vision of the future for all the people of the region, Israelis and Palestinians alike.”