Sydney protest calls for intifada

An antisemitic placard at the anti-Israel protest in Sydney, Australia, on 17 December 2017. Photo by Julie Nathan

Once again, Sydney Town Hall was the scene of flags emblazoned with images of guns, chants calling for an uprising and ethnic cleansing, and hate-filled war-cries in the name of Allah. NSW state politicians, Labor’s Shaoquett Moselmane and the Greens’ Mehreen Faruqi, were among those who addressed the crowd of approximately 800 Muslim protesters, most of them wearing Islamic and Middle Eastern dress, and a small assortment of socialists and others.

The event on Sunday was to protest the recognition by the US President of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Trump’s declaration was merely a recognition of the fact that Jerusalem has been the seat of government in Israel since 1948; it did not pre-empt any outcome in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The protest in Sydney was one of several across Australia.

Shaoquett Moselmane asserted that “Jerusalem is, always was and always will be, the capital of Palestine” – but could not give even one example from history when this was the case. He condemned Donald Trump, and condemned the Balfour Declaration (which supported a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine). Moselmane denounced the “70 year occupation” of Palestine, meaning that he considers the State of Israel itself to be “occupied Palestine” with no right to exist. Moselmane’s words deny the right of self-determination for the Jewish people in their national homeland.

Mehreen Faruqi reverted to name-calling, invoking the mindless mantra that designates Israel as a “settler colonial apartheid state”. She demanded the “return of refugees” (and their descendants ad infinitum) to Israel, rather than to a Palestinian state. Such a demand, if implemented, would turn Israel into another majority Arab state, thus destroying Israel as the world’s only Jewish majority state. She then stated that “the Greens will continue to stand” in support of Palestine.

One Palestinian speaker, Jamil, an older man, said he would speak in Arabic, as what he wanted to say was “not good to say in English”. He then proceeded into an angry tirade in Arabic with flying fist, eliciting wild cheers from the crowd. Shouts of “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is great) burst forth from the agitated crowd.

During the speeches outside Town Hall and the march to the US Consulate in Martin Place, the protesters bellowed three main chants: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”; “Resistance is justified, while Palestine is occupied”; and “Intifada, intifada”. These chants deny Israel’s right to exist, and call for the destruction of Israel, and its Jewish population, through armed violence.

The most egregious placard was one referring to Jews as pigs and monkeys through the use of images of the animals and Stars of David. This characterisation of Jews derives from several verses in the Quran (2:65, 5:60, and 7:166) which refer to Jews as the descendants of apes and pigs. In addition, the placard had an image of lions, referring to Palestinians, with the word “Target” between them and the Jews, thus conveying the message that Palestinians are to hunt and target Jews.

Another placard read: “The only response to Trump’s decision is a Third Intifada”. Other placards read: “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine”, “Stop Israeli apartheid and genocide of Palestinians”, and “The Capital of Israel is Hell”. A man selling badges had one which bore the words: “Go to hell fucking Zionist”.

There were many Palestinian flags present. There were also the flags of armed Palestinian militias including Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) (which carried out a series of plane hijackings in the 1960s and 1970s), and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) (which perpetrated the Ma’alot massacre in 1974 in which 25 schoolchildren and teachers were killed). There were several Hezbollah flags flying, some were draped around people. Hezbollah’s External Security Organisation is proscribed as a terrorist entity by the EU, US, Arab League, Australia, and other countries.

Sydney University academic, Dr. Tim Anderson, proudly held a Hezbollah flag in the form of a fringed banner. Anderson has been a vocal supporter of Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, and has defended Assad against accusations that his forces have used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shite Islamist group which aims at the destruction of Israel. Hezbollah has a history of promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial, and terrorist acts against Jews. It is widely held to have been responsible for the bombing of the AMIA Jewish centre in Argentina in 1994 killing 85 people.

To protest about the pronouncements of a foreign leader is part of our democratic way of life. However, when such protests wave the flags of proscribed terrorist organisations, including flags bearing assault rifles and other weapons, when placards call Jews apes and pigs, when protesters chant calling for an uprising and ethnic cleansing, and when politicians deny to the Jewish people their right to national self-determination, then the protest has crossed the line into vilification and incitement. This is unacceptable in a society that purports to oppose racism and incitement to violence.

Julie Nathan is the Research Officer for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry

About the Author
Julie Nathan is the Research Director at the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the peak representative body of the Australian Jewish community, and is the author of the annual ECAJ Report on Antisemitism in Australia.
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