Last week’s rally to demonstrate Brisbane’s solidarity towards the people of Gaza, ignited a spark of emotions, affirmations and a wave of protests which spread like wildfire all over the country.
This week, the fire blazed high with simultaneous protests in Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney.
Today’s demonstrations started with a walking tour around Queens street, organized by Mr. Phil Monsour, a singer, songwriter and an advocate for Gaza, to identify and boycott the stores that stock Sodastream products.
Sodastream, is an Israel based company which operates a major factory in an illegal settlement in occupied Palestine and manufactures environmentally sustainable alternatives to bottled soda drinks.
Earlier this month, the factory came under public scrutiny for dismissing 60 Palestinian workers on July 2nd, following an argument about the supply of insufficient food for the breaking of the Ramadan fast, since the employees were not permitted to bring their own food to work.
“ I have three words for the people gathered here today, boycott, divestment and sanctions,” Mr. Mansour said.
“ Through this act of boycotting sodastream, we have three objectives we wish to achieve. End the international support for Israeli occupation and apartheid. Equal rights for all and the right for all the refugees to return back to their homeland,” he added.
“ There is virtually no support from our parliament and the many organizations that are supposed to be beside us today. We need to shift the solidarity in this country into a political power. Therefore I call upon all the students, religious communities and trade unions to join hands and join us in this movement.”
The boycott of Israeli goods is a part of an international movement known as the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement’, initiated in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian organizations, which gained momentum internationally with the bombardment of Gaza.
Mrs. Isobella Jairus, a mother of two from the Gold Coast, was not aware of the intensity of the Gaza crisis until the shelling of a UN-run school in Gaza three days back.
“I was devastated by the horrific atrocity committed by the Israeli army. Until then I was not sure which side I was on, but after those little children and women were murdered in the shelling, I did my own research and found out that this is an asymmetrical war. The Israeli army targeted a UN run school and that shocked me, because people are not safe even under the protection of the United Nations. I realized that this is not a religious war but a freedom struggle of an oppressed people fighting to reclaim their land,” Mrs. Jairus said.
“I stand for a free Gaza,” she concluded.
After the walking tour, more than a thousand people gathered at the King George Square to demonstrate their solidarity towards the people of Gaza.
After acknowledging the elders of the land, Ms. Rebecca Barrigos quoted the words of Abu Yazan, a young political activist from Gaza, “ The Israeli cabinet is planning to meet up to negotiate ceasefire, but this time the victory is ours, take that fact and give up, Israel.”
Mr. Sameer Elegate, a Palestinian activist and a recent resident of Gaza whose relatives were victims of the war, was the second speaker.
“ I am from Palestine, my family is from Gaza . I called my sister two hours ago and she said that she and her family were safe, but she also said that they were afraid and they were just waiting . At this moment I don’t know if they are safe, that is the situation in Gaza,” Mr. Elegate said.
“ When I told her about our rally today, she said that she has a message for Brisbane. She said – I am a mother, I am a sister, I am a human being. I have every right to live like all of you in Australia, but I’m proud to remain in Palestine, I don’t want to leave Palestine because this is my home and I will hold onto it until I die,” he reiterated.
“She thanks all of you gathered here today to show your support, but she also said – please don’t stop, please support us until the end.
“ This is no longer a Palestinian issue, this is a human rights issue. We want to see non Palestinians from all over the world, people from different religions, color, culture and political alliance, we must all stand together in support for Palestine.
“ To make your actions matter you can do one thing. Boycott Israel, don’t buy any product made in Israel, don’t buy any product with a barcode starting with 729.
“They say that the Hamas is hiding behind the backs of the civilians to fight this war, yet after bombing hospitals, homes and schools repeatedly, the only dead bodies left behind are of women and little children. Please don’t fall for this deception anymore.”
Speakers Mr. Boe Spearim and Mr. Calum Clayton Dixon, representing the Brisbane aboriginal sovereign embassy affirmed their support for the movement by sharing the fact that even though the Aboriginal community and the Palestinian community were two different civilizations with separate cultural values, they share the same struggle for freedom from oppression.
“We say white Australia has a black history. Similarly Israel will always have a Palestinian history,” Mr. Spearim said.
On behalf of the Queensland teacher’s union, Mr. Kevin Bates, the president, voiced his support for a free Gaza and an end to the oppression.
On the other hand two other speakers, Mr. Jake Schoermer representing the QLD Greens and Dr. Imran Ali from the QLD Shia Council, were shuffled off the stage after they offended the crowd during their speech.
The microphone was snatched from Mr. Schoermer’s grasp while the crowd heckled him, and a protestor even pelted a shoe at the Greens spokesperson after he denounced Hamas for ‘war crimes’. Meanwhile a policeman had to interfere in order to prevent Dr. Ali from provoking the mass any further.
After the commencement of the speeches, the protestors marched around Queens street chanting and demonstrating their solidarity for the people of Gaza.