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A sea of red, green, black and white across world cities

TJI Pick
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A sea of red, green, black and white across world cities

Published: 24 October 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

Two weeks after more than 1300 Israelis were massacred by Hamas terrorists, the world is outraged but more for the Palestinians of Gaza caught up in the resultant war than for dead or kidnapped Israelis.

Pro-Palestinian rallies were held around the world over the weekend as protesters called for an end to Israel’s war on Gaza, which followed the Hamas attack of October 7.

In Sydney, police estimated 12,000 to 15,000 people joined a pro-Palestinian rally that went ahead without police permission.

In London, about 100,000 turned out for a pro-Palestinian rally to show their support for Palestine and demand an end to the Israeli bombings.

In Berlin, several hundred people defied a ban on pro-Palestinian rallies and took to the streets, wounding more than 60 police officers with stones, flaming liquids and acts of rebellion and resulting in 174 arrests.

In Warsaw, one sign featured the slogan “Keep the world clean” alongside an image of the Israeli flag being thrown in a bin.  The Israeli ambassador to Poland has condemned the march for “blatant antisemitism”, pointing to the placard, which was held by a Norwegian student.  

An antisemitic sign at a Pro-Palestinian rally in Warsaw
An antisemitic sign at a Pro-Palestinian rally in Warsaw

Pro-Palestinian rallies also occurred in Brisbane, Perth, Paris, Brussels, Lausanne, Sarajevo, Kuala Lumpur and Los Angeles, among other places

Rallies in support of Israel were also held around the world but they were fewer and mostly smaller. One exception was in Germany, where 10,000 people turned out to support Israel and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that protecting Jewish life was a “civic duty” as well as a federal mandate.

In Tel Aviv, Rome and at Bondi Beach, sympathisers set up empty shabbat tables with 200 chairs to symbolise the hostages held in Gaza. Some of the settings included highchairs to emphasise the kidnapped babies.

The empty shabbat table outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art
The empty shabbat table outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

But there was also resistance to showing solidarity with Israel. Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore announced she would block a proposal to fly the Israeli flag outside Sydney Town Hall and light the building in blue and white, saying it would be divisive, harmful and counter to the city’s values of harmony and inclusion.

Supporting Palestinians or defending terrorism?

Participants in the Sydney rally were warned to protest peacefully, and not burn flags, cover their faces or make antisemitic or racist statements, following a controversial protest in front of the Sydney Opera House on October 9, where some people were heard yelling antisemitic chants.

Demonstrators chanted “Long Live the Intifada” and “Resistance is justified when Palestine is occupied”.

Many of the rallies also used the chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, which implies the destruction of Israel and its replacement with Palestine.

In Britain, Home Decretary Suella Braverman  labelled the slogan antisemitic and Jewish groups have asked prosecutors to clarify whether chanting the slogan is a criminal offence.

The slogan’s defenders describe it as a “longstanding protest chant” that calls for a homeland for the Palestinian people.

London police said that although the chant could be unlawful outside a synagogue or Jewish school, or addressed directly to a Jewish person, it would not be considered an offence in a wider protest setting.

NSW Premier Chris Minns urged the public to remember that celebrating terrorists and commemorating their deaths could breach federal laws that prohibit terrorism and violence. He said Hezbollah, for instance, was designated as a terrorist organisation by the Australian government.

His comments follow a report that a Sydney mosque held a service remembering three Hezbollah soldiers who died in Lebanon as “martyrs”.

About 100,000 turn out in London for pro-Palestine rally (Guardian)

Mass arrests following pro-Palestinian rally in Berlin (Euronews)

Large crowds in London, Berlin, demand release of hostages, denounce Hamas evil (Times of Israel)

Thousands of Germans and wide range of politicians show up to pro-Israel Berlin rally (JTA)

Colours of Palestinian flag take over streets in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth as thousands attend rallies (ABC)

Minns warns against commemorating terrorist deaths (SMH)

Moore to block proposal to light up Sydney Town Hall in Israeli colours (SMH)

Thousands from the art world issue letter denouncing Israel, and failing to mention Hamas’ massacre (Haaretz)  
After artists, gallerists and other art world members published the open letter, which featured the work of an artist who mocked an Israeli hostage. Over 2000 artists, most of whom are Israeli, responded: ‘You dehumanise us all’.

BBC will no longer use the term 'militants' to describe Hamas (JC)
The BBC has been mired in controversy over its coverage of the war in Israel and characterisation of Hamas.

Photo: A pro-Palestinian protester has her face painted in Palestinian colours at a rally in London (EPA/ANDY RAIN)

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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