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Support and hate for Israel on Australian streets

Deborah Stone
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Sydney Opera House lit in blue and white

Sydney Opera House lit in blue and white in solidarity with Israel on October 9 2023 (TJI)

Published: 9 October 2023

Last updated: 19 March 2024

The Australian government has expressed its support for Israel but in Sydney some people celebrated the deaths of hundreds of civilians.

Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has expressed his distress for the hundreds of Israeli civilians killed and kidnapped by Hamas and criticised Australians who held pro-Palestinian demonstration in the face of Israel's trauma.

Ahead of a march held by Palestine Action Group on Monday evening, Albanese said the demonstration should be cancelled in light of the loss of life and what he described as the indefensible actions of Hamas. “I support people’s right to demonstrate their views,” he told 2GB’s Chris O’Keefe on Monday afternoon. But, he said the demonstration was not conducive to peace. "What we saw on the weekend was not two military forces engaging. This was people killing innocent civilians."

“There’s nothing to celebrate by the murder of innocent civilians going about their day. Some of those have been captured are young people who were attending a rave, enjoying life and enjoying each other’s company," he added in an interview on Channel 9.

But in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba, hundreds of people rallied in support of Hamas, celebrating the deaths of Israelis. The crowd chanted, “Allahu Akbar” and Sheikh Ibrahim Dadoun told the crowd, “I’m smiling and I’m happy. I’m elated. It’s a day of courage, it’s a day of pride, it’s a day of victory. This is the day we’ve been waiting for.”

At the city march, protestors burning an Israeli flag on the Opera House steps, waved Palestinian flags and chanted "Free Palestine" and "Allahu Akbar". During a minute of silence for Palestinian victims of Israel’s retaliatory raids on Gaza, several members of the crowd starting chanting “Death to the Jews” in Arabic. An organiser cut short the silence to stop the chant.

About 1000 pro-Palestinian demonstrated at the Sydney Town Hall, while about 500 gathered at the Opera House.

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies warned the Jewish community avoid the area for their own safety. There was a heavy police presence and one man was removed by police when he attempted to unroll an Israeli flag in the midst of the pro-Palestinian protest.

The NSW government lit the Sydney Opera House sails in blue and white in solidarity with Israel on Monday night. Similar displays were mounted at major monuments around the world including the Eiffel Tower, Brandenburg Gate and Downing Street and on major buildings in Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane.

A small rally in support of Israel was held on Sunday night at Federation Square in Melbourne and a solidarity event was held at Temple Beth Israel. A rally is planned for Sydney on Wednesday night. (The location will be sent on registration.)

Across the Jewish community, shock waves reverberated as people contacted family and friends in Israel. So far there have been no reports of Australians killed, injured or captured in the fighting but several community members reported the loss of friends or relatives. Large numbers of Australians are visiting Israel and many are trying to leave.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Penny Wong spoke to Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen to send a message of Australian support.

"Australia unequivocally condemns the attacks on Israel by Hamas including indiscriminate rocket fire on cities and civilians. We call for these attacks to stop and recognise Israel’s right to defend itself. Australia urges the exercise of restraint and protection of civilian lives," she said.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry released a statement condemning the attacks. "These acts constitute egregious war crimes in their targeting of civilians and are an armed attack against a sovereign state. We expect the State of Israel to take all necessary measures to defend itself and to defeat the terror forces of Hamas and restore peace for Israel’s citizens." 
 
The Zionist Federation of Australia condemned the "reprehensible Hamas attack on Israeli civilians".

ZFA Director of Public Affairs, Bren Carlill, said, “This is an appalling, unprovoked attack that breaches all norms. Hamas is firing rockets at cities and villages. It is shooting civilians in cold blood in their homes. It is taking hostages, including elderly women, and parading the bodies of its victims through the streets. These crimes against humanity reveal not just the tactics of Hamas but the depravity of the movement and its real agenda - an agenda of murder, of genocide. We stand with Israel’s right and duty to defend itself and its citizens.”

The Australian Progressive movement also released a statement of support. "We stand with Israel, its citizens and the Israel Defence Forces. We pray for a swift resolution to the unprovoked aggression."

Photo: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese talks about Israel on Sky News

About the author

Deborah Stone

Deborah Stone is Editor-in-Chief of TJI. She has more than 30 years experience as a journalist and editor, including as a reporter and feature writer on The Age and The Sunday Age, as Editor of the Australian Jewish News and as Editor of ArtsHub.

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