Anti-Israel demo in CBD

The pro-Palestinian demonstration in Melbourne. Photo: AAP Image/Luis Ascui

POLICE kept pro-Gaza demonstrators and anti-Islamist groups apart during a noisy demonstration on the steps of the State Library last Saturday, in the wake of Hamas’s attempts to breach Israel’s borders.

More than 100 people took part in the CBD rally, organised by Australian Friends of Palestine, and promoted by the Islamic Council of Victoria, which saw pro-Palestinian activists and left-wing groups pitted against the right-wing Australian Liberty Alliance and Q Society.

Around 20 Jewish supporters joined a group of some 70 opponents to the anti-Israel demonstrators with an information booth billed as an impromptu “Israeli embassy” and singing Australian patriotic songs.

David Schulberg, who was at the rally making a video for JMedia Online, told The AJN a pro-Gaza speaker hurled insults and abusive language. “He called [late former Israeli PM] Golda Meir a whore,” Schulberg said.

There were also calls by speakers for Australia’s Israel ambassador to be expelled, and for boycotts of “apartheid” Israel.

During the rally, pro-Palestinian demonstrators conducted a march before returning to hear further speeches.

Zionist Federation of Australia president Danny Lamm described the speakers as “the same motley group of recalcitrant anti-Israel activists”.

“The majority of the Australian community knows who the source of aggression is and who is responsible that there isn’t peace, and it isn’t Israel. If the demonstration had not been on Shabbat and on a chag, we would not discourage Jewish people from attending and opposing these groups.”

Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Anton Block said, “Many people have woken up to the despicable Hamas strategy of using Palestinian civilians as media fodder under cover of whom armed Hamas terrorists try to infiltrate into Israel to wreak murder and mayhem.

“It is little wonder that the recent YouGov Galaxy poll shows that Australians almost unanimously view Hamas as an enemy of Australia, and this was reflected in the small numbers who attended the public demonstration in support of this latest round of Hamas-led violence.

“A handful of members of the Jewish community and others felt compelled to stage their own small counter-demonstration, as is their right, though given how marginal and limited the pro-Hamas voice is in Australia, it is difficult to see what they achieved, other than to give the inconsequential pro-Hamas demonstration media attention it would likely not otherwise have attracted,” he said.

PETER KOHN