- by Anna Pha
- The Guardian
- Issue #2077
Sydney rallies for Palestine. (Photo: Anna Pha)
Around the world hundreds of thousands of people are taking protest actions, calling for an immediate ceasefire so that food, water and medical aid can enter and be distributed safely in the Gaza Strip.
In Australia, tens of thousands of protesters in the major cities participated – in Sydney and Melbourne 40,000 - 50,000 – in what are now weekly protests. As in previous protests, they were peaceful, secular and pro-Palestinian.
There was a huge demonstration in Chicago with the participation of many Jews, Muslims, Christians and others. There was another in London.
One of the largest actions was in Instanbul, Turkey, where president Recep Erdoğan addressed hundreds of thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters, accusing Israel of behaving like a “war criminal” and trying to “eradicate” Palestinians.
Starvation and dehydration are now weapons of war as Israel only allows a trickle of aid through the Rafah border with Egypt.
Israeli tanks and troops have carried out a staged escalation inside the Gaza Strip while bombs rein down on homes and basic infrastructure. For 36 hours from 27-29 October all phone and internet communications were cut off.
This is not a war against Hamas, it is a brutal massacre of defenceless Palestinian people. More than 40 per cent of those killed are children. No one is spared, not aid workers, journalists, or UN staff. By the end of the third week the number massacred was over 8000 with many more injured.
“The situation in the Gaza Strip is a growing stain on our collective conscience. The rate of death and injuries of children simply staggering,” said Adele Khodr, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Nowhere is safe. People have nowhere to go. They cannot evacuate as directed by Israel. Israel is bombing the evacuation routes, and the north and the south.
More than 650,000 people are sheltering in United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) installations. UNRWA schools have been bombed. UNRWA is close to financial collapse. The overcrowded conditions with lack of adequate sanitation, fresh water and food raise the prospect of serious outbreaks of disease.
UN secretary-general António Guterres stated: “It is important to also recognise the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation. They have seen their land steadily devoured by settlements and plagued by violence, their economy stifled, their people displaced, and the homes demolished. Their hopes for a political solution to their plight have been vanishing.” Israel called for Guterres’ resignation.
On 27 October the UN General Assembly adopted an important resolution calling for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities.” It also demanded “continuous, sufficient and unhindered” provision of lifesaving supplies and services for civilians trapped inside the enclave. General Assembly resolutions are non-binding.
The resolution was carried by 120 to 14 with 45 abstentions. Those voting against include the US, Israel, six Pacific Islands under the influence of the US, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Guatemala. Belgium, Ireland, France, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain supported the call for a humanitarian truce while Canada, the UK, Germany, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Bulgaria, and Australia were amongst the abstentions.
The Australian government’s decision to abstain is disgraceful. In effect it is a vote for the status quo in support of the continued massacre of the Palestinians. It makes a mockery of PM Albanese’s statement that “We need to make sure, as well, that every civilian life is valued, whether it be Israeli or Palestinian – every innocent loss of life is a tragedy.”
Israel has repeatedly ignored UN resolutions on Palestine that call for a return to pre-1967 borders with the creation of a sovereign state of Palestine based on the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem as its capital. The Security Council, which can adopt binding solutions, is thwarted by the US veto powers, undermining international law.
The ongoing Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip sparked by the Hamas terrorist attack on 7 October is a “political and humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions,” said Francesca Albanese, the UN’s human rights expert for the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Albanese said both Israel and Palestine maintain the right to defend themselves militarily, although this response must remain proportional to the perceived threat: “There was an incursion in Israeli territory that resulted in the killing and brutalisation of Israeli civilians, so that incursion had to be repelled.” Once that attack was repelled, the subsequent bombings of Gaza represented violations of international law.
Anthony Albanese, do you have an ounce of humanity? Abide by international law. Stop supporting war crimes. Listen to the voices of the people in the street, not US imperialism. Call for a ceasefire now!