A huge police presence including Riot Squad and helicopters hovering overheard greeted thousands of pro-Palestine protestors who marched through the centre of Sydney to protest against the state visit of Israel’s controversial prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Waving Palestinian, Australian and Aboriginal flags and chanting, “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians” there was a palpable sense of anger that the Australian Government was for the first time hosting an official visit for an Israeli leader.
Others popular chants throughout the evening protest included, ‘Israel, USA – how many kids did you kill today?” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
WATCH THE VIDEO OF THE PROTESTS BELOW
Mr Netanyahu has not only been facing mounting pressure over his policies in the West Bank and Gaza but a growing corruption probe by Israeli authorities looking at whether he and his family have illegally taken payments from billionaires including Australian businessman, James Packer.
Many speakers at the rally made the point that there was a connection in how the Israeli Government treated Palestinians and how the Australian Government had treated and continued to treat Indigenous Australians as second-class citizens.
“We should not be surprised that our Government and Opposition are so sickeningly eager to reassure the war criminal Netanyahu of Australia’s friendship,” writer Randa Abdel-Fattah said.
“This is not a Palestinian problem, it is a settler-colonial problem and Australia knows all about settler-colonialism. We are still celebrating our own Indigenous populations’ Naqba on 26 January. Little wonder our Government is so quick to emphasise Australia’s shared values with Israel.”
Other speakers at the rally organised by the Palestine Action Group included NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge, NSW Labor MP Julia Finn as well as Indigenous elder Ken Canning from the Indigenous Social Justice Association.
Protestors stopped in front of the US Embassy during the march as well as going as close as possible to the Intercontinental Hotel where Mr Netanyahu and his wife, Sarah, are staying while in Sydney.
“I hope he goes to the pits of and can stay in Hell,” one masked protestor told PR 4 THE PPL.
“Get the hell out of our country Netanyahu,” another said.
Jewish people were also at the rally and shared their disgust with the Israeli leader.
“You betrayed the Shoah, you betrayed us, you betray the Palestinian people,” one woman told PR 4 THE PPL. “Never again is now, and never again is for everybody.”
Mr Netanyahu has spent his time in Australia so far visiting Jewish schools and meeting with political leaders.
On Wednesday (February 22), he delivered a speech at the Central Synagogue at Bondi in Sydney’s eastern suburbs which has a strong Jewish population where he told a 2000-strong crowd that Australia was Israel’s best friend.
“There’s no better friend for the state of Israel,” he told the crowd.
Mr Netanyahu will be departing Australia after the weekend.