July 26 March for Palestine

Israel’s latest offensive in Gaza has been met with a swathe of protests throughout the world. Mass demonstrations took place in Paris, London, and Berlin, as well a multitude of other countries. New Zealand was no exception.

On Saturday the 26th of July over 400 people marched from Cuba street to the Israeli embassy demanding that the bombing campaign stop, that the siege on Gaza is lifted, and that the Israeli ambassador is expelled from New Zealand. The protest was organized by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) in conjunction with the Wellington branch of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). The New Zealand government has remained silent on the latest Israeli offensive, so the citizens felt they needed to take a stance.

The demonstration drew support from a wide range of peoples all concerned with ending the deaths of thousands of Palestinians and a handful of Israelis. As of the 27th of July, the death toll sits at 1200 Palestinians and 40 Israeli soldiers. Besieged within a strip of land the size of Lower Hutt, the Palestinians are being massacred and have nowhere to escape to. Even UN hospitals are being targeted. By the time the protest began a twelve hour ceasefire had been issued. The ceasefire is merely a temporary respite for a situation of perpetual conflict. The protesters remained intent on condemning the recent attacks and raising awareness about the seventy years of occupation that Palestinians have endured.

At 12 o’clock, the protest began. A loud chorus of people moved down Cuba street, onto Manners, down Willis, before arriving at the Israeli embassy on Brandon Street. The beautiful, blue-skied day was interrupted with chants such as “Free, Free Palestine” and the almost cyclical “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea…” Agitators were few and easily ignored. The occasional ‘Go home’ was quickly trodden down.

Israel’s military might and their backing by the US has led to scepticism regarding the claim of self-defense. More and more people around the world are appearing to be losing sympathy and are becoming suspicious at the death of hundreds of Palestinians with minimal casualties on the Israeli side.

As time proceeds, the dire situation is appearing more and more like a massacre. On the 20th of July, The Times of Israel noted that the a pro-Israeli march in London amounted to 1500 people. During the Second Intifada, 30,000 supporters turned up. Israel’s position is becoming more and more insupportable.

The main demands of the rally here in New Zealand were for New Zealand to expel the Israeli ambassador and to break off diplomatic relations with Israel for as long as Gaza remains under siege. The comparison to apartheid South Africa is fitting. New Zealand has long seen itself as a political active nation that stood firm during the Springbok tour with most of the public disagreeing to engage with an apartheid Africa, yet no noise is made about the much quieter Israeli apartheid with big brother American helping them out via support and finance.

BDS Wellington calls for the boycotting of Israeli goods and services. The effectiveness of boycotting is validated through looking back to South Africa in the 1980s. BDS calls for the boycotting of products such as Motorola, Hewlett Packard and SodaStream. Israeli cultural and academic exports should also be boycotted. BDS claims that the economy and cultural standing of Israel feed into its program of apartheid. Israel must be held to account for its apartheid policies.

Rallies are planned in Auckland and Wellington on Saturdays regularly, until the offensive stops and the siege on Gaza is lifted. However, Students for Justice in Palestine and BDS feel it is necessary to build long term efforts towards the struggle for peace. To meet fellow concerned citizens, learn more about the conflict, and help develop useful strategies please come to the movie screening of The Iron Wall on Friday the 15th of August at Victoria University.