Demonstrations on the steps of the State Library in Melbourne took place on Tuesday 15 May 2018 and subsequently in other cities of Australia in the wake of killing of more than 100 Palestinian protesters and injuries to thousands perpetrated by Israeli snipers at the Gaza border.
This comes as countless funerals are being held in Gaza as Israeli snipers and soldiers open fire at Palestinian protesters, in what has been called the bloodiest day of violence on Monday 15 May since 2014 Gaza war resulting in more than 55 killed and hundreds injured on a single day.
This includes an eight-month-old baby who died from tear gas that her family said she inhaled at a protest camp.
Frustrations are mounting on the long stating dispute as Israel celebrates its independence at the expense of the displacement of Palestinians.
A somber vigil was held last Tuesday 15 May in Melbourne to protest the violence, in commemoration of Al-Nakba (15 May 1948, known to Palestinians as ‘The Catastrophe’). The vigil was organised by the Australian Palestinian Advocacy Network (APAN) to mourn the relatives of Australian Palestinian families who were killed.
Tasneem Sammak, a young Australian Palestinian woman who attended the vigil painfully expressed the loss of her relatives.
“On Monday night we received news that my dad’s cousin was martyred at the Gaza borders. His name is Izzidin Sammak, he is 14 years old”, explained Tasneem.
Sadly for Tasneem, this is not the first time she has received news of the death of her family members from the conflict.
“It was raining (at the vigil) and we were struggling to find the words to express the outrage and pain we felt at what we witnessed through our television news feeds”, Tasneem expressed.
Those that attended held posters carrying the names of the villagers who were killed from the violence of 1948.
At the vigil,“five of us (Australian) Palestinians said some words to commemorate Nakba and express what it means for us on a personal and political level”.
“It weighs very heavily on our hearts” she said.
Whilst overseas, adding fuel to the fire amidst the violence, only a few kilometres away, the United States opened its new embassy in Jerusalem.
For many, Donald Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem has been a full frontal blow to the peace process and the Palestinian people.
The diplomatic rebuff has made it increasingly difficult for Palestinian negotiators to consider America as an ‘honest peace broker’.
Speaking briefly to 3AW, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull acknowledged the cross-border violence.
“Any loss of life is tragic in these circumstances,” Mr Turnbull told the radio station.
However, Mr Turnbull also acknowledged that Hamas must take responsibility for its confrontational stance towards Israeli.
According to a recent Crikey article written by John Power, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has been reported to have anticipated an increase of violence in Gaza. Yet, despite this, the Australian Government has remained tight-lipped about the situation.
Carefully considering the issue, Ms Julie Bishop’s department has reportedly been closely monitoring the situation over the last few months, despite predictions of unrelenting violence.
According to one direct correspondence released by the DFAT, the department was warned that more deaths were anticipated for the April 6th demonstrations by “Israeli countermeasures” following the death of numerous Palestinian protesters on March 30th.
The diplomatic cables, which were obtained under freedom of information laws, reveal that the Tel Aviv embassy briefed Canberra last month, about the killing of numerous Palestinian protesters at the Israel-Gaza border.
When asked why the Australian Department had not issued any public statements on the situation in Gaza in April, DFAT indicated that it had privately raised the issue with the main parties involved.
“Australian officials have raised concerns about the situation on the Gaza perimeter directly with representatives of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” said a DFAT spokesperson.
As the rest of the world remains largely silence about the deaths, some call for an independent inquiry by the United Nations to investigate the situation on the ground. Indeed in opposition to the confrontation, for instance, UK Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has condemned Israel.
He has reportedly stated that Britain should also consider stopping the sale of arms to Israel that “could be used in violation of international law”.
Leader of the Australian Greens Dr Richard Di Natale also condemned the Israeli government for its “deplorable”, “disproportionate” and “excessive use of force.”
“We are distressed that almost 100 mostly unarmed Palestinian protestors have reportedly been killed by Israeli forces since the end of March on the border with Gaza, including at least four minors and two journalists,” said Senator Di Natale.
The Senator acknowledged that the Turnbull Government has repeatedly refused to speak out against Israel’s defence measures which have been violating international law.
“It’s well past time for both the old parties to recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel,” urged Senator Di Natale.
The UK, France and Germany had expressed “serious concern and called for the proportionate use of force and respect for the right to protest,” said the correspondence.
Australia has officially stated its commitment to a two-state solution in the hotly disputed area.
“Whereby the Israeli people and the Palestinian people can live in peace side-by-side within internationally recognised boundaries remains our foreign policy objective” said Foreign Minister Juile Bishop.
The Australian Government has urged both Israel and Palestine to turn down the heat.
According to the former Australian Institute of International Affairs’ President Professor Peter Boyce, Australia’s major political parties pay a “lavish praise in Parliament on the Israeli political and economic achievement without a single mention of the fate of the Palestinian.”
He went on to say that this inequality must be acknowledged as the celebration of Israel’s national success should not be at the expense of the Palestinian people.
“One must hope that any fresh parliamentary tributes this month might include at least a passing acknowledgment of the Nakba,” said Professor Peter Boyce.
Australian Institute of International Affairs, 14th May 2018, written by Professor Peter Boyce, available in: http://www.internationalaffairs.org.au/australianoutlook/death-knell-of-two-state-solution/
Crikey, 5 May 2018, written by the John Power, ‘Secret cables reveal Bishop likely knew Gaza conflict would escalate’, available in: https://www.crikey.com.au/2018/05/15/dfat-kept-close-watch-on-deaths-in-gaza-as-turnbull-government-kept-silence-on-the-violence/