Protests demand UNRWA funding restored as Israel starves Palestinians

Protesters in Meanjin/Brisbane call for an immediate ceasefire
Protesters in Meanjin/Brisbane call for an immediate ceasefire in Israel's war on Gaza at the March 3 rally. Image: Alex Bainbridge/Green Left

By Alex Bainbridge, Peter Boyle, Isaac Nellist, Jacob Andrewartha, Jordan Ellis, Alex Salmon, Stephen W Enciso and Khaled Ghannam of Green Left

Thousands marched for Palestine across Australia at the weekend in the wake of Israel’s massacre of more than 100 starving Palestinians who were trying to get flour from an aid truck southwest of Gaza City.

Israel’s siege on Gaza has stopped Palestinians from accessing food, medical supplies and other crucial aid. A United Nations report found that more than 90 percent of the population, more than 2 million people, are facing starvation and malnutrition.

This is made worse by the cutting of funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) by Western governments, the main organisation providing aid to Gaza, after Israel alleged that 12 of its 30,000 staff were involved in the October 7 incursion.

The Labor government has refused to restore funding to UNRWA despite foreign minister Penny Wong conceding she had not seen any evidence to support Israel’s allegations.

“Our government has suspended funding to UNRWA when instead it should be restoring it and increasing it,” Greens senator Larissa Waters told the Meanjin/Brisbane rally on March 3, reported Alex Bainbridge.

Waters said that Foreign Minister Penny Wong was right to condemn Israel’s attack on food vans but that she was “not bowled over by the strength of response because Senator Wong has said she’s going to get her department to have a little word to the Israeli ambassador”.

“That’s all she’s going to do after we saw desperate parents getting slaughtered [while getting] food for their children.”

‘Solidarity with Palestinian women’
The rally had a “Solidarity with Palestinian women” theme in recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8.

Call on global Jewish community to rise up against Israel’s genocide in Gaza.   Video: Green Left

Protesters held a minute’s silence in recognition of United States Air Force serviceperson Aaron Bushnell who self-immolated on February 25 in protest against the US government’s participation in genocide.

Israel has begun its bombardment offensive against Rafah, the small city in southern Gaza where 1.4 million people are sheltering. More than 30,500 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7.

A YouGov survey found that more than 80 percent of Australians support an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, showing the Palestine solidarity movement has cut through the establishment media pro-Israel messaging.

Edie Shepherd, from the Tzedek Collective, an anti-Zionist Jewish group told thousands at the rally in Gadigal/Sydney on March 3 that the global Jewish community must “rise up against the dominant Zionist frameworks that wield hate, power militarism to carry out atrocities against Palestinians”, reported Peter Boyle.

“The greatest shame is that our survival of genocide has been weaponised to commit genocide against Palestinians now.”

Nasser Mashni, president of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN), told the March 3 rally in Garramilla/Darwin that “Israelis and Zionists want to kill Palestinians”, reported Stephen W Enciso.

Israel's massacre of starving Palestinians has been dubbed the "flour massacre"
Israel’s massacre of starving Palestinians has been dubbed the “flour massacre”. Image: Alex Bainbridge/Green Left

‘They want decolonisation’
“Palestinians do not want to kill Israels. Indigenous folk do not want to kill their colonisers. They just want to be acknowledged. They want [a] treaty. They want their rights. They want restitution. They want racism to stop and decolonisation to start,” he said.

Kulumbirigin Danggalaba Tiwi woman Mililma May drew links between the colonial violence faced by Indigenous people in Australia and Palestine.

She pointed to the coronial inquest into the killing of Kumanjayi Walker by former constable Zachary Rolfe, in which Rolfe gave evidence about widespread racism in the Northern Territory Police Force.

“We are witnessing in plain evidence the racism and the deep horror that exists in the NT police, as across the colony,” May said.

“We live in the same states and under the same violence as Palestine. It just manifests itself in different ways.”

Kites flying for Gaza
A kite-flying for Gaza event was organised by Pilbara for Palestine in Karratha, Western Australia on March 3.

Children made and flew kites decorated with Palestinian flags, watermelons and “Free Palestine” in solidarity with the children on Gaza.

Organiser Chris Jenkins told Green Left that the action “demonstrated once again that support for Palestine exists from the CBD to the bush”.

The community also raised money for UNRWA.

In Muloobinba/Newcastle a “Hands off Rafah” rally and kite-flying event was held on March 2 at Nobby’s Beach, reported Khaled Ghannam.

Former Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, who visited Palestine in June last year, said the Israeli occupation impacts on everything Palestinians do.

“One of the common things that people we interviewed said was, ‘please take our voice to the world’,” she said.

“We are part of a massive global movement, millions of people are on the move around the world in so many countries, with a similar message to us:

  • Ceasefire now,
  • Restore UNRWA funding, and
  • End the occupation.”

She said the UN had called on Australia and other countries to stop arming Israel.

Republished with permission from Green Left.

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