Al-Shifa Hospital No More: Sydney Fills the Streets as the Horrors of Gaza Escalate

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Gaza horror

Six long weeks into the neocolonial crime of the century, Israel continues the all-out carpet-bombing assault on Gaza and has followed up with a ground invasion, as it ethnically cleanses the Palestinian population of the region with genocidal intent, and the view is to pushing them out and into Egypt.

The nature of crime against humanity has become increasingly apparent the further into this Israeli-produced nightmare-by-design we progress, as the wholesale slaughter of 2.3 million Palestinians held within the walled-off Gaza Strip, is a crime that harms and devalues every one of us.

The last week saw Israeli troops storm Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest facility in Gaza. People fleeing were shot down. Patients were left to die, while 31 of the 39 prematurely born babies were eventually evacuated in an ambulance hopefully to some sort of safety in Egypt. 

Israel claims the centre is a Hamas stronghold. The Israeli state claims Hamas embeds itself within public infrastructure to deter attack. However, the proof provided to support these claims post-assault on Al-Shifa and other hospitals has been ridiculed after this evidence has been broadcast.

Over 12,000 Palestinians have been slaughtered since 7 October. More than 5,000 were children. Gazans have been living under a close-to-starvation level blockade for the last 16 years, and since the genocide commenced basically all water, food, electricity, fuel and medicine has been cut off.

And yet again despite a general frowning upon pro-Palestinian protest by authorities here, thousands took over the Sydney CBD on Sunday to show their outrage over the wanton killing that our government continues to support, despite having tossed around the idea of a ceasefire.

And the message is increasingly clear: there’s a massive disconnect between the political class in this country and the general outlook of civil society.

Do you condemn the genocide?

“They have attempted to erase Palestine from the world, but the world has become Palestine,” said Palestine Action Group Sydney’s Assala Sayara on Sunday. “I’m Palestinian by birth. But Palestine is not just my homeland. Palestine is all I am. It is my yesterday. It is my today, and it is my tomorrow.”

“Albanese get your language right. This is not a conflict. What more do you want to see? How much more bloodshed until you call for a ceasefire?” the Palestinian activist continued. “We will not engage in a conversation that begins with do you condemn the 7 October.”

Palestine Action Group Sydney spokesperson Assala Sayara asks if we support the genocide
Palestine Action Group Sydney spokesperson Assala Sayara asks if we support the genocide

Hamas fighters broke through the Gaza border wall and into Israel on 7 October, killing around 1,300 Israeli military and civilians. These attacks came as the global community was erasing Palestinian presence in the region in favour of a process of normalisation between Israel and its neighbours.

And tensions had been rising throughout the apartheid state of Israel and the Palestinian territories it occupies, as late last year saw the nation vote in its most far-right government, headed by PM Benjamin Netanyahu, which has since seen rising attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank and Israel.

Not only did the world watch this week as the technologically advanced Israeli army stormed a hospital on the shaky pretext that Hamas fighters are embedded in such centres, but Saturday saw it turn its attention to destroying UN schools bursting with displaced Palestinians.

“Do you condemn the Israeli occupation? Do you condemn the 11,000 Palestinians that have been killed in cold blood? Do you condemn the bombing of educational institutions, churches and hospitals?” Sayara put it to the authorities that permit the barbarism to continue.

“Do you condemn 39 babies being cut off from oxygen and electricity – from their basic human right to live and breathe?” she asked the western allies.

The mounting statistics get starker by the day
The mounting statistics get starker by the day

Ongoing dispossession and genocide

“Genocide is wrong. It’s the end of the occupation. It is ceasefire,” said Gunnai and Gunditjmara woman Meriki Onus. “Today is Gunditjmara Invasion Day. We were invaded by colonial forces on this day in 1838.”

“What I am witnessing in Palestine, I feel like I am watching what happened to my people on this day two hundred years ago,” the activist continued. “It still happens. Genocide… in different ways. It’s sophisticated. It’s turned into black deaths in custody.”

Gunnai and Gunditjmara activists Meriki Onus highlights that the genocide on Gaza is reawakening local atrocities
Gunnai and Gunditjmara activists Meriki Onus highlights that the genocide on Gaza is reawakening local atrocities

Onus pointed to the fact that the Albanese government’s ongoing assertion that Israel has the right to clear the Gaza Strip of its people in a blatant attempt to wipe out the Palestinians – so it can capture the land and dispossess them – is waking up the past traumas of the local colonial project.

The fact is this process is continuing in this country, Onus suggests, in more subtle ways.

So, rather than territorial battles, the Frontiers Wars now involve deaths in the custody of the police or corrections – more than 500 since 1991 – as well as the stark numbers of First Peoples in prison.

“I want to share a sentiment about the occupation that we live in right here, right now,” Onus continued. “If Australia was held accountable for the crime and we had our sovereignty, Israel would not have the power of Australia’s backing.”

“So, we would not be here if Aboriginal people were part of the decision-making on our land.”

The outpouring of grassroots condemnation of the genocide taking place in Gaza continues
The outpouring of grassroots condemnation of the genocide taking place in Gaza continues

No end in sight

“This is six weeks of horror we have been witnessing,” Greens Senator David Shoebridge addressed the crowd. “Six weeks of horror and six weeks of wondering where is our federal government, where is our parliament? And how can they not speak to this horror?”

The Greens senator explained that the tens of thousands of Australians turning up on the streets week after week, along with the millions protesting in cities globally, is having an impact in centres of power in this country and the outpouring is fuelling dissenting politicians to take a stand.

Shoebridge and his fellow Greens senators called for a ceasefire in Gaza several weeks ago, and they stormed out of parliament. The Albanese government has not condemned the killing but instead has reiterated Israel’s right to defend itself. And this, of course, is the Coalition’s position too.

Greens Senator David Shoebridge calls out the complicity on the part of Australia
Greens Senator David Shoebridge calls out the complicity on the part of Australia

Foreign minister Penny Wong appeared on the ABC Insiders on 12 November and suggested our nation was taking steps towards calling for a ceasefire. However, a week later and that still stands, meaning that our nation has said ceasefire, but it has not called for one.

Federal Labor’s form on this matter is making all of us complicit in the genocide. Declassified Australia has recently heightened this awareness via a number of reports that lay bare the local involvement in mounting Israeli war crimes.

Kellie Tranter this week reported that Australian-made parts are a key component of F-35 fighters being used to bomb civilians to death in Gaza, while Peter Cronau revealed earlier that the US-Australia-run Pine Gap signals facility is monitoring Gaza and providing this intelligence to Israel.

Shoebridge quizzed Wong last week on whether Australian “155-millimetre artillery shells produced by NIOA munitions at Maryborough” could be sent to Israel and happen to be used upon the civilian population in Gaza.

Wong responded that she was being asked to rule out something that would happen in the future, which was not appropriate for question time, and the annoyed looking foreign minister added that as far as she knows no weapons have been shipped to Israel for the last five years.

“But our government should acknowledge its ongoing complicity,” the Greens senator continued. “How could they say they stand with Israel but refuse to see the common humanity between an Israeli child killed and a Palestinian child killed? We know the common humanity.”

“Our government continues to export weapons to Israel. And then they don’t tell the truth about it,” he added.

“Every time an F-35 flies over Gaza and opens up its bomb doors, the machinery to open up those bomb doors and release the death upon the Palestinians, was built in Australia.” 

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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