Grassroots Australia Mobillises Against Genocide: CoCo Speaks to Palestinian Hunger Striker

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Grassroot Australia

A disconnect is apparent in the stance the Australian political class has taken towards the genocidal intent the Israeli state has unleashed upon the Palestinian population of Gaza, who, after 16 years of living in open-air prison conditions, are now under threat of being purposely wiped off the map.

The Albanese government has pushed the “right to defend” itself line on Tel Aviv’s barbarous five-week-long killing spree, meaning the 24/7 carpet bombing specifically targeting a civilian population on the pretext that Hamas fighters might be next to them has received Canberra’s blessing, so far.

Growing numbers of Gaza hospitals have been bombed out of action. The storming of Gaza City’s largest hospital Al-Shifa over the weekend is difficult to understand. However, the child deaths all these actions result in are apparently necessary.

Despite what has felt like a series of soft orders against them, disruptive nonviolent protests have started breaking out in Australian centres. On 7 November, the Melbourne Cup was blockaded, followed by peace protesters converging at Sydney’s Port Botany and Port Melbourne in Naarm.

Protest numbers have been growing at both sites, as organisers consider that despite the unprecedented carnage being wrought by the Israeli war machine, the massacre, which is being dubbed a legitimate battle, may continue for weeks or even months into the future.

Down at the Naarm demonstration the numbers continue to build, explains well known climate defender Violet CoCo, and it’s at that site that she came across 52-year-old Palestinian nurse Riyad Aladassi, who, as of Monday, was on his fifth day of hunger striking for peace in his homeland.

The pro-Palestinian protest site at Port Melbourne
The pro-Palestinian protest site at Port Melbourne

People power to stop carnage

“They are dying by the bombs and the hunger. Nobody is going to bomb me here. I’ll go with the hunger,” father-of-two Aladassi told CoCo at the protest site over the weekend. “I am not going to work. I won’t go see my family. I won’t shower. I won’t do nothing. That’s it.”

“Save Gaza. Then save the whole world from wars. We had enough bloodshed over hundreds of years – that’s enough. This has to stop,” the Palestinian nurse continued. “The only ones who benefit from the wars are the corporations and the manufacturers of weapons. This has to stop.”

Right now, 2.3 million Palestinians living in Gaza, a 41-kilometre-long narrow strip of land that has been locked down for the last sixteen years and made to suffer through the outcomes of crippling, close-to-starvation level sanctions in a region that’s been operating like a death camp.

Aladassi highlights that the carte blanche western allies have handed to Israel at this stage of its heightened and continuing colonial project, via the open application of ethnic cleansing, is reflected in the words genocidal intent spoken freely at the highest levels of the far-right Netanyahu government.

“Whoever is feeding this needs to stop,” the hunger striker told the climate defender. “Who makes the weapons? Workers. Who are the workers? They’re us: the people. Who drives the ships? Who runs the electricity? Who does all of these things? The people.”

Blocking death devices

“The action is being championed by Riyad, who is a nurse. He lived in Gaza. He came over here to help children from Gaza,” CoCo explained. “But he’s like, I’ve got family here now, but my family in Gaza are being bombed and they’re starving.”

“Riyad said, ‘If they’re not going to be able to eat, then I will not eat with them in solidarity. I will not be bombed, but I will not eat to show their suffering’,” the climate defender told Sydney Criminal Lawyers.

CoCo explained that there have been a couple of disruptive actions at the Port Melbourne site, but, at present, there is a need “to generate more people to this space” in order to block a ship that’s bound for Israel with a stockpile of new weaponry, designed to satisfy Netanyahu’s bloodlust.

The weekend saw protesters at Sydney’s Port Botany stage a jet ski blockade of the waterway in an attempt to ensure that a ship owned by Israeli shipping company Zim doesn’t enter the key goods exchange, so as to prevent future weapons being loaded onto ships to supply Israel’s atrocities.

“Israel is carrying out an all-out genocide against the Palestinians of Gaza,” states a Trade Unionists for Palestine flyer outlining the purpose of the Port Botany Zim blockage on Gadigal land.

“The Israelis shipping line Zim is supporting Israel to the hilt, Palestinians, including Palestinian trade unions, are calling for an economic boycott of Israel. Companies like Zim are who we mean.”

CoCo further set out that the blockading of ships is not an exact science, as activists continue to receive new information regarding which vessels are bound for Tel Aviv with more weapons, with the aim bolstering the ongoing war crimes perpetrated against a captive, walled-in people.

A call out for others to join the protest camp
A call out for others to join the protest camp

Stains that don’t wash out

“The people have the power,” Aladassi underscored over the weekend. “If they chose to save themselves from World War Three. That is going to happen. I’m not being crazy. There are five different navies in the Middle East. America, Russia, China and NATO are there.

The Palestinian nurse warns that the volatile situation that’s building in Gaza threatens to spill out into a broader regional conflict.

Western allies, including Australia, have been lining up behind the US in its unbridled support of Israel. Indeed, western powers are bolstering Netanyahu’s arsenal, as well as complicitly reiterating that it has a right to carry out a genocide in blatant disregard for international law.

Australian defence minister Richard Marles announced in late October that this country has deployed two additional aircraft to join another at an undisclosed Middle East location, along with “a significant contingent” of troops.

Foreign minister Penny Wong started talking about taking “steps towards” calling for a ceasefire in Gaza on Sunday, which means that instead of making a statement to end the fighting, our country is deliberating upon when it might officially take such a stand.

Significantly, French president Emmanuel Macron did call for a ceasefire outright on Monday. This again reveals the rest of the western alliance is continuing to provide Israel with tacit support for what it is doing, which is to commit unprecedented criminal acts against all of humanity.

“It a genocide and it has to stop,” Aladassi continued. “They will move to stop it. Somehow, somewhere. I don’t know when, how or what. But when you have five different navies, all it takes is one wrong shot and you get the point.”

“So, we need to stop it. We need to stop all-out war. Enough. These war mongers, war lords: whatever you want to call them. They have to be stopped,” the hunger striker told CoCo in conclusion. “The people have the power to do it.”

Main Image: Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Brad Homewood, Palestinian nurse Riyad Aladassi and Violet CoCo

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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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