Melbourne’s Pro-Palestinian Xmas Carol Disrupters Took Cue from Holy Land Faith Leaders

Information on this page was reviewed by a specialist defence lawyer before being published. Click to read more.
Melbourne’s Pro-Palestinian

“If Jesus were born today, he would be born in Gaza under the rubble,” Palestinian Pastor Munther Isaac of the Lutheran Church in Bethlehem recently said in relation to a nativity scene that this year depicted the baby wrapped in a keffiyeh, as he lay amongst shattered stone, instead of a manger.

“This is the reality of Christmas for Palestinian children,” the pastor added, pointing to the three-month-long wholesale massacre being perpetrated on the 2.3 million Palestinians in the walled-in region of Gaza by Israel, which is an atrocity playing out right through the Christian holiday period.

Over 20,000 Palestinians have been killed, including more than 10,000 children. And the majority of those killed have been civilians.

Roughly 70 kilometres separates Gaza from Bethlehem, the occupied West Bank birthplace of Jesus, where church leaders cancelled Christmas celebrations this year.

And the determination not to celebrate in the Holy Land is what fuelled the Block the Dock direct action, which saw three activists storm the stage at Melbourne’s Carols by Candlelight on Christmas Eve, to draw attention to the fact that whilst the audience was carolling, kids were dying in Gaza.

Security swarmed the pro-Palestinian protesters and dragged them off moments later. However, the disruption had made the statement, and mainstream media reportage deflected the public from the ongoing genocide messaging via the growing threat of the social justice activist trope.

Christmas cancelled

“We had pro-Palestinian activists attending the carols with the intention of disrupting,” said Beth, a Block the Dock spokesperson. “We knew it would not be a long-lived action. Three people actually got on the stage. Even in the footage, there are three people rolling on. They reported two.”

“In Bethlehem, faith leaders and the city council cancelled all Christmas festivities because there were no places of worship left in Gaza for Christian Palestinians to celebrate Christmas,” she added. “So, it seems a little on the nose that people would continue to celebrate Christmas.”

Beth countered reports that one activist was carrying a weapon as sensationalist, as the individual did have a bag, which security had checked on entry into the Myer Music Bowl, and it contained a couple of craft implements that had been used in the making of t-shirts that day.

However, that did not prevent Victoria police from serving a 21-year-old woman from Brunswick with an infringement notice for carrying a controlled weapon.

News outlets have relayed viewpoints that consider this nonviolent disruptive action as an attempt to “destroy our sense of security” and “intimidation”, even though these “guerilla-type tactics” are the same as those taken by anti-Vietnam War demonstrators and Suffragettes for the women’s vote.

Indeed, since the Netanyahu government unleashed the genocide upon Gaza in early October, pro-Palestinian activists have been cast as antisemites by the authorities the western world over, despite a sizable and highly visible portion of them being made up of adherents of the Jewish faith.

“I’m not sure how people of the Christian faith could continue to celebrate Christmas in this way when there is a genocide happening in Gaza,” the activist further told Sydney Criminal Lawyers.

Silent night-silenced voice

The Israeli forces carried out raids across the occupied West Bank over the Christmas weekend, which included in Bethlehem, Democracy Now reported.

Pastor Isaac told the US program that his recent “Christ in the Rubble” sermon was a message sent “for all Palestinians” to the rest of the globe.

The West Bank pastor said the sermon was for those who are “appalled by the silence of the world and the dehumanisation that has been taking place of the Palestinian people, especially those in Gaza. The dehumanisation that allows such atrocities to take place with the world watching.”

“We are really tired and troubled from seeing, day after day after day, images of children and families being pulled from under the rubble,” the pastor put it to host Amy Goodman on Tuesday. “We can’t understand how the world is okay with this.”

And this is what Block the Dock did in disrupting the Melbourne Christmas carols: “for less than five minutes”, the activists were drawing the attention of middle Australia to the fact that it was enjoying itself, even though the nation is embroiled in a genocide.

The Albanese government had been progressing the US line in framing Israel’s assault on the captive Palestinians of Gaza, who have no real military forces and have been suffering under a 16 year goods and persons blockade, as the nation is just defending itself after Hamas incursions in early October.

On 13 December, PM Anthony Albanese and his Canadian and NZ counterparts released a ceasefire statement, which signified a break with the White House stance. Yet, greater scrutiny of the message finds it calls for a “sustainable ceasefire”, meaning a truce after Hamas is out of the picture.

According to Beth, as the US and the UK have such strong ties with this nation, “there is influence that we could be using that we are not using to hold Israel accountable on the world stage”.

“It is very disappointing, especially as Anthony Albanese, for the majority of his political career, was pro-Palestine,” the activist continued. “He even described the resistance accurately, when he said that an occupied territory has the right to resist the occupying force.”

“The Palestinians must be given their homeland, the current PM told the House of Representatives on 9 October 2000. “The occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem by the Israelis has created generations of oppressed people.”

As Beth put it, we saw Albanese “absolutely flip on that when he went into power”.

Momentary discomfort or annihilation

The Block the Dock blockade saw the mainstream media and many on their socials aghast over a couple of activists climbing onto a stage holding Palestinian flags and calling out “Free Palestine”, as the incident was framed as having threatened others on the stage, especially some children.

“I would really ask people to check their privilege and why they value minor discomfort over the lives of Palestinian children,” Beth said in response to these reactions, and she added that the group had achieved its aim, which was to draw attention “to entire bloodlines being wiped out”.

A comparison is increasingly being made between the 1960s antiwar movement progressed against the conflict in Vietnam and the pro-Palestinian outpouring that’s been occurring globally. But a clear difference is the numbers right now have been swelling at a much greater pace.

Beth considers the movement at present is mobilising with such massive numbers as the mainstream media has lost control of the official narrative, as voices on the ground, via socials and the alternative media, have countered the misinformation usually paraded as truth.

A key player in negating the official line has been the population of Gaza, who, it’s increasingly being said, is documenting its own genocide.

“If there’s anything that I have seen from the weekly rallies, the government doesn’t really represent the people. And people are pretty displeased.” 

They’re not representing our interests at this stage. I would argue that it’s on multiple different political issues, not just this one,” Beth said in conclusion. “But it is very evident on this political issue.”

Receive all of our articles weekly


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.

Your Opinion Matters