As he delivered the 2023 Lowy Lecture at Sydney Town Hall on 19 December, prime minister Anthony Albanese told those before him that Australia is not just an observer “of the interplay of others’ ambitions” and the nation’s “foreign policy is not a catalogue of things that happen to us”.
The Australian leader was speaking at an event staged by The Lowy Institute, and its chairperson Sir Frank Lowy is a self-proclaimed Zionist: an ideology born out of the western colonial project, which is predicated upon the domination and eradication of historic Palestine and its people.
As the PM was being introduced to address the Lowy Institute event, organisers were forced to acknowledge the couple of thousand protesters outside Town Hall – chanting, screaming and drumming – as they were set to successfully hinder Albanese.
Staged by Students Against War, Palestine Justice Movement Sydney and Unionists for Palestine, the Protest Albanese at the 2023 Lowy Lecture rally was a huge success in terms of the overwhelming decibels it served the PM, due to his having sanctioned the US-backed Israeli genocide in Gaza.
And those grassroots civilians by the building were able to sustain two hourlong sessions that saw them creating a formidable racket that reverberated throughout the Town Hall chamber, in an act displaying the disappointment, dishonour and disgust felt in regard to Albanese’s genocidal stance.
The corrupting nature of power
“An Orwellian speech. A speech in which a butcher is a close friend. A speech where genocide is called self-defence,” Unionists for Palestine’s Erima Dall said. “A speech in which an occupation is apparently a complicated age-old religious war. These are the lies that uphold the lies of Israel.”
The wharfie added that the crowd shouldn’t be surprised, as “in order to climb the ladder of power to the top, in order to run a system that itself was the product of genocide and imperialist plunder, Albanese cannot hold very tightly to any principles that he ever had”.
Dall hit the nail on the head with these comments, as both Albanese and foreign minister Penny Wong have played a tag team role in excusing and supporting the US-backed Israeli-perpetrated wholesale massacre against the 2.3 million Palestinians living in the walled-in Gaza Strip.
Yet, the pair in opposition had been keen supporters of Palestine. This was evidenced on the day, as old speeches featuring the PM speaking in support of the Palestinian cause and against Israeli occupation were playing out over loudspeakers during the demonstration.
Indeed, the crowd recalled, Albanese was a co-founder of the Parliamentary Friends of Palestine group. And it was half expected that his Labor government might recognise the nation of Palestine, in line with 139 other UN member states.
Complicit prior to engagement
Wiradjuri activist Ethan Lyons then took the microphone and asked the crowd to excuse his voice, as it and his heart were trembling, due to the fact that “whilst children are being slaughtered and killed in Gaza, our prime minister wants to wine and dine in the Town Hall behind us”.
“These are Gadigal lands. And from this place all the way to occupied Palestine, from the river to the sea, always was and always will be Indigenous land,” said Lyons. “Here, in Australia, Indigenous people have been under violent occupation for 235 years.”
“Two hundred and thirty five years of illegal dispossession. Two hundred and thirty five years of our babies being stolen and 235 years of a colonial lie,” he made clear. And he added that the genocide the crowd opposed was “being fuelled” by the “ruling class” of other settler colonial nations.
Albanese released a 13 December ceasefire statement co-signed by his counterparts in Canada and New Zealand. But this has been criticised as it merely speaks of entering another humanitarian “pause” and then moving “towards a sustainable ceasefire”: one predicated on Hamas surrender.
Although Israeli forces, after 70-odd days of carpet bombing a captive population, can’t seem to conquer Hamas.
Albanese is “no different to Netanyahu”, Lyons added. “He’s aiding and abetting a genocide full well knowing that it’s leaving a stain on this nation.” And he emphasised that this is what you’d expect from a man supposedly championing Indigenous voices, whilst his police continue to brutalise them.
The Nakba continues
“Revolutionaries didn’t choose armed struggle as the best path. It is the path the oppressor has imposed on people,” said Palestinian activist and filmmaker Rihab Charida. “So, people have only two choices to suffer or to fight. This is what Fidel Castro said about Vietnam in 1967.”
“In Palestine, the path to liberation has been paved by a revolutionary anticolonial struggle of a people who have chosen to fight,” she added. “Seventy five years ago, our villages and homes were invaded by militia men, just like Sir Frank Lowy.”
Recently having spent five years in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, Charida explained that it is “precisely” the kind of person Lowy is that’s “celebrated by imperialist power”. She added that “75 years ago, Lowy was invading Palestinian villages during Operation Hiram”, and her village fell.
Charida explained that the weapons used by the Zionist militias “had been brought in by the newly established Zim shipping company“. And she set out that these events saw nearly 500 villages destroyed by those “just like Lowy, who had travelled to Palestine from the US, with colonial intent”.
“The Zionists are still forcing Palestinians off their land and committing one massacre after another, in an attempt to annihilate,” Charida declared. “You can take the people out of the village, force them out at gunpoint, but I can guarantee you, that you can’t take the village out of the people.”
Albanese, blood on your hands
The genocide in Gaza has continued on since early October. Never before has such an atrocity taken place with the rest of humanity witnessing the barbarism online 24/7, with a skyrocketing death toll, as the mass killing of civilians, children, journalists and medical staff has become the new norm.
“I am so proud of your unwavering solidarity with Palestine, day-after-day, weekend-after-weekend” said Greens Senator Dr Mehreen Faruqi. “But I also have to say, I am so ashamed of our Labor government. I am so ashamed of the prime minister.”
“Because they have refused to act: to stop the atrocities, the murders, the violence, the occupation and oppression,” said the senator, as she went on to emphasise that “you can’t deny that Australia is so complicit in what is going on in Gaza.”
The outpouring of pro-Palestinians mobilising on the streets right across the globe has exposed the gaping disconnect between the western political class and the rest of humanity. And in the US, the public looks like it may vote Donald Trump in as president again in response to Gaza.
Yet, in Australia, opposition leader Liberal MP Peter Dutton is keener in his support of Tel Aviv than his Labor counterpart is. So, it is likely the next federal ballot will again result in another greenslide, where constituents turn away from the major parties to vote for the Greens and independents.
“Australia is complicit by refusing to call out and condemn Israel for its war crimes. Australia is complicit by shielding and cheering on Israel’s atrocities in the name of self-defence. Australia is complicit in military exports to Israel,” said Dr Faruqi, adding that this is providing impunity.
“After almost 20,000 Palestinians have been massacred, including 8,000 children, after Gaza has been bombed to dust, we saw the prime minister finally signing up Australia for a UN resolution for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire,” the Greens Senator continued.
“It took him 67 days to do the bare minimum,” she said. “On the other hand, it took the prime minister Anthony Albanese no time at all to light up the Parliament House in the colours of the occupier’s flag.”