Protesters join Gaza support
As Israeli ground troops intensify their offensive against Hamas, thousands of protesters around New Zealand joined the anti-Israel international solidarity for Gaza movement.
Protests were held in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin this afternoon and in Wellington yesterday.
Global Peace and Justice Auckland spokesman Mike Treen said it was “stunning” to see as many as 5000 people join the movement in Aotea Square in Auckland today.
There was a mix of people of different ages, nationalities and religions at the protest, with speakers from First Union, the Green Party, Mana Party, students and two young Palestinians, Treen said.
Today’s displays of opposition to Israel’s occupation of Gaza was largely peaceful despite provocation from a protestor with an opposing viewpoint carrying an Israeli flag, he said.
Treen said Israel’s occupation of the West Bank had created an “apartheid state and was calling for a boycott of Israeli businesses in New Zealand, similar to the international response to South African apartheid.
Today’s protest also marked the launch of a campaign to close the Israeli Embassy in New Zealand.
The fight over the contested land was not equal, Treen said, adding that the Palestinian people had the right to resist the occupation of their homeland with stones and rockets.
While thousands braved the wintery weather around the country to show their opposition to Israel’s 47-year occupation of the West Bank, the New Zealand protests were only part of an international effort to put pressure on the Israeli Government to leave the West Bank and remove troops from Gaza, allowing Palestinian refugees to return.
New Zealand’s involvement added power to the international call for boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel, Treen said.
Protests, vigils and demonstrations in support of solidarity for the people of Gaza around the world had grown since Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza.
Treen said he understood Israel supporters were planning their own nationwide demonstrations in response to this weekend’s protests.
In Auckland olive branches were laid in remembrance of the hundreds of Palestinians killed in 11 days of intense Israeli bombardment of the densely populated coastal strip, a fifth of them children.