Surveying the hate at one pro-Palestinian rally
Nov 24, 2023 | Ran Porat
There have been numerous pro-Palestinian rallies across Australia since Hamas unleashed the current Gaza war with its unprovoked wave of mass-murder and mass-kidnapping against Israelis on October 7. One in Sydney on Oct. 9 made international headlines with chants of both “f..k the Jews” and “gas the Jews”.
Most subsequent protests have caused less controversy. However, a detailed look at just one such rally suggests that at least some of these rallies may still pose a threat to the fundamental principles of Australian multiculturalism – coexistence and tolerance.
On Oct. 22, a few thousand people gathered at Paul Keating Park in Bankstown, NSW for the “Stand for Palestine” protest. The event showcased a long list of speakers representing various Australian Muslim groups, some of which have a history of making antisemitic statements and propagating conspiracy theories and extremist anti-Israel content.
The rally, intended to express solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza, effectively transformed into a two-hour-long display of extremism and animosity toward Israel and Jews. Fuelled by the incitement of the imams on the podium, the crowd chanted slogans against Jews and the West, endorsed martyrdom and called for Islam’s global dominance.
“Allah loves the martyr”
Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, the Grand Mufti of Australia, opened the rally. A few days prior (Oct. 10), Mohammad, as reported by MEMRI, posted on his social media account that Jews “came from all corners of the earth to occupy a land [Israel] that is not theirs, driven by a religious myth about the Promised Land.” In that post he also praised martyrdom, asserting that: “everything around him [the martyr] participates [in his struggle]: the earth, the sky, the water, the air and even the remains of graves will now and forever continue to stand up to the occupier’s arrogance and the brutality of his military machine. Until Palestine is finally free.”
No wonder the crowd erupted in cheers, chanting, “The martyr is Allah’s loved one” upon Mohammad’s arrival on stage at the rally. He extended greetings to the Palestinians in Gaza who “stand firm before the greatest forces fighting him at that moment, and I pray to God to accept the martyrs and heal the wounded.”
Contending that the Palestinians “have been wronged” for 75 years (since the creation of Israel), Mohammad called out that “Palestine is bleeding [by] gangsters [who] kill people, destroy villages, and displace families out of the country, out of their land.”
Mohammad argued that Palestinian terrorists such as Hamas should be labelled “resistance movements”. He then assured the audience: “The victory of Allah is near… The enemy will be defeated.”
The chanting welcoming the next speaker, Shiekh Abd al Salam Zoud, was the infamous “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – a call to wipe the Jewish state off the map. Zoud is the spiritual leader of one of Australia’s most extremist Salafi fundamentalist movements, Ahl As-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah.
Zoud urged supporters of the Palestinian cause to use their voices across various media platforms to form “a lump in the throat of every usurping occupier,” instructing the audience to “take your position according to your field [of expertise], with money, by demonstrating, by writing posts on social media sites and by bringing down the frivolous Zionists.” He also condemned the firing of Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell, “only because he criticised the criminality of the prime minister of the occupation with a satirical drawing” (Bell had depicted Netanyahu seeking the “pound of flesh” demanded by the Jewish character Shylock in Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice, employing a classic antisemitic trope).
From the river to the sea
Following the crowd’s chants of “From the river to the sea” and “With blood and spirit, we will redeem you Gaza,” Shiekh Mahmoud al Azhari, who is affiliated with the Sydney Northwest Muslim Community and a senior member of the Australian National Imams Council (ANIC), took to the stage. In Arabic, he told listeners that Muslims “have owned this world for centuries,” and called out to “bring out Islam! Arise as a sincere, free, and honest youth who refuse to be humiliated or belittled.”
In English, al Azhari called out to the audience: “The people of Palestine are seeds of dignity, are seeds of victory! And by Allah… the battle is ours! And the land is ours! And Palestine is ours! And the masjid [mosque] al Aqsa is ours!”. He then listed the places, many of which are within Israel, that will be “liberated by Allah”: “al Quds [Jerusalem], Gaza, Jenin, Haifa, Yafa [Jaffa], Tul Karem, Be’er Saba [Be’er Sheva], Safad [Safed], Ramlah, Ramallah, Nablus, Khalil [Hebron] – all of the cities still in Palestine will be free!” The crowd responded with fervent cheers, echoing slogans like: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” and “the next Salah al-din [12th century Muslim general who conquered Jerusalem from the crusaders], will liberate Falastin!”
Umm Jamaal ud-Din, a teacher of Islamic culture, spoke about the “ethnic cleansing and genocide that Israel is planning for the Palestinians of Gaza, all while its army and government gaslight the world with its fake facts and propaganda in order to get away with their crimes.” She then lamented how, in her view, “Israel has led the way for the world to dehumanise the Palestinians by their political leaders openly referring to Palestinians as human animals, or even barbarians.”
After her speech, the imam led the crowd to chant: “One ummah [Islamic nation] without the West… until Islam there is no rest!” He later reiterated praise for the martyrs and the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”
Come and kill an Israeli
Shiekh Yahya Saffi, the Imam of Lakemba Mosque, reminded the audience of the infamous Islamic Hadith [saying attributed to the prophet Muhammad and his early followers] which prophesies that: “At the end [Judgment day] everything will talk, even the tree, even the stone, will say: Oh Muslim! Come, there is an Israeli behind me, come and kill him! [the host called out and the crowd cheered: Allah Akbar!] This is going to happen!” [The Hadith’s language actually refers to Jews, not Israelis. Saffi was apparently attempting to obscure the overtly racist nature of this call for genocide.]
Saffi then argued, quite ahistorically, that throughout history Muslims have never killed women and children, even of the enemy, because this is not allowed in Islam – thus hinting that Hamas’ heinous murdering of women, children and whole families never happened.
In his fiery speech, Palestinian speaker Isma’il Sirdah, the Director of the Granville Youth Association, vehemently proclaimed, “You [Zionists] might be able to spread lies, [and] corruption on Earth, but you will never take away my love for a free Palestine.” After evoking the antisemitic trope alleging that Jews spread corruption, Sirdah lauded martyrdom, shouting: “You will never ever be able to kill my readiness and willingness to die for a free [al] Aqsa!”.
Rania Sultan, a Sydney-based Palestinian lawyer, accused Israel (“an apartheid state”) of committing “a massacre, a genocide, ethnic cleansing… collective punishment of an entire indigenous population” in Gaza. Using language evocative of the Holocaust, Sultan said that Gaza has become “a concentration camp”.
Muslim armies should ‘rescue Gaza’
One of the organisations represented at the rally was Hizb ut Tahrir – an international fundamentalist Islamic organisation, banned in numerous countries, which calls for the recreation of the Islamic Caliphate and the destruction of the Jewish state.
Responding to the war in Gaza, on Nov. 10 Hizb ut Tahrir Australia published an open letter to the embassies of Muslim countries in Australia, urging these nations to sever all ties with Israel and unleash their armies on it: “Reverse your betrayal of the Ummah by immediately cancelling all peace agreements, permanently expelling their representatives, ending security and intelligence collaboration, ceasing economic cooperation… cease recognising international law which is used as a tool in the hands of the colonialists, and open your borders to allow a united military front of neighbouring Muslim countries to surround the Zionist entity.”
At the rally, prominent Hizb ut Tahrir Australia preacher Wassim Doreihri spoke on how in the aftermath of WWI Australian ANZACs along with the British and the French “occupied our land [Palestine] and handed it over to the Yahud[Jews].” Referencing the historical European conquest of Australia, Doreihri yelled, “Go to hell with your civility! Go to hell with your wars! Go to hell with your human rights! Go to hell with your institutions! Go to hell with your dirty money!”
The war crimes of Hamas on October 7 were praised by Doreihri as an event in which “the Muslims in Palestine again lit the flames! Shown that we can break free! Shown that the enemy is not strong!” The response from the world, he argued, “is to figure out how to ensure that the Muslims don’t carry those flames and ensure those flames don’t burn those who need to be burnt.”
And how will Palestine be liberated, asked Doreihri rhetorically? His answer was centred on the action of Arab armies who “have in [their] possession… tanks, missiles! For what reason do we carry them if not to rescue the Muslims of Palestine!” The crowd echoed the sentiment, chanting, “Muslim armies where are you? Gaza calls for your rescue.”
Lebanese-born preacher Mohammad Hoblos gained attention in 2021 when he suggested on social media that rape and murder are lesser sins than missing prayer. At the Sydney rally, Hoblos ridiculed those who call on Muslims to condemn Hamas terror and the massacre of Israelis, stating, “Don’t forget that Israel is the oppressor” and adding that he doesn’t know how to move forward from this “but we can start by you leaving, Israel.”