SYDNEY – A piercing siren shattered the silence as some 2,000 people joined a “Code Red” solidarity rally in Melbourne on Sunday.
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At around the same time, an estimated crowd of 5,000 pro-Palestinian supporters brought Sydney’s business district to a standstill, bearing placards with slogans such as “Israel: using one Holocaust to continue another since 1948"; “One Holocaust doesn’t justify another"; and “Netanyahu: Modern-day Hitler.”
One woman entered that throng holding an Israeli flag before police escorted her out of harm’s way, according to an eyewitness.
Dr. Danny Lamm, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, told the Melbourne rally. “Israel faces a battle on three fronts. The battlefront in Gaza, the home front and the global front, where the legitimacy of her operations are questioned,” he said. “It is imperative that the world hears the truth and understands that Israel is acting in self-defense.”
Added Nina Bassat, president of Melbourne’s Jewish community: “We are here today because the State of Israel, so integral to our sense of identity and indeed to our destiny, is suffering.”
Senator Scott Ryan, representing Prime Minister Tony Abbott, told those present: “The Australian government stands with you.”
Meanwhile, in Sydney, about 1,000 people converged on the Central Synagogue to hear Israeli Ambassador Shmuel Ben-Shmuel explain “the ultimate and sad truth”: that if Israel were to lay down its arms, it would be destroyed; if Hamas were to lay down its arms, there would be peace.
“Your support is a source of encouragement, your compassion is a source of comfort and your solidarity is a source of hope,” Ben-Shmuel said.
Across the city, Julie Nathan, research officer for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, witnessed a sea of “black flags of jihad, the yellow flags of a banned terrorist organization, Hezbollah, Islamist chants and placards spewing anti-Semitism” at the pro-Palestinian rally. “Conspicuously missing was an Australian flag,” she said later.
One protester held up a doll covered in fake blood, while others carried mini-stretchers holding child-like figures wrapped in white funeral shrouds, Associated Press reported.
Over in Perth, about 500 supporters joined a “peace rally,” with one federal and several state parliamentarians in attendance.
In New Zealand, about 100 pro-Israel supporters converged in Wellington, according to Israeli embassy officials. In Auckland, anti-Israel activist John Minto told a pro-Palestinian rally that the Israeli Embassy should be shut down.