Australian Police Seek to Block anti-Israel Protesters

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A pro-Gaza rally in Sydney, Australia, July 20, 2014. Credit: Reuters

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – Police in Sydney are trying to block a protest at the opening of the Israeli Film Festival this week as the Gaza war continues to fuel passions in Australia.

Members of the Palestine Action Group are listed for a hearing on Monday in the Supreme Court of New South Wales ahead of their planned protest outside the cinema on Thursday night.

The Guardian Australia reported it had seen the summons served to Damian Ridgwell, a founder of the group. Police have made an application under the Summary Offences Act 1988 to “prohibit the holding of a public assembly,” according to the report.

“This is an outrageous act of political censorship,” Ridgwell said in a statement. “It is legitimate to protest the event, and by attempting to ban the protest the NSW police is denying our freedom of expression and right to protest.”

He added: “We are confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the right to protest. We will not be intimidated by the NSW Police, we will continue to stand up against Israel’s genocide of the Palestinians.”

Police declined to comment when contacted on Sunday by Haaretz.

The poster for the protest accuses the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange, which organizes the annual film festival, of being a “front organization for the ruling Likud Party and supports their recent massacre in Gaza.”

“In the aftermath of Israel’s massacre in Gaza organizations which promote Israel’s crimes should be boycotted,” it says.

But Albert Dadon, who founded the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange in 2002, told Haaretz the protesters were invited “in peace” to come and watch Shira Geffen’s “Self Made,” the opening night film about two women – one Israeli, the other Palestinian.

“They will be surprised to see that their views and their way of life are actually reflected in Israeli society – the only true, tolerant and democratic society in the Middle East,” Dadon said.

“We are a cultural group promoting Israeli and Australian culture in their diversity, as well as peace and harmony between Jews and Arabs,” he said. “We have held past festivals in Nazareth and Umm al-Fahm but also in Sderot and Jerusalem.”

The Israeli Film Festival is in its 11th year. It will also screen in Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Byron Bay. Dadon also hosts an annual Australian Film Festival in Israel.

The Palestine Action Group’s protest comes just days after members in Melbourne stormed the roof of an Israeli-based company, Elbit Systems, accusing it of manufacturing drones that “kill kids in Gaza.” Seven protesters were arrested last Friday morning for trespassing.

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