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Palestinian advocates: ‘We should be standing with the victim, not the oppressor’

20 October, 2023

Interviews by Rawan Saadi and Spike Keith, adapted by Joel Armstrong

Pro-Palestine supporters rallied in Auckland’s Aotea Square last weekend with the aim of highlighting the long-standing oppression of Palestinians amid the Israel-Hamas war. Image: Palestinian Flags — Wikimedia Commons

On Saturday 14 October, around 3000 people marched down Queen Street, in solidarity with Palestine. 

Co-President of the University of Auckland Justice for Palestine Group, Layan Khalil, told 95bFM’s The Wire, that the gathering provided an opportunity to educate the public about the atrocities happening to Palestinians. 

“Many people were questioning what was going on, so it was a good opportunity for us to speak to these people and shed light on what is going on.”

Attendees of the rally told 95bFM that Israel’s forced occupation of Palestinian land and apartheid conditions, considered illegal under international law, has caused immense suffering for Palestinians for generations. 

One attendee told 95bFM, “I am here to stand against the genocide of the Palestinian people.”

“You can't oppress people for 75 years. You can't beat them into a corner and expect them not to hit back,” said one attendee. 

“This is something we will look back on and be in awe of the world not reacting as they should,” another said. 

Protestors also expressed frustration at Western media outlets, for their ‘both-sides’ reporting. 

“The media continues to portray that it is a war between two equal sides,” one attendee told 95bFM

“We cannot ignore that one side has all of the resources, and the Palestinian side of people are resisting an illegal occupation,” said another. 

While thousands of New Zealanders showed up in support, Khalil said the atmosphere of the rally was sombre.

“At times, we can feel helpless.”

“You can obviously see the pain in everyone's eyes and faces. It is definitely not something easy.”

The day after the protest, the Auckland War Memorial Museum lit up blue and white in solidarity with Israel. A group of pro-Palestine supporters protested by covering the lights in fabric. 

Khalil said acts like this negatively impact Palestinian New Zealanders.

“Standing with the side of the oppressor, and not standing on our side or even giving any support is really hurtful.”

There has been a rapid escalation of Israeli violence toward Palestinains following Hamas’ attack on 7 October, were at least 1300 Israelis were killed.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, more than 3700 Palestinians in Gaza, and at least 70 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, and counting, have been killed in Israeli Defence Force air retaliatory attacks. Over 300,000 Israeli troops are now preparing for a ground invasion of Gaza. 

Palestinian Solidarity Network Aotearoa Chair and former Springbok Tour protest leader, John Minto, told 95bFM that Israel is applying “collective punishment” on Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people, half of which are children. 

“They have been depriving people of food and water. These are war crimes under the Fourth Geneva Convention.” 

Minto said that Israel is using the actions of Hamas as an excuse to commit its own war crimes.”

“The Palestinian people have been the victims for 75 years. We should be standing with the victim, not the oppressor.”

Another rally, calling to stop the genocide in Gaza, is expected to take place in Tāmaki Makaurau this Saturday.

Listen to the full interview with Layan Khalil

Listen to the full report with attendees at the scene and John Minto

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air