Around 10,000 pro-Israeli supporters gathered to to condemn Hamas in Sydney on Sunday. Photo: Daniel Munoz/Getty Images
Sydneysiders have rallied in support of both Palestine and Israel in two separate events in Sydney on Sunday.
Around 10,000 people gathered at Dudley Page Reserve in Dover Heights for a peaceful rally held in solidarity with Israel.
Alex Ryvchin, director of public affairs at the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said the rally showed the people of Israel that there are thousands of people in Sydney that stand in solidarity with them.
Sydneysiders rally in support of Israel in Dover Heights on Sunday. Photo: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images
"I think that it's very important to send that message. It shows Israel they are not alone," he said.
Rabbi Eli Feldman of the Chabad Synagogue in Bondi attended the rally with his family, and said the focus of the rally was peace.
"Every single person here is talking of peace. Today is about singing, camaraderie and friendship," he said.
"The overwhelming sentiment of Jewish people here and in Israel is for love and peace, which is in contrast with the chants and anger we saw in other rallies last week."
He said while today's rally was in support of peace, it also signified support for Israel's choice to defend its people.
"It's a just war. What else are we to do?" he said.
Security was tight at the event, with police and private security guards lining the area.
Those in attendance were required to show ID and bags were searched upon entry.
The state Liberal member for Vaucluse Gabrielle Upton spoke at the rally, alongside various Jewish community leaders.
Several hours later across town, a vocal protest in support of the people of Palestine, and condemning the bombardment of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli Defence Force, gathered at Sydney Town Hall.
About 5000 people marched peacefully through city streets, watched by a significant police presence.
Speaker Peter Slezak, from Independent Australian Jewish Voices, said many Jewish people around the world condemned Israel's military incursion, particularly its attacks on UN-declared safe havens.
"The state of Israel does not represent all Jews. I am one of very many Jews who is horrified and deeply ashamed by what the Jewish state is doing in my name. I stand with the people of Gaza and with Palestine as a whole."
He rejected allegations the protests against the actions of the Israeli Defence Force were motivated by anti-Semitism.
"To condemn the actions of Israel is not anti-Semitic, it is for humanity," he said.
The Australian government, and the opposition, were both condemned by speakers for their silence against Israel.
Ferras Batta, an Australian-Palestinian, said the conflict was a nightmare.
He has family living in Khan Yunis and Gaza.
"Targeting children is the worst. If you don't cry you're not human,'' he said.
Rawan Andalus, a Sydney-based Australian Palestinian lawyer who attended the rally, said Palestinians felt that the people of the world were standing with them but the silence from governments was deafening.
“I suppose what we’re doing in Australia is really highlighting Australia’s complicity in condoning Israel’s actions," she said. "Just complete silence."
"Christopher Pyne was in Jerusalem the other day and there was hardly any word from him about what Israel was doing in Gaza, bombs on civilians, on schools, on hospitals."
Meantime, NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham has resigned from the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel, complaining that the group has failed to address the escalating violence around Gaza.
Mr Buckingham said a meeting to discuss reported arrests and detention of Palestinian children was attended by just two other MPs – the Liberal Party’s Gabrielle Upton, who is the group’s president, and Labor’s Walt Secord.
In a letter to Ms Upton, Mr Buckingham added that Parliamentary Friends of Israel had “failed to raise or discuss … in any way at all” the present conflict around Gaza.
“I joined the [group] in an effort to engage and ensure that difficult issues would be raised and discussed in a constructive manner,” Mr Buckingham wrote.
“As a representative of the people of NSW and the Greens I cannot allow my willingness to engage with the PFI to be perceived in any way as an endorsement of Israel's recent extreme violence and criminal actions in Gaza.”
Ms Upton said she accepted Mr Buckingham’s resignation “with regret”. She would not say how many MPs were members of the group, however Mr Buckingham says it numbers more than 70.
- With Nicole Hasham