Thousands of Australian Jews rally for Israel

SYDNEY, Australia and WARSAW (JTA) – Thousands of Australian Jews joined solidarity rallies for Israel.

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Billed as “code red” rallies by the Zionist Federation of Australia, about 4,000 Jews in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra – many dressed in red clothing – on Sunday heard the 15-second “code red” siren that has echoed across Israel this week as Hamas continues to fire rockets across the Gaza border.

A message from Israeli ambassador Yuval Rotem was read at the rallies. “The world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, runs 200 meters in under 20 seconds,” Rotem said. “If Usain is that far from a shelter when a rocket alarm sounds in southern Israel, he won’t make it to safety in time. Enough is enough. Israel exercises its most fundamental duty as a nation to defend its people, and we are not going to apologize for that, because this is what every other government and every other nation would do for its own citizens.”

In Sydney, Gabrielle Upton, the chair of the New South Wales Parliamentary Friends of Israel Group, drew widespread applause from the crowd crammed inside Mizrachi Synagogue in Bondi when she said she would be presenting a motion condemning Hamas in state parliament this week.

Dr. Ron Weiser, a past president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, heaped praise on both major political parties for their “very strong and unambiguous statements of support for an Israel under enormous barbaric and violent attack.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Friday condemned Hamas and supported Israel’s right to defend itself against “indiscriminate attacks” by Hamas on Israeli civilians, which she said were “utterly unacceptable.”

Tony Abbott, the leader of the Opposition Liberal Party, also issued a statement condemning the missile attacks from Gaza, which have claimed three Israeli lives.

“We of course regret the escalation of conflict but Israel has every right to defend herself against the threat while continuing to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties,” Abbott said.

Meanwhile, a small demonstration of about 20 people to show Polish support for Israel was held on Saturday in front of Israeli Embassy in Warsaw.

At the same time across the street about the same number of members of “Solidarity with Palestine” participated in a demonstration led by Omar Faris of the Palestinian Social and Cultural Association in Poland.

“Our demonstration was a spontaneous citizens’ initiative. We brought Polish and Israeli flags and sang Israeli songs,” Marcin Kozlinski, who came to support Israel, told JTA.

“It was obvious to all that we must appear in front of the embassy and protest against the lies and manipulations of “Solidarity with Palestine” and mark the right of Israel to defend itself,” Pawel Czyszek told JTA.

On Friday Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said that Israel, like every country, has the right to defend itself.

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