Asia stands up for Palestine

Hundreds of millions have taken to the streets across the Asian continent, reaffirming the world’s solidarity with Palestine

by Atul Chandra, Vijay Prashad
November 13, 2023

The ugliness of Israel’s war on Palestine has drawn hundreds of millions of people around the world to take to the streets and to social media to demonstrate their anger at the bombardment of Gaza. People of all ages, many of them who have never been to a manifestation, are taking the first step to make a sign and walk into a crowd of people chanting, in a range of languages, “Free Palestine!” and “Ceasefire now!” Across Asia especially, from Pakistan to South Korea, millions of people have participated in a range of solidarity protests.

Some of these demonstrations have been backed by governments, such as a protest of over a million in Jakarta, where Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi said, “Every ten minutes, a child is killed in Gaza. Thousands of parents have lost their children, while thousands of children have lost their parents.”

On the streets of the Indonesian islands, eight progressive and socialist organizations from Perserikatan Sosialis (Socialist Party) to the Sentral Gerakan Buruh Nasional (National Labour Movement Center) issued a statement calling on the Indonesian government to cut ties with the Israeli state and to declare its support for a “one-state solution,” a democratic Palestine built on the abolition of the apartheid state. “Sungai sampai samudera, Palestina merdeka,” [From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free] they declared. The general orientation here is that from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, a unified and secular state should be built with equal rights for all who live in it.

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In a meeting of left parties in New Delhi on November 7, Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said that the genocidal violence by Israel was not in fact provoked by the attacks of October 7 by the Palestinian resistance. Palestinians, he said, “have endured more than a century of oppression since the Balfour Declaration” and that “even in the West Bank…the Palestinians have faced attacks.” Zionism, Yechury said, is “a fascist ideology that shares many characteristics with Hindutva [the ideology of Hindu supremacy].” Because of that, the Indian government is pushing for a US-Israel-India axis, Yechury argues. The left in India has taken to the streets not only to defend the Palestinians, but also to struggle against the imperialist alliance deepened by this conflict.

Israel withdrew its settlers and troops from within Gaza in 2005, but has since then controlled its borders, prevented the free movement of people and goods, going so far as to even limit the caloric intake of Gaza. As Israeli official Dov Weisglass said in 2006, Israeli policy in Gaza was to “put Palestinians on a diet.”

Israel has also staged periodic bombing campaigns against the Palestinians within Gaza, in the years 2006, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014, 2019, 2022, and 2023, with smaller raids in-between. The bombing in 2023 has shocked the world for its ferocity. The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Socialist) held a photo exhibition to highlight the brutal violence of this year, notably the killing of thousands of children as well as the plight of life in Gaza’s “open-air prison.”

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Along these lines, the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people, saying that the resistance operation of October 7 is “the culmination of the anger and frustration of the Palestinian people over the prolonged blockade of the Gaza Strip, illegal occupation of the Palestinian homeland, ethnic cleansing, forced evictions, brutal assaults, violent repressions, bombings, and torture, committed by the Zionist apartheid regime of Israel.”

Holding protests in Manila, Bacolod, and Cebu, the Partido Manggagawa (Labour Party) of the Philippines condemned the Israeli campaign “to completely siege Gaza by cutting off food, water, and electricity supplies to annihilate ‘subhuman’ Palestinians,” as “downright genocide that needs to be opposed to avert a colossal humanitarian crisis.”

Left parties in Bangladesh concurred, holding demonstrations against the genocide in Barial, Khulna, Natore, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Satkhira, Sherpur, Sylhet, Uzirpur, and in the capital city of Dhaka. Jasod, a socialist party in Bangladesh, condemned the West for its support of Israel at a rally in Dhaka, and demanded that the international community comply with United Nations resolutions that compel Israel to end its indiscriminate bombing, massacres, genocide, destructions and to declare a ceasefire immediately.

The call for a ceasefire resounded from South Korea to Sri Lanka, where thousands gathered at Hyde Park under the auspices of the parliamentary parties and religious leaders. In Australia, the large marches in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney included aboriginal groups who expressed solidarity with the Indigenous Palestinian people. In the Port of Botany in Sydney, several hundred pro-Palestine activists took to the waters on small boats to prevent the arrival of the Israeli ship, Contship Dax. Padraic Gibson, a unionist with the Palestine Justice Movement, said that the Israeli boats are “in every port in the world, [which] means we can fight them in every port in the world and bring them to their kees.”

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In Pakistan, protests took place under the banner of the Left Democratic Front in Hashtnagar, Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore, as well as in small towns and villages. The Mazdoor Kisan Party (MKP), one of the organizations in the Front, said, “The Palestinian people in Gaza have opened a new chapter in the history of the war of national liberation and opened a new horizon of hope for the oppressed and a bright change for the future of humanity.”

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