When the Israeli Film Festival arrived in Perth, on August 28, its opening night became the focus of a lively protest by activists from Friends of Palestine Western Australia (FOPWA), with similar protests having been held in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide just days before.
Around 150 people joined the protest, calling for a cultural boycott of the festival, which was organised with direct involvement from the Israeli state. As Professor Stuart Rees told a 100-strong public meeting in Perth two days before, the festival was an attempt by Israel to white-wash it’s crimes against the Palestinian people. Israeli ambassador Shmuel Ben Shmuel opened the festival, at Perth’s Cinema Paradiso, in the presence of Israeli dignitaries and guests.
The protest was peaceful but angry. Ardent supporters of Israel were booed as they entered the cinema whilst Zionist goons, wearing matching black shirts, formed a line in front of the entry. Most of the ‘guards’ were recognised as members of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students. A few people approached the cinema to enter, but chose to continue walking after witnessing the protest. Some of those who were attending in solidarity with Israel showed annoyance as they were stopped at the entrance to have their bags checked. As Gazan activist Ayman Qwaider noted at the protest, the Zionists were getting a taste of what it felt like to be stopped at a checkpoint.
There was an overblown police presence at the rally, which followed a pattern of police harassment and intimidation of protesters at Gaza rallies over the previous eight weeks. The demonstration had barely begun when a police officer made a beeline for the only Middle-Eastern man among a group at the front of the protest, issuing him a move on notice.
The demonstration was visible and striking as protesters wore red gloves symbolising the blood on Israel’s hands. Several Palestinian women defiantly sung two Palestinian songs outside the cinema, much to the discomfort of the Zionist guards. Overall the night was a resounding success. FOPWA is calling on Cinema Paradiso to withdraw sponsorship from any future Israeli Film Festivals.