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Judge blocks protest against Israeli Film Festival in Australia

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – A pro-Palestinian protest at the opening night of the Israeli Film Festival in Sydney will not go ahead, a judge ruled.

New South Wales Supreme Court Judge Peter Hidden ruled Wednesday in favor of the police, who had applied to the court to block the planned protest on Thursday night because it would disrupt inner-city traffic during a peak hour.

“The proposed time and location of this protest will cause significant disruption … cause major traffic issues and safety risks for protesters and members of the public,” the police said in a statement.

Supporters of the Palestine Action Group, which had organized the protest, said they would not be silenced, despite the “setback for civil liberties.”

“While mindful of the court’s decision, we will pursue whatever avenues are open to us to exercise the right to protest,” Damian Ridgwell, one of the group’s members, said in a statement Wednesday. “Cultural events like the Israeli Film Festival are designed to whitewash Israel’s genocide against the Palestinians. We intend to publicly counter this vile propaganda.”

Ridgwell said he called a meeting for Wednesday night to decide the group’s course of action.

Albert Dadon, the founder of the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange, which organizes the festival, rejected Ridgwell’s claims.

“We don’t hear Ridgwell denouncing crimes against humanity that Hamas commits against its own population,” he told JTA. “Ridgwell’s actions are consistent with Hamas’ aim to delegitimize and demonize the State of Israel. Our film festival is promoting filmmakers, Israeli Jews and Arabs who live in Israel. Our aim is to promote peace.”

The festival, in its 11th year, has among its sponsors the Israeli Embassy in Canberra. It will also screen in Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Byron Bay. Similar protests have been planned in some of these cities.

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