Pro-Palestinian protesters arrested in Melbourne


SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — Pro-Palestinian protesters broke through police barricades outside an Australia-Israel forum in Melbourne during an address by Israel’s deputy prime minister.

Three protesters among some 100 demonstrators were arrested Sunday night and later released, police said.

Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, on his first visit to Australia, was leading a high-level  delegation of more than 25 Israelis — including former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter and some of Israel’s most renowned counterterror experts, Middle East analysts and journalists — to the Australia Israel  Leadership Forum, a two-day closed bilateral dialogue between powerbrokers and opinion makers from both countries.

The protesters gathered outside the Park Hyatt Hotel in Melbourne as some 500 people — many from the local Jewish community — gathered for a dinner to celebrate the forum, an initiative of the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange founder and chair Albert Dadon, to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries and engage in issues of mutual strategic relevance.

Shalom, who met Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith during his weeklong visit, thanked Australia for the Labor government’s decision to boycott the United Nations’ anti-racism conference in Geneva earlier in the year and Australia’s opposition to the Goldstone report on Israel’s operation in Gaza last winter.

Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who also addressed the function, said Australia was ready to support sanctions against Iran if it did not comply with the demands of the international community over its nuclear ambitions. Australia supports Israel’s right to self-defense, Gillard said, adding that the forum was "a special kind of conversation between friends."

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