Israel detains Australians
Sylvia Hale, who is a retired member of the NSW Parliament and former Marrickville councillor, and Vivienne Porzsolt, a member of Jews against the Occupation, flew to Tel Aviv on 12 July 2011 to participate in the “Welcome to Palestine” initiative.
They have been detained by the Israeli authorities and are facing deportation. The Israeli government intended to deport them today (at 2pm AEST, Wed. 13 July, 2011) but Israeli human rights lawyers were successful in obtaining a court order to delay their deportation until an appeal could be heard in the court.
Neither Vivienne nor Sylvia has committed any crime but they have been honest with Israeli authorities about their intention to visit Palestine and their Palestinian friends. It is not possible to visit or to work with Palestinians without passing through Israeli border controls.
By participating in the “Welcome to Palestine” initiative (July 8-16, 2011) Australians Vivienne Porzsolt and Sylvia Hale wanted to draw attention to Israel’s policy of denying Palestinians the basic human right to receive visitors from abroad.
“Many international travellers planning to visit Palestine in the last few days have been denied entry by Israel. It is disturbing and shocking for any country, let alone one that claims to be a democracy, to deny people the right to receive visitors.” said Sylvia Hale
The Australians planned to visit Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh in Bethlehem, which is a sister city of Marrickville where Sylvia Hale used to be a local councillor. Sylvia still lives in Marrickville and is very much hoping to visit Bethlehem with greetings from many friends and neighbours.
“We’ve emailed Mazin in Bethlehem saying we hope to attend the Welcome to Palestine celebrations.” said Sylvia Hale.
Sally McManus, Secretary of the Australian Services Union in NSW said, “Sylvia is a human rights and peace activist. She should not be detained, this is a total over-reaction by the Israeli authorities. What is so wrong with visiting their friends in Bethlehem?”
David Shoebridge, Greens NSW MLC, says: “The Australian authorities must intervene and ensure that Australian citizens have freedom of travel to the occupied Palestinian lands.”
“Sylvia Hales’ only crime is to be an active proponent for the civil, political and economic rights of more than a million Palestinians living under an illegal blockade.
“Imprisoning human rights activists is the the action of a country in denial of its human rights abuses” David Shoebridge said.
The DFAT Consular Emergency Centre has contacted the families of Sylvia Hale and Vivianne Porzsolt, informing them they have been detained by the Israeli authorities and moved to a detention centre. They also reported that the Israeli authorities will be deported them to Athens on the next available flight.
Sylvia’s daughter, Alison Barnes, said “Of course we are concerned for my mother’s welfare but we are also very proud of her for standing up for what is right. Today is Sylvia’s birthday which she had hoped to celebrate with friends in Palestine.”
The two Australians, Sylvia Hale and Vivienne Porzsolt joined the “Flytilla” to Palestine, travelling from Athens to Tel Aviv having been frustrated in their attempts to sail to Gaza when the Greek government refused to allow their ship, the “MV Tahrir”, to sail from Crete.
Michael Coleman, another Australian participant on Freedom Flotilla II was arrested and charged in Greece for attempting to sail to Gaza. He received a token suspended sentence and has arrived back in Sydney.
Mr Coleman says: “Even prisoners in gaol are allowed visitors. Sylvia and Vivienne’s detention for trying visit Palestine by air, like my arrest in Greece trying to sail to Gaza, shows that Palestine is an imprisoned nation that is at times denied even visitation rights from the outside world.”
“I call on the Australian government to publicly reassure Australians that it supports the right of Australians to visit Palestine. I call on the Australian government to give assurances that it will make representations to the Israeli government about the rights of Australians to visit friends and family in Palestine and for Palestinians to receive visitors from Australia,” Mr. Coleman said.
“We all had our freedom of movement restricted because we tried to visit Palestine. People in Palestine have their freedom of movement restricted every day simply because they are Palestinians.”
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