Dora McPhee(VIC) writes to FM Kevin Rudd re Australians detained by Israel 13Jul11 July 13, 2011


Dear Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd,

I write to protest the actions of the Israeli government in preventing visitors to Palestine and call on the Australian government to publicly reassure Australians that it supports the right of Australians to visit Palestine.

Sylvia Hale, a retired member of the NSW Parliament and former Marrickville councillor, and Vivienne Porzsolt, a member of Jews against the Occupation, were detained by Israeli authoritries and face deportation after flying to Tel Aviv to participate in the  “Welcome to Palestine” initiative. They undertook this flight after failing to reach Gaza to highlight Israel’s illegal blockade and siege that collectively punishes 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza.

Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territories have their freedom of movement restricted every day simply because they are Palestinians. The “Welcome to Palestine” initiative was organised by Palestinians living under Israel’s oppressive system of occupation and apartheid to highlight their plight and to show how Israel controls every aspect of their lives including the ability to receive international guests. It was designed to be a peaceful mission of support to stand in solidarity with the occupied people of Palestine.

Neither Vivienne Portzsolt nor Sylvia Hale has committed any crime and they have been honest with Israeli authorities about their intention to visit Palestine and their Palestinian friends.
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.

I ask 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. I ask the government to make a public statement supporting the right of these two respected Australians to visit Palestine and reassure the Australian public that our government supports the right of its citizens to visit friends in Palestine without being detained or deported by the Israeli government.

I also once again ask the Australian government to call for an end to the siege and blockade of Gaza, which has been denounced by the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights, Navanthem Pillay, as being in direct contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law. Numerous reports over the four years it has been in place have attested to its detrimental effects on the civilian population especially its children. As collective punishment it is a war crime that should be brought to an end. No amount of aid the Australian government generously gives to the Palestinian people can ever make up for the denial of their most basic human rights, which our government continues to turn a blind eye to in its dealings with Israel. Meanwhile the futures of Gaza’s children, who constitute half of the 1.5 million population is blighted because the world remains silent.

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