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The Palestinian activist Bassem Al-Tamimi was issued a visa to come to Australia on 4th April 2017. While he was in Amman, the next day, waiting for a connecting flight to Australia, it was cancelled. According to a statement from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection his visa was cancelled on the grounds that: “The Department has recently been made aware of information that indicates there is a risk that members of the public will react adversely to Mr Tamimi’s presence in Australia regarding his views of the ongoing political tensions in the Middle East. Therefore, there is a risk that his presence in Australia would or might pose a risk to the good order of the Australian community.”
Al-Tamimi was ten weeks old at the time of the Israeli invasion of the West Bank in June 1967 and hid with his mother in a cave during the conflict. As a grassroots activist, he organized weekly demonstrations to protest the seizure of the village's well by the nearby Israeli settlement of Halamish, established in 1977. The protests regularly lead to clashes, with Palestinian youths throwing stones and Israeli forces firing on protesters with tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons. Since the end of 2009, 64 people (13% of the village's population) have been arrested.
Prior to his 2011 arrest, al-Tamimi had been arrested by Israeli authorities eleven times, at one point spending more than three years in administrative detention without trial. In 1993, he lost consciousness for eight days after being shaken during an interrogation, and required surgery for removal of a subdural haematoma. His home has also been designated for demolition by Israel's Civil Administration.
Al-Tamimi is an admirer of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi and believes that armed conflict against a more powerful Israeli opponent will only bring disaster Al-Tamimi states that he advocates nonviolent resistance, telling a reporter in 2011, "Our strategic choice of a popular struggle—as a means to fight the occupation taking over our lands, lives and future—is a declaration that we do not harm human lives. The very essence of our activity opposes killing."
If Talmimi is unacceptable to Australian authorities it is fair to ask, who would be acceptable? Peter Dutton needs to explain how his decision is not discriminatory at best, and at worst, based on racial discrimination.
Why wouldn’t Talmini be exactly the person Australia should welcome with open arms because of his espoused commitment to non-violent resistance? Wouldn’t he help Australians generally to have a better understanding of the plight of the Palestinians? Perhaps that is exactly what the Australian government does not want us to have? It is hard not to come to the conclusion that the current Australian government supports violence and oppression of others if it suits what it perceives as ‘national interests’ and condemns it in other circumstance. Netanyahu was given an almost unprecedented fawning welcome by the Australian Prime Minister. Netanyahu has just announced the building of an entirely new settlement for 2,500 homes on Palestinian land, in flagrant violation of the December UN Security Council resolution which condemned such building. Australia has been typically mute in condemnation of this announcement.
What does Peter Dutton and the Australian Government expect Tamimi and his fellow Palestinians to do? – Applaud the taking of their land and the demolition of their homes? What would anyone anywhere in the world do – resist. That he is committed to non-violent resistance is much to be applauded, not shunned.
Shame on you Peter Dutton. Shame on the Australian Government. We claim we are an open liberal and fair minded democracy. Australians might well be, but clearly in the Australian Government we are served by Ministers who are far from decent, preferring to do deals with ‘friends’ who profit from others misery. Undoubtedly small numbers of right wing Israeli supporters, (this description does not include the middle ground of tolerant Australian Jewry who are appalled by Netanyahu’s aggression), would “react badly to Mr Tamimi’s presence’. But if this is the basis for such decisions, why allow Benjamin Netanyahu, or Geert Wilders, or Ayaan Hirsi Ali, or Rodrigo Duterte, a visa?