Scuttlebutt Downunder: Australia Betrays Its Citizens on Israel’s Directive

Australian flotilla participants ‘have been told by DFAT that Israel will deny and restrict consular assistance to them should Israel board their boats and detain them and the Government is accepting this without any protest. The Australian delegates are angry at the failure of the Australian Government to stand up for their rights or Australian sovereignty.’

Sylvia Hale, former Greens NSW MP and on board the Gaza Freedom Flotilla 2, said via satellite phone:

“I find it … perturbing that the Israeli Government should propose to deny consular access, not only to Australian nationals but also to nationals of other countries.

“….[C]ould you please explain why the Australian Government has remained silent in the face of the possible injury, imprisonment or deportation of Australian citizens from Israel, especially as they have absolutely no desire to set foot, willingly or unwillingly, on Israeli territory,” Ms Hale said.?
Audio recordings of Ms Hale’s comments are available on request.

Jake Lynch, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at University of Sydney, said:
“The Australian government has a responsibility to protect its citizens against illegal military aggression, especially with prior knowledge of Israel’s plans.

“Both Australia and Israel are signatories to the Vienna convention, under which consular access must be allowed to detained persons. For Australia to waive this right at Israel’s behest shows our government places greater importance on supporting Israel’s flouting of international law than it does on the safety of Australians.

“With this decision, DFAT legitimises both the siege and naval blockade, both of which contravene Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, forbidding collective punishments.

“Australian diplomacy places our government on the extreme pro-Israeli fringe of world political opinion. The international community opposes the illegal siege of Gaza, the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and the ongoing expulsion of the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem. On all these issues, Australia is one of a tiny minority of countries which routinely provide diplomatic cover”, Associate Professor Lynch said.

Our muppet politicians seem to have forgotten that even drug runners, rapists, murderers and ‘terrorists’ like David Hicks are supplied consular assistance. The four Australians participating in the flotilla are peaceful humanitarians engaged in a principled action to break the villainous Israeli blockade, collective punishment of a civilian population of 1.6 million people, half of whom are children. The blockade of Gaza is illegal under international law.

If Australian politicians want to put the wishes of Israel first before the welfare and lives of Australian citizens, then they should go live there.

UPDATE 30/6/11

Kate Ausburn: No Diplomats For Gaza Flotilla

Australians taking part in the second Freedom Flotilla to Gaza have been told not to expect consular assistance should they be detained by Israeli authorities.

The Australian contingent of the Flotilla has been told through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) that Israel intends to deny or limit consular access to foreign nationals if they are detained during the Flotilla.

DFAT said that Israeli authorities had told the meeting that, “if it appears that a vessel intends to breach the blockade, it will be seized and escorted to Ashdod Port.”

Further, DFAT said that the meeting was told:

“Ashdod Port will be declared a closed military zone and no consular access will be possible. Participants will either be deported or transferred to one of three prisons. Limited consular access will be afforded to Australian consular officials to participants at the prison and no consular access will be permitted to participants at the airport prior to deportation. Journalists will be considered to be participating in the Flotilla and will not receive special treatment.”

DFAT told Hale that the Australian Government felt “concerned” about the apparent lack of consular access, however concluded, “the extent to which we will be able to help you will ultimately be determined by the Israeli government.”

Dear Aunty ABC comes good :))

DFAT warns of limited consular assistance for Australian activists

PM has seen emails from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which say the department has contacted Israel but can’t do any more.

STATEMENT FROM DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE (Voiceover): Australia will not be denying consular assistance to any of its citizens involved in the flotilla. On the contrary, Australia has made it clear to Israel that we expect that consular access will be made available in the event that any Australians are detained.

If any Australians are detained, consular officials will endeavour to provide appropriate consular assistance. However, access to those detained by Israeli authorities will ultimately be determined by the Israeli government.

CONNIE AGIUS: DFAT also advised PM that the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv has written to Israeli authorities expressing concern following the briefing.

But that’s not good enough for Sylvia Hale.

SYLVIA HALE: The Australian Government says that it will do what it can but it’s inhibited by Israeli local laws. But I expect my government to at least, if it cannot physically intervene to ensure our safety, to issue a public statement saying that it finds the Israeli attitude offensive and one that is worthy of condemnation.

Australians in Gaza flotilla fear limited consular help

Australian activists sailing in a flotilla to Gaza have been told they will have little or no consular assistance if Israel detains them.

Four Australians will be aboard one of the vessels which aims to challenge Israel’s blockade of Gaza and deliver humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has contacted former NSW Greens Upper House member Sylvia Hale, who is one of the four Australians making the voyage.

She says she was told the department had been briefed by the Israeli government earlier in the month about plans to intercept the flotilla and limit consular access to the activists.

“I gather the Israelis more or less said what they were proposing to do, namely to intercept the flotilla, to force it to divert to the port of Ashdod, which would be declared a closed military zone, at which there would be no possibility of consular access,” she said.

“Then participants would either be deported immediately or they would be taken to one of three prisons, at which there might be the possibility of consular access.”

Last year a similar flotilla was intercepted by the Israeli Defence Force.

Nine people were killed and hundreds arrested.

Ms Hale and legal experts say they are critical of DFAT’s response to Israel’s plans.

ABC Radio’s PM program asked the department to clarify what it would do if Australians were detained.

A statement in response said Australia would not deny consular assistance to any Australians involved in the flotilla.

It also said the Australian embassy in Tel Aviv had written to Israeli authorities expressing concern over the flotilla briefing.

In emails from DFAT seen by PM the department said it had contacted Israel but could not do any more.

Ms Hale says that is not good enough.

“The Australian Government says that it will do what it can but it’s inhibited by Israeli local laws, but I expect my government to at least, if it cannot physically intervene to ensure our safety, to issue a public statement saying that it finds the Israeli attitude offensive and one that is worthy of condemnation,” she said.

Lawyer’s concern

Legal experts are also concerned about the Australian Government’s position.

Australian Lawyers’ Alliance director Greg Barns says activists may be subjected to abuse in the time it takes the Australian embassy to reach them.

“People could be held incommunicado for a number of days before seeing anybody from the Australian embassy,” he said.

“It could mean that people are subjected to physical and mental abuse; it could mean that people are subjected to interrogation which wouldn’t be allowed if they had access to lawyers or to consular access.

“And it could mean that those people then are forced to make false statements or seek to cut some form of deal so they can just get out of the detention they’re being held in.”

Mr Barns says DFAT should take a tougher stance.

“What we have here is Israel – which is a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which is the international instrument that governs the way in which diplomatic relations are to be conducted between countries, and including it looks at the issue of consular access,” he said.

“Australia should not tolerate Israel simply saying, ‘well we will drag people into a closed military zone and have no consular access’.”

Israel has signed the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations but it has not been ratified.

The flotilla is scheduled to depart in the next few days.

What you can do

Contact your Australian Federal MP and demand they ask a question in Parliament regarding Australia’s abandonment of its citizens on directives from Israel.
Contact your local media and ask that they highlight the issue.
Viralise the issue through through your choice of social media.
Phone DFAT and your local Consulate and complain on behalf of the Australian flotilla participants.
Insist that the peaceful humanitarian activists must be protected from Israeli violence and piracy.

Related Links

Gaza-bound / From Aborigine to Palestinian rights

Sylvia Hale: “But whoever asks us ‘what about the Aborigines,’ are not the ones who are interested in their rights, and not the ones fighting for those rights. They are using this as a diversionary tactic for evading the debate over Israel’s policy, or to delegitimize criticism of Israel.”

No Turkish boat to Gaza as Ankara, Tel Aviv mend fences

What does fraudulent “anti-gay flotilla” video tells us about Israeli hasbara strategy?
Gaza flotilla organizers demand Greek police provide security for ships
Freedom Flotilla doing what government won’t: supporting Palestinian human rights
If any Australian MPs support the Gaza flotilla, the press here isn’t reporting them
Freedom Flotilla Ready to Sail Despite Threats and Sabotage
Harper Should Support Canadians Safe Passage to the Gaza Strip on Freedom Flotilla Two
Socialist Party Member of European Parliament joins Palestine “Freedom Flotilla II” — Aim of Flotilla to break siege and highlight blockade impact on Gaza population
Gaza Freedom Flotilla organizers dismiss Israeli lies they plan to “attack” Israeli hijackers as they board ship “The organizer of the Gaza-bound flotilla dismissed Tuesday Israeli allegations that extremists aboard the ships plan to harm Israeli soldiers who would be dispatched to stop them. ”
The deep reach of Zionist lobby in the Australian Parliament and society

We now have, thanks to Greens leader Bob Brown, the list of politicians and journalists who took the junket last year. The fact that so many were willing to be taken on a propaganda tour (and how many even thought of visiting the West Bank for longer than five minutes, let alone Gaza?) shows the level of obedience to the Zionist agenda in Australian elite circles. Thankfully, studies prove that the general public are increasingly supportive of the occupied Palestinians.

Israeli Hasbara Alert

Last night, the propeller of the Swedish ship with the Freedom Flotilla was sabotaged in Greece. This morning, Israel has obscured this crime with a barrage of propaganda alleging that some participants on the flotilla are intending to use chemical weapons against the Israeli military if (when) they attempt to board.

Notwithstanding that it is illegal for Israel to board vessels without permission in international waters and vessels under attack in such a manner have a right to defend themselves, this shameless rubbish, quoting the usual unnamed ‘defence sources’ that signify the mouthing of Israeli hasbara, projects Israel’s own persistent chemical crimes – its use of skunkwater and CS gas against non-violent protestors against Israel’s illegal apartheid wall in demonstrations held weekly in the West Bank, and its criminal use of white phosphorus in its Operation Cast Lead massacre in January, 2009. Israel also denies the people of Gaza access to clean water – an insidious form of chemical poisoning.

according to the Jerusalem Post today, Israel is preparing to commit more crimes against the peaceful Freedom Flotilla..

Navy commandos have developed new techniques on how to fast-rope down onto the ships’ upper decks quickly. They also have new equipment such as water cannons, attack dogs from Oketz and riot-control specialists from the Prisons Service’s elite Masada Unit.

Above: Video of the damage to the Swedish flotilla boat’s propeller.

Related Links

ANNOUNCEMENT of the Initiative Ship To Gaza regarding the sabotage of the Greek ship
Israel’s Defense Ministry proposes confiscating boats that breach Gaza blockade
Gaza-bound: A mystery worthy of Henning Mankell

Swedish author Henning Mankell, who took part in last year’s flotilla and is joining the currently planned one, said that the flotilla was not a declaration of war, but a declaration of peace.

Fact-checking the State Department on Gaza aid channels
Spirits of Justice Going to Gaza

Palestine / Israel Links

Israel’s draconian anti-boycott bill targeting individuals, corporations and NGOs who support BDS is approved for its final reading.

This bill is politically motivated and unfortunately it is not the only bill promoted in Knesset these days that stands in contrast to democratic values. A boycott by consumers is a legitimate tool of protest and falls within the protection of freedom of expression. It is ironic that this bill will further enhance the criticism voiced against Israel”. A representative of Coalition of Women for Peace, who was present in the committee debate, quoted Rotem as saying “international law is not of my interest.”

The Israel lobby playbook – rewritten by J Street
Israel refuses citizenship for gay man married to Jewish immigrant – so Israel is a welcoming, gay-friendly place?
Israel’s chief clergy decries arrest of top rabbi who called for killing gentiles – rabbis in Israel are employees of the state.
Glenn Beck to address Knesset panel in July – Israel uses anti-semites to legitimise itself? what a joke.

Israel using phone spam promising rewards to recruit spies in southern Lebanon
How Israel nobbles Palestinian students’ education : Israeli Army Detains Tawjihi Students in Bethlehem
The Palestine Entries: Today I saw Hamas for what it’s worth
UNESCO censures Israel over Mughrabi Bridge : UNESCO’s censure calls for the immediate cessation of all renovation work done on the Mughrabi Gate bridge, which leads from the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem to the to the al-Aqsa Mosque and Temple Mount.
Pinkwashed : Solidarity between liberation movements is essential
BOYCOTT! Issue 59
Australian denies being Hamas recruit
Israel remains a Tier 2 country for Human Trafficking in US report [pdf]

inadequate at identifying and protecting labor trafficking victims, prosecuting and convicting labor trafficking offenders … Some agencies for migrant workers require recruitment fees from $4,000-20,000 : these migrants are vulnerable to debt bondage and sex slavery.

Australia Links

Human rights complaint: moral victory the only hope – the current Australian government stance on David Hicks’ case is deplorable

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