Why is the Australian government afraid of Bassem Tamimi, a Palestinian from the village Nabi Saleh? Last Wednesday, Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection revoked the entry visa it had given him a day earlier.
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Tamimi, who with other popular resistance activists in his village and across the West Bank have managed to focus international attention on the evils of the Israeli occupation, was invited by a left-wing organization and some pro-Palestinian groups to hold a series of lectures and meetings in Australia. No less than Tamimi, they were shocked by the hysterical revocation of his visa. As expected, pro-occupation and pro-expulsion websites were delighted.
The revocation document, posted on the website of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), says “the [immigration] 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. his presence in Australia would or might pose a risk to the good order of the Australian community.”
Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin couldn’t have better formulated the rationale for silencing any opposition voice. What Tamimi has to say is displeasing to some anonymous parties, it says in Australian. Between the lines: These elements could run wild trying to silence him or disrupt events he participates in, and the Australian authorities would be helpless to confront them due to their power (political, financial, physical, or all of these combined). In other words, he constitutes a risk because others will abuse their power in order to silence him.
“His views,” says the official document. As if this were a debating salon and not irrefutable, first-hand testimony about a regime of ethnic segregation that Israel fashions. Tamimi would have spoken of the land, forests, public spaces and springs that Israel has robbed from his village and others for the benefit of Jewish settlers; of the Israeli prohibition on adding even one story to existing houses in his village, while single-family dwellings in the settlement across from it are continuously going up. He would have spoken about military raids, the intimidation of children, about soldiers who killed two of his relatives when they presented no danger to those troops. He probably would have said that this is the nature of the Zionist regime. He would have declared his support for a one-state solution, for Jews and Palestinians. He would have mentioned the Jewish Israeli activists who have been standing by his village since 2009. What is so frightening about that?
It’s anyone guess as to what transpired in the 24 hours between the issuing of the visa and its cancellation: an aggressive phone call from the Israeli embassy to the Australian Foreign Ministry; a bombastic email from any right-wing organization, or from a Jewish or evangelist one; an SMS from a Jewish tycoon, or any one with Israeli connections, to a member of parliament, who hastily contacted the Immigration Department. Or maybe the tycoon, one with connections in the media, sent an SMS directly to a senior official. Sound anti-Semitic? The problem is not these speculations, but the anti-democratic modes of operation Israel exports.
In response to questions by an ABC journalist, a spokesman for the Immigration Department said yes, the Australian government supports freedom of speech and so on, but it is also responsible for preventing the vilification of the Australian community, incitement of discord within it or putting it in danger. Could Bassem Tamimi, alone, do all that?
Official Israel and supporters of Israeli apartheid object to his words in advance. If they were capable of challenging his testimony or conclusions, they would not act to prevent his visit. Their anger reveals weakness, which they try to cover up with intimidation. And the Australian government, for its own reasons, is afraid of them and has decided to act as Israel’s subcontractor.