Give back the Tahrir

Since Michael’s return to Australia, Free Gaza Australia [FGA] has been running a political campaign to get our beloved ‘Tahrir’ back from Ashdod, where the Israeli navy took her after illegally taking control of her in international waters in November.

We have sent the following letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard in an effort to enlist her support for the campaign for the Tahrir’s return and for our Government to reposition Australia on the right side of history and international law, and alongside the overwhelming majority of countries in the world who will not support the ongoing systematic abuse of Palestinian people and denial of their human rights.

You can add your support for this campaign by clicking on the link below and adding your name to the call for the ‘Tahrir’ to be returned to its rightful owners.

In the coming weeks we plan to contact all Federal Members of Parliament and seek their support as well.

In recent months, we have also been talking to our international partners about our next plans – stay tuned for the news of the next ‘waves’ to Gaza.

Dear Prime Minister,

In early November 2011, we wrote to your Government demanding immediate action, to:

1. Pressure the Israeli government to unconditionally release and facilitate the safe return of Michael Coleman and all political prisoners.

2. Demand the release of the Tahrir and Saoirse along with all personal property, as well as compensation for damages incurred by the act of piracy that the Israeli government committed on the high seas.

3. Ensure that Israel ends its illegal blockade of Gaza to enable freedom of movement for people and goods.” Five days after the Tahrir was attacked in international waters and Michael, all other passengers and crew were abducted; he was released and ‘deported’ to Australia via Bangkok and Melbourne.

On 28 November 2011 we received a woefully inadequate response from Samuel Allen (Acting Director, Levant and Iran Section) of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in which no answers were provided to our principal demands for action.

The Australian Government’s response to the act of piracy committed by the Israeli Government against the unarmed flotilla that Michael Coleman was aboard has been pitiful.

Your regurgitated comments about practical support and partnership agreements are mealy-mouthed apologies, which are grossly inadequate and disproportionate for the Palestinian people whose land has been stolen from them by the actions of the ever-expanding Apartheid Israeli ‘state’.

Providing drip feed of ‘aid’ is not the solution to the plight of the Palestinians and the injustices they experience in Palestine and in forced exile. Your ‘travel advice’ that Australians should not attempt to travel to Gaza by sea is cowardly. The Australian Government should be working with other countries to aid the people of Gaza who demand an end to the blockade and with it their ability move and trade freely.

All governments, including yours, must hold Israel accountable for its defiance of international law with regards to the ongoing collective punishment of more than 1,600,000 Palestinians in Gaza, half of whom are under the age of 16 in what is effectively the world’s largest open air prison.

Instead you persist in platitudes to the Israeli Government and business interests who continue to make their money from the theft of Palestinian lands. Indeed we found your recent attendance at and speech to the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce extremely offensive when Palestinian people are denied freedom of movement and trade.

We contrast your Government’s actions with the visit to Gaza last month by Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore from the Irish Republic and his statement demanding an end to the blockade.

It is because of the continuing inaction of governments, including the Australian Government that ordinary people feel compelled to act. When our delegate sailed to Gaza, he did so in the firm belief that the blockade of Gaza by the Israeli Government is illegal and inhumane and should end without delay. In this appraisal we believe that we have the support of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the UN Human Rights Council, the International Committee of the Red Cross. and numerous other human rights organisations.

We consider that our assets – the Tahrir, of which we hold a one-tenth share, medical aid we were transporting to give to the people of Gaza and our personal belongings including a satellite telephone have been confiscated illegally by the Israeli Government.

We urge you to actively support our demand that the Israeli Government reloads our medical supplies and our personal belongings and other assets onto our boat and allow us to sail it to Gaza without delay.

We look forward to hearing back from you soon with a considered, positive reply that repositions Australia on the right side of history and international law, and alongside the overwhelming majority of countries in the world who will not support the systematic abuse of Palestinian people and their human rights.

Yours sincerely,

James Godfrey

for Free Gaza Australia

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