The Palestinian editor of a London-based Arabic newspaper says Australian authorities are racist for not giving him a visa to speak at this week’s Brisbane Writers Festival.
Dr Abdel Bari-Atwan, editor-in-chief of the Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, was the last Western-based journalist to interview Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
But he says he has been forced to delay his flight to Australia because he has not yet been granted a visa, even though he applied more than six weeks ago.
This morning Dr Bari-Atwan told ABC radio’s AM program that he believed the decision to deny him a visa was a racist one.
“I am not a criminal, I am not a terrorist. I have visited every corner of the world. So this is racial discrimination,” he said.
“I was told by an official from the Australian Embassy in London, she sent my application to the high officials in Sydney who actually clear the applications.
“She hasn’t heard from [them] until this morning. So it means no visa at all to me. That’s what happened. I asked her why? She said, ‘I can’t give you any reasons because they didn’t tell me anything’.”
Dr Bari-Atwan has been welcomed to the United States on many occasions, so it seems that Australia deems it appropriate to block a Palestinian journalist who dares challenge the accepted Western narrative of the Middle East (and has interviewed Bin Laden). He continues:
“If I am going to be banned, simply because my name is Abdel Bari-Atwan and because I am Muslim and because I’m not, I don’t have white skin, because I don’t have blue eyes, that is the reason. It is racial discrimination.”
Robert Fisk has also interviewed Bin Laden many times, but has not been refused entry to Australia. The reason behind this decision may well have something to do with his views, which, according to the UK Jewish Chronicle, are “extreme anti-Israel.” He allegedly told a Lebanese TV channel in June:
If the Iranian missiles strike Israel, by Allah, I will go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight.” He added that, in any American-Iranian conflict, “Allah willing, [Iran] will attack Israel”.
Such views, if true, are repugnant, but worth banning the man from the country?