Fighting for rights, from indigenous Australians to Palestinians

As the Gaza Flotilla 2 is soon to sail – despite attempts to sabotage the boats and other delays – what makes the attempt so moving are the personal stories of people who speak up for Palestine, despite the (almost) comical moves to smear them. Amira Hass profiles two Australians, both of whom I know and admire:

This is not the first time that Sylvia Hale, 69, has been asked why she is so active for the Palestinian cause. What about the discrimination against the Aborigines in her own country, Australia, for example?

Hale, a former Green Party parliamentarian who is still active in the party, immediately responded: “Undoubtedly, Australia has a very racist history. Aborigines were give the right to vote only in 1967. 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.”

And yes, for anyone who is interested: She was and remains involved in other struggles. She has rallied against the initiative to limit the rights of the Aborigines, fought the discriminatory attitude toward refugees in Australia and opposed the policy of stopping boat refugees.

Prior to entering parliament, she hid two refugees in her home so that they would not be arrested.

This week Hale and three of her compatriots will climb on board the Tahrir, the Canadian ship that is participating in the flotilla to the Gaza Strip. She and her Australian colleagues traveled the greatest distance of all the participants. Their flight lasted 48 hours, including the stops in various airports.

Hale and her friend, Vivienne Porzsolt, also 69, give the impression of being typical Western tourists, middle class, middle aged, staying at the hotel where the passengers of the Tahrir have gathered.

But Porzsolt’s involvement also stems directly from being Jewish, she says. “My activism against the Israeli occupation is linked to my Jewish-secular background, the values of equality and morality in the home of my parents [who were] natives of Prague who managed to escape from it immediately following the Nazi occupation in March, 1939. During the 1990s the Jewish element in my life became stronger and I became more interested in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Because Israel considers itself the country that represents all the Jews of the world, my participation in this voyage is my way of declaring that Israel is not acting on my behalf.”

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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