Michael Coleman speaks out on his Israeli deportation

Michael Coleman arrives at Sydney Airport, November 11. Photo: Tony Iltis.

On November 4, Israeli warships in international waters attacked and boarded the two vessels Tahrir and Saoirse that were trying to deliver medical aid the besieged territory of Gaza.

All 27 activists on board were kidnapped and taken to an Israeli jail. Sydney-based Free Gaza Australia activist Michael Coleman, 36, was deported after being held for almost a week. Arriving back at Sydney Airport on November 11, he was greeted by family and supporters and spoke briefly to waiting journalists. The following is a transcript of his statement.

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I’m ecstatic to be back on home soil and reunited with my family, but I’m well aware that there are millions of Palestinians that are denied the chance to experience this joy and they have waited much longer than I. I’d also like to acknowledge the hard work of the Australian Embassy staff in Tel Aviv — unfortunately that thanks can’t be extended to a ministerial level.

The aims of Freedom Waves were threefold. We wanted to draw attention to the collective punishment of the people of Gaza, which is being forced through an illegal blockade that has been in place since 2007. This blockade has resulted in 80% of the people of Gaza becoming reliant on the UN for basic human needs such as medical care. Even their movement is restricted.

Secondly, we aimed to take some of this much-needed medical supplies to the Gaza Strip. Unfortunately we were unable to do that as we were boarded by the Israeli Occupation Forces, 40 nautical miles out to sea in international waters … We were then kidnapped and taken to Israel, forcibly removed from the boat; several people on the Tahrir were assaulted and shackled. David Heap was even tasered during the boarding.

This is outrageous. We were peaceful activists. They had already searched our boat and found no arms, no weapons, nothing that in the media they claimed we had. Yet they still detained us for no apparent reason.

I’m disappointed that the Minister of Foreign Affairs hasn’t said more about my illegal detention in Israel but I’d also like to move to the third point about Freedom Waves, which is to pressure the Australian government to stop being so apologetic for Israel’s numerous violations of international law and to start to … support human rights being upheld.

Why did I go? To quote Martin Luther King: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Freedom Waves will continue until Gaza, and all Palestine, is free.



At Ashdod … we refused to leave the boat. We were forcibly removed. Many of us are still sporting bruises from that incident. All our electronic equipment was taken. If Israel was acting legally, I don’t why they had to take all our cameras and footage of the event — they were obviously trying to hide something. The UN has come out and said it was an illegal act … But compared with the treatment Palestinians get, it wasn’t too bad.

Still, having my liberty denied for trying to take medicine to sick people baffles me.

We were definitely outside Israeli waters. We were in international waters, it was an act of piracy. If they had been Somali pirates, people would have been using terms like kidnapping, but because they’re a state actor they claim some legitimacy and use the term detention. It was definitely not detention, it was kidnapping. We never intended to go to Israel. We were forcibly taken there and then detained for entering illegally. Again, I’m baffled.

As I left Givon Prison, I told them I’d see them next year.

We need to put a civil case in to get our boat back. The Tahrir has been impounded and from the history of previous flotillas we know it will be a struggle to get the boat back and if we do it won’t be in good shape.

So we need to get the boat back, to repair and to sail to Gaza again. We will continue to sail to Gaza until Palestine and Gaza are free…

I didn’t get to see a judge. I was told I had seen a judge on Wednesday … but we later found out he wasn’t a judge, he was just an immigration officer. There was lots of misinformation.

Initially we were told it would be 72 hours, then we were told the 72 hours didn’t start until a judge had signed a form, then we were told it could be up to 60 days which would have been quite a struggle, but nothing compared to what the Palestinians go through. It’s a privilege to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine … I’ll continue to go back until Palestine is free.

Comments

I am so proud of the action taken by Michael and the other members of Freedom Waves to Gaza. And I am also bitterly disappointed in my government for their silence. We owe Israel nothing and should never put up with our elected representatives perpetually supporting an apartheid state. Shame on you Gillard and shame on you Rudd for your complicity in the traumas inflicted on the people of Palestine at the hands of an occupying state. History will remember you for your inaction and cowardice.

Goodonya Michael, for your courage and great big heart. we love you. We too share in your disgust at our government's complicity in this brutal, illegal occupation. La Lutta Continua. Free Gaza Australia will continue to work to free Gaza and all Palestine.

More info www.freegazaoz.org; @GFFAusGroup; freegazaaustralia@gmail.com;

Good on Michael Coleman for his courageous action. Shame on the cowardly, pro-war, pro-Zionist Gillard Labor Government for failing to protest the continuing Israeli state terrorist violence against Australian citizens in international waters.

The Labor Government routinely votes with the US against the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians (e.g. it recently voted against Palestinian membership of UNESCO ) and with profound dishonesty refers to Apartheid Israel as a "democracy". The race-based, racist Zionist-run Apartheid State of Israel is a democracy by genocide. Of about 12 million Palestinians only the adults of 1.6 million Palestinian Israelis (21% of the Israeli population) can vote for the government ruling all of Palestine plus part of Lebanon and a near-completely ethnically cleansed part of Syria, albeit as third class citizens. 1.6 million Occupied Palestinians (half of them children) are abusively confined to the Gaza Concentration Camp and 2.7 million Occupied Palestinians live under highly abusive military rule in West Bank Bantustans. About 6 million Palestinians are forbidden to even live in Palestine. There are 5.9 million Jewish Israelis and 0.3 million non-Jewish and non-Arab Israelis.

Australian Lib-Lab support for Apartheid Israel makes them complicit in the ongoing Palestinian Genocide. In 1880 there were about 0.5 million Indigenous Palestinians and of the 25,000 Jews in Palestine half were immigrants. Palestinian casualties of war violence total about 80,000 since 1948 and about 100,000 since 1936. However one must also consider avoidable Palestinian deaths from war-, expulsion- and occupation-imposed deprivation that now total about 1.4 million since 1948. Palestinian refugees total about 7 million. This has been a Palestinian Genocide as defined by Article 2 of the UN Genocide Convention.

Each year Apartheid Israel passively kills about 3,000 Occupied Palestinian infants, passively murders about 5,600 Occupied Palestinians through deprivation and violently kills another circa 600 Occupied Palestinians. Decent anti-racists around the World must Boycott Apartheid Israel and its racist supporters just as it successfully boycotted Apartheid Israel-supported Apartheid South Africa after the Sharpeville Massacre (69 Africans killed). The racist Zionists and their supporters, notably the Neocon American and Zionist Imperialists (NAZIs), must be sidelined in public life as have been like racists such as the Nazis, neo-Nazis, Apartheiders and KKK.

Neocon Labor is dominated by pro-Zionist extremists. Indeed while Rudd was removed because of the Mining Tax the gang who removed him were nearly all pro-Zionist extremists and the Zionist Lobby was deeply unhappy that Rudd had criticized Apartheid Israeli for forging Australian passports and violently kidnapping 5 Australians on the high seas. Getting the pro-Zionist Coalition to change its support for Apartheid Israel is a probably a lost cause but the Zionist-beholden Australian Labor Party (aka the Alternative Liberal Party, Another Liberal Party, Apartheid Labor Party, Apartheid Israel-supporting Labor Party, Anti-Australian Labor Pro-Zionists) can be forced to change if decent folk vote 1 Socialist (or Greens) and put Labor last until it decides to stop giving de facto support to Apartheid Israel and the ongoing Palestinian Genocide.

As I said above, getting the pro-Zionist Coalition to change its support for Apartheid Israel is a probably a lost cause but the Zionist-beholden Australian Labor Party (aka the Alternative Liberal Party, Another Liberal Party, Apartheid Labor Party, Apartheid Israel-supporting Labor Party, Anti-Australian Labor Pro-Zionists) can be forced to change if decent folk vote 1 Socialist (or Greens) and put Labor last until it decides to stop giving de facto support to Apartheid Israel and the ongoing Palestinian Genocide. Will anyone at the Labor National Conference have the decency to demand cessation of Labor support for Apartheid Israel just as it opposed Australian support for Apartheid Israel-backed Apartheid South Africa 50 years ago? How many Australians do Israeli terrorists have to kidnap and how many Australian passports do they have to forge before neocon Labor will find the courage to say no to racist Zionist Apartheid?

Decent Jewish and non-Jewish Australians opposed to Apartheid Israel polices are in good company - to read what outstanding anti-racist scholars and leaders say about Apartheid Israel simply Google "Jews Against Racist Zionism" and "Non-Jews Against Racist Zionism".

Thus one of Australia's most eminent Jewish figures, Sir Isaac Isaacs (first Australian -born Governor -General of Australia in the mid-20th century: "The honour of Jews throughout the world demands the renunciation of political Zionism" and "the Zionist movement as a whole...now places its own unwarranted interpretation on the Balfour Declaration, and makes demands that are arousing the antagonism of the Moslem world of nearly 400 millions, thereby menacing the safety of our Empire, endangering world peace and imperiling some of the most sacred associations of the Jewish, Christian, and Moslem faiths. Besides their inherent injustice to others these demands would, I believe, seriously and detrimentally affect the general position of Jews throughout the world."

Dr Gideon Polya, Melbourne