By Larry Stillman.
Hello all, I ran home like crazy to try to put in a report about the anti-Trump demo for those who are observant though as far as I can see, the sun is well and truly shining.
Yes, there was a 1/2 hearted from Palestine to Mexico slogan attempt by the young ‘chair’ of the protest that annoyed me a bit, but there were as far as I can tell, no anti-Israel signs or posters, at least at the state library. I did not stay for the March down Bourke Street (why they felt the need to hold up trams etc. I don’t know, but this is masorti).
Only one speaker made strong allusion to Israeli/Palestine as a parallel case of exclusion, and frankly, he said nothing that the ‘true’ Israeli left or Haaretz would not say.
Richard di Natale spoke first (or was it second?), and nothing he said would have been objected to by anyone who opposes Trump.
And thank you to Sheikh Mohamed Mohideen, of the Islamic Council for such perceptive and kind words about the important role of the Jewish community in the US –unity being shown- despite differences. I hope this message got through to more than a few people in attendance.
Alexjo Sandra Nissen spoke and was great. The politics of the very factional left organisers may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it is fair to say that Alex was out there, loud, and proud, as an authentic Australian-Israeli activist (yes, not a Zionist, but a believer in bi-nationalism) who does not accept the current mainstream and especially Netanyahu narrative that supports, borders, walls, and discrimination. It took some effort to get the organisers to be inclusive. I think they learned a lesson, and she got a lot of applause.
Watch the recording here.
And a reflection: decades ago, a lot more protests, particularly on Vietnam War issues, were coordinated by a number of church, union, and other organisations. Such people and structures knew each other very well and used to working through differences and the order and focus of events (maybe students were more anarchic, I think so). And, the division of labour was well, highly gendered. I think most of the key people were men, and women were at home with the kids, or did the typing etc. It’s not like that any more. Of course there were exceptions, like Save our Sons.
Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts’ planned Caulfield visit in November, 2016, which was organised by a far Right Jewish group, was cancelled due to a collaborative effort within the broad Jewish community. While the One Nation senators claimed it was the extremist Left that shut them down, as Michael Brull wrote in New Matilda, “It is hard to take those claims seriously. What really happened is that a small but diverse group of Jews intended to protest One Nation. Rather than face a few hundred protestors, One Nation cancelled the event. There is no evidence that any violence was being planned, let alone that the heavy police presence would have been unable to contain it.”
Jews Against Fascism, a broad spectrum of locals, organised the diversity picnic in place of the divisive planned talk.
In the week prior, on November 25 2016, the following was published as the lead letter in The Jewish News; its relevance hasn’t waned since the introduction of Trump’s Muslim immigration ban and the ongoing racism of Australia’s asylum seeker policy:
You were strangers
For a Jewish group to be hosting a meeting on the dangers of Muslim migration is a contradiction in terms. Let us remember that the injunction “do not oppress the stranger for you yourselves were strangers in the Land of Egypt” is repeated 36 times in the Torah, more often than any other injunction.
But we are told that Muslims pose a terrorist threat. Let us consider the case of the USA. The FBI has issued a report on terrorist attacks on US soil between 1980 and 2005. And it finds that Islamic extremists account for only 6% of these attacks, in other words 94% of the attacks were launched by non-Muslims.
Charles Kurzman, Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, has found that in the 11 years from 2001 to 2012, 33 Americans have died as a result of terrorism launched by their Muslim neighbors. During that period, 180,000 Americans were murdered for reasons unrelated to terrorism. Kurzman concludes that the Muslim rate of involvement in terrorism is less than 10 per million.
I suggest that Avi Yemini, who has called this meeting with One Nation Senators, inform Senators Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts that at the Evian Conference in 1938, called to discuss the issue of increasing numbers of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution, Australia’s Minister for Trade and Custom, Thomas White, said:
“It will no doubt be appreciated also that as we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one by encouraging any scheme of large-scale foreign migration.”
Then Yemini should ask Hanson and Roberts to comment on this statement.
By Sivan Barak.
Every Friday night for the past 60 weeks I’ve driven out of the ‘ghetto’, over the river, just 32 km south, to the far away land of Broadmeadows. It’s a weekly participation in a macabre ritual, the antithesis to Melbourne’s dubious title, ‘most livable city’. During these visits I witness what I can only describe as Australia’s “banality of evil”, Hannah Arendt’s confronting and harsh term, coined after witnessing the trial of Adolf Eichmann.
Men and women, who are employed by us, uphold cruel violations of human rights. They maintain they are “just following orders” and “needing to pay their mortgage”. It is a surreal experience, as an Australian, to enter a realm, a bubble in our urban space, in which one relinquishes their rights to as simple a request as gifting a book to a detainee, or pointing out administrative incompetence. The desire to visit the detainees, combined with the constant threat of refusal, is manipulated and used against me as leverage to shut down any discussion or query.
MITA (Melbourne Immigration and Transit Accommodation) holds people who are seeking asylum, who have committed no crime. Most asylum seekers detained here are seeking medical treatment. Yet it is a high security facility with rules and regulations for prisons. No mobile phones, musical instruments, or craft materials are permitted during visits. Visitors are required to sit throughout the two-hour visit, without moving from their seat. If a detainee needs to use the bathroom, their visit is terminated.
The visitor community is an incredibly diverse group, spanning all ages and genders, united by a deep-set understanding that a terrible injustice, an insidious evil, is being perpetrated in own name. Our role is to witness lives, to know names, to hug and love and support human beings who could be us, who are now our family. Every week, every visit, my life is enhanced by the trust and love bestowed upon me by my friends inside. I would like to share the thoughts of one young inspiring visitor who wrote this last year:
“Something which I have been thinking of a lot lately is the way the term ‘the voiceless’ is used.
When people refer to people in oppressed situations, they often refer to them as people without a voice or ‘voiceless’.
The thing is people aren’t voiceless.
People seeking asylum aren’t voiceless.
Indigenous people aren’t voiceless.
The LGBTQI+ community aren’t voiceless.
Minority groups aren’t voiceless.
Those living under war, occupation and military rule aren’t voiceless.
Situations, governments, armed forces, militaries and institutions use force, control, media, power, money and violence to keep voices quiet.
These powers do all they can to speak louder, to speak over the top, to control messages, to control people and put them in situations that limit their capacity to be heard.
But people are never voiceless.
Sometimes their voices are taken.
Sometimes their words are misused.
Sometimes they are silenced.
But this doesn’t make them voiceless.
Despite all the layers of oppression people continue to speak up, people continue to be strong, to be true, to share their stories and they continue to speak out.
We just need to listen better.
We need to put ourselves in the right places so that we hear the truth.
We need to allow ourselves to be confronted by the truth of the world.
We need to be the ones listening to the voices of those being oppressed, as they are being oppressed by the very structures and institutions that many of us benefit from.
We may advocate and speak of the things we see, hear and know as the unjust truths. But we aren’t (or shouldn’t be!) speaking of, or for voiceless people.
We are speaking of people who have strong, brave, determined, and unwavering voices.
They’re just not being listened to.”
Jasmine Pilbrow 2016
If you want to get involved, there are so many ways. Let me know.
The Baxter Detention Centre in South Australia was used for the mandatory detention of asylum seekers between 2002-2007. In 2003 detainees protested and set fire to the facilities over the Easter Weekend protests. This happened again with worse results in 2005, but then Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said that acts of vandalism and self harm by asylum seekers were “unattractive” protest measures. These protests united the struggle of those inside the detention centre with the fight of Australians who traveled from across the country to camp near the site for the weekend, adding their voices to this movement.
Sylvie Leber was at the Baxter convergence in 2003. She shares her photographs and private notes from the Easter protests of that year:
I’ve just returned from the three-day 2003 Baxter convergence. I kept diary notes during this time.
Friday 18th April.
Our first of several spokes council meetings was held at midday in the centre of town (Port Augusta). The local indigenous community had given us a traditional welcome. They were to stick close by us for the next three days.
We decided whether the camp should be on the West or Eastern approach. A consensus was reached without too much trouble. Scouts from Adelaide had done their homework in the previous weeks.
I have come armed with all sorts of art materials and small paper banners. I also had my own version of riot protection gear: swimming goggles and a respirator in case police used pepper spray and tear gas like they did last year at Woomera.
We headed towards Baxter Detention Centre. Baxter is on Federal Military land and adjacent to aboriginal sacred land. Apart from a few sheep grazing on the prickly saltbush and an occasional long train in the distance, and the long water pipe, the backdrop for the Easter weekend was the spectacular Flinders Ranges. The detainees can’t see out of the detention centre. They can only see the sky. The police wanted us at least 2KM from the detention centre. Roadblocks had been set up to stop cars that were not police or media from getting through.
The battle with police over where to set up camp ensued, police flexed their muscle, they were determined to move us. I noted about four different types of uniform. A tall thin man with dreadlocks played violin in front of them. While a group of parents put up tents, their children played nearby with water pistols. The Chief inspector of police warned us to move back. At 4.45pm they brought in the horses and started pushing us back. People in the front line were picked out and arrested. They used unnecessary levels of force and arrested people. Police grabbed possessions as they advanced. Chaos ensued. There was screaming, yelling, young women in tears. My worst fear was that a policeman would split my bare head open with a baton. Throughout all this someone was flying a kite with a love heart painted on it. People were searching for their packs – a young woman who had lost her things spotted her bag and ran and hugged it exclaiming “My baby!” The water pipe was to be an asset for us. It acted as a barrier to the heavily armored police who could not outrun us, was somewhere to hide possessions under as well as being cool to touch, providing shade and acting as a vantage point to film and photograph the events that were unfolding. An older and disabled activist from Melbourne had collapsed during the police violence. There were a handful of physically disabled people amongst us and several sprightly women in their 70s. We had legal observers, medics and couriers (iXpress) on hand. Meanwhile the police were holding their first media briefing in town.
Dejectedly the group moved back up the hill. We all knew we had stuffed up the first day. During the night various small groups tried to breach the police line around Baxter, some got arrested.
Evelyn and I started to chalk the word Freedom in as many languages as we could on the one metre in diameter water pipe while others set up camp. The sun was harsh, the air was dry. I understand why Dusty is an Aussie outback nickname. Many people wore bandanas and scarves over their nose and mouth. I sensed these bandanas were more than protection from the red dust, some of their significance remained a mystery to me.
Baxter Detention Centre is a high-tech, militarized facility based on the infamous J Ward at Pentridge, which was closed down after six months because the suicide attempt rate was so high.
There are rotating video cameras on high poles – high tech observation towers without the guards. There are two outside fences. The inner one is a 9,000-volt electric fence. There are several detainee compounds each is surrounded by an electric fence. Detainees are under constant video surveillance except in the toilets and showers.
From a distance the detention centre at night is lit like a night football match at the MCG.
At night the detainees could easily hear us and when our protest group was silent after making lots of noise their distant calls were faintly audible. All phone calls have been banned during the lockdown inside.
I spoke to my daughter by mobile. She asked me “Did you get arrested?” (I had warned her that this could happen but that I was not a frontline person. I’m scared of batons splitting my head open.) As our conversation was ending she asked? “Did you steal some refugees?”
I was getting ready for bed when there was a desperate knock on the door. “Sylvie are you in there? It’s A I’ve been arrested and I’m really strung out”. A looked a mess. He was completely covered in red dust. He had been thrown to the ground, held face down with a policeman’s knee on his neck unable to breathe, his arms were twisted behind his back and handcuffs put on. He showed me the bruises. He’d lost his possessions. It turned out he had been the first to get arrested and had just gotten out on bail. The charge on his bail form was “Fail Cease Loiter” he was to come back in June. A was the most unlikely of arrestees. The doco crew next door kindly lent him some bedding. His bail condition stipulated that he was not to take part in any of the protest activities and that he wasn’t to venture further than the first road block.
Today we had a much more successful day. We were no longer a rabble we were strategic and organized at all three of our actions. The police were in overkill mode. A group went down at 9.00pm to hold a can
dlelight vigil of mourning. People sat quietly and sang. Arrests were made. A young woman had been arrested earlier in the day for flying her kite in a restricted zone near a military airport.
We were a mixed crowd. I enjoyed seeing the colorful appearance of the passionate young people. The Desert Rats without Borders, feral anarchist punks, were the most visually striking group, dressed in black, interesting tattoos, intricate hair designs, body piercing, some men wearing kilts and a few wearing black bandanas over their mouth and nose. The Greens added an air of respectability. There were several sprightly older women, a couple of New Romantic-looking fellows from the VCA, Melbourne’s elite art school, and many 30 and 40 something women who had left their partners and children behind. The array of T-shirt messages was to be constantly stimulating and entertaining.
There were the Queers for Refugees, Rural Australians for Refugees, the Radical Cheer Squad who never failed to amuse with their witty routines. Food not Bombs were impressive providing yummy vegetarian food made from “found food”. No One is Illegal had organized the water truck; the Refugee Action Collective organized the concert. Indymedia set up the media tent
Yesterday a plain-clothes policeman with a backpack had been recognized by one of the local aborigines who had formerly been a policeman himself. A crowd gathered and hounded him out of the camp. We had no idea of how many spies there were amongst us. The police had expected about three thousand of us there was overkill everywhere
It was beyond my expectations to meet two Australian Correctional Management (ACM) building subcontractors, who worked at both Woomera and Baxter, during the concert. Australasian Correctional Management was a private company running several immigration detention centres. The guys seemed to have pretty good communication with the women and children of the housing program and the men in the detention centres. They described how the community of Woomera had done a lot in terms of material assistance to the housing program residents. I found it confronting to meet these two blokes because my feeling was that no one should work for ACM if they had a conscience. They told me that they were part of the protest but they wouldn’t take part in any action, as they feared losing their jobs. They were happy to talk to anyone at the camp and answer any questions but would not appear on film. They confirmed that at Woomera the women were still taken shopping by guards.
During the concert we were able to do a mobile phone hook up with one of the detainees over the PA . We learnt that contrary to misinformation before the protests we had the full support from the people inside.
It was meant to be a 7.00 am start as it was the cool time of the day, people from Perth had a 30-hour trip ahead of them and we had to pack and be at the Port Augusta jail by 1.30. A group of us filled balloons with helium and with felt tips wrote messages to detainees. We finally headed off at 8.30 for our last of the five actions at the detention centre. We released our balloons in unison; we hoped some of them would land in the compounds. A Jewish group from Sydney stuck rows of yellow Jewish stars around the entrance and handed yellow flyers to the media pointing out the similarities as well as the differences between Australia’s Detention Centres and Nazi Concentration Camps.
We made lots of noise and as we left we tried to get past the police close to the fence, the Darth Vader–like police chased us again, a few more arrests but most of us could easily outrun the police so heavily weighed down by their uniforms.
When we got back we heard about a four-wheel drive full of police armed with machine guns who had driven through the camp. Channel Nine was negotiating with some of us to get our handy cam and Super 8 footage of this. Apparently four hours earlier someone had pointed a tripod at the relentless helicopter that has been hovering above us day and night for the three days.
As the camp was packing up a spectacular whirlwind of red dust swept through the camp sweeping objects up towards the blue sky. Similarly we had swept through Port Augusta and the desert for three days. On the way to the Port Augusta jail solidarity protest (80% of prisoners are aboriginal) we noticed the police having a damage control press conference. They were being questioned by the media about the machine guns.
I thanked Noelene, the aboriginal elder who had spoken and sang at the Rock Out Against Racism concert the night before, for having us. She replied “Well you know where we are now, come and see us anytime.”
Coming home I realized that Australians must fight to protect our fragile and eroding freedom and understood that if we are complacent how easily our government will be able to take it away.
For the economic rationalists: the South Australian Government spent $1,000,000 on the protest. There were about 500 protestors. Each protestor cost them$2000. It only cost me $300. It was a worthwhile investment to put refugees in detention back on Australia’s agenda.
Thank you to all my fellow protestors and all the people back home who supported the Baxter 2003 convergence in other various ways.
It was on International Holocaust Memorial Day this year, after issuing a statement that made no mention of Jewish – nor any other – victims of the Holocaust, that Donald Trump signed an Executive Order banning people from 7 predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. The effects were swift and brutal: people who were born in, or are citizens of, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen were immediately banned from entering, with the result being that numerous people were detained, deported, and refused permission to fly. Refugees and others, whether migrating or seeking temporary entrance, were refused entry. This was a closing of the borders in a way which is both a continuation of what has come before, but also something new. As a settler-colony and with a slave history, the United States was founded on such murderous violence: this action is the latest, brutal step in this chain.
Encouragingly, the response was also swift: people across the United States and across the world have stood up in opposition and actively campaigned to oppose this measure and act in solidarity with those detained and impacted by the order.
The AJDS stands alongside them. We seek to make clear that we stand in solidarity with Muslim communities, and others, across the world in our outrage and resistance to this new Executive Order. It is a deplorable, racist, attack on people’s abilities to live their lives: it is causing immense violence.
The AJDS also stands opposed to the response issued by the Australian government, and utterly refutes the idea that they should be working closely with Trump to punitively enforce borders, as Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison have said they will. We know well the racism and violence which already characterises Australia’s ongoing settler-colonialism and treatment of refugees. Rather than increasing border control, just as the United States must reverse this closure of its borders, and work beyond that to a fairer and more open migration system, so too must Australia vastly change its current conditions.
Like many Jews around the world – many of whom are uniting under the banner of #JewishResistance – we remember the lessons of the Holocaust vastly differently to the meanings that Trump, Steve Bannon and their Nazi and white supremacist allies have sought to give it this year. We remember the devastating violence and loss caused by genocide, and we commit to acting in that memory, and in the knowledge of that history, for a more just world. Some of us carry family histories of being refugees, and we all carry that historical knowledge, and so we stand alongside the world’s current refugees in calling for them to be granted access to safety wherever they seek it.
The executive of the AJDS calls on members, supporters, and all Jews who seek justice to actively take a stand against both our government and the US government, and the ways in which they treat racialised minorities, including refugee, migrant, Muslim, and Indigenous communities. Sign a petition, call a politician, attend a rally, have a conversation, donate money, sign up to an organisation’s email list, read new stories, write new narratives: the list of things that each of us can do is endless. If everyone commits to doing one thing everyday, in partnership and solidarity with others around the world, then we can affect serious change. We can only do it together though, acting in solidarity and for justice.
This statement was released by the AJDS 31/1/17
We share with you the following initiative from Love Makes a Way:
Join us in a Powerful Act of Truth-Telling!
Can you sense change is coming? In response to the #NauruFiles, refugee advocates from all different organisations have been holding vigils, rallies and peaceful acts of civil disobedience to let the Government and Opposition know that enough is enough — Australia’s inhumane treatment of people seeking asylum must end.
As part of this ongoing effort, a coalition of organisations, including LMAW, will be holding #NauruFiles reading vigils around Australia during the week of 12–16 Sept, 2016. At these vigils we will be aiming to read as many of the 2,116 incident reports as possible, as a way to publicly narrate the cruelty that’s occurring in Australia’s detention centres.
Please share this event on Facebook,
and announce it at your church on the weekend.
We want to send a message to the Government and Opposition that the abuse, assault and conditions detailed in the Nauru reports must end, and that they must take responsibility for their poor decisions and the culture of secrecy that has been created around immigration detention.
Most of all, we want to see Australia’s offshore detention camps shut down immediately. Will you join us?
Whether you can give an hour or ten, head to your nearest reading vigil to help us narrate the truth from within our detention centres.
Monday 12 September
BRISBANE: 8am–6pm, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, 299 Adelaide St, Brisbane
Tuesday 13 September
ADELAIDE: 8am–5pm, Pilgrim Uniting Church Forecourt, 12 Flinders St, Adelaide
Wednesday 14 September
MELBOURNE: 8am–6pm, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, 2 Lonsdale St, Melbourne
Thursday 15 September
PERTH: 8am–6pm, Wesley Church, 75 William St, Perth
Friday 16 September
SYDNEY: 8am–6pm, Queen Victoria Building (south end), Cnr George St and Druitt St, Sydney
The Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS) is strongly opposed to the Australian Government’s recent decision to send all asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat to Papua New Guinea. Australia has an obligation – both by law and morality – to help those who come to this country in need. By sending asylum seekers away we are breaching our responsibilities to the rest of the world, and particularly to those who need help the most.
This decision ignores the role that Australia plays in creating conditions around the world that are unsafe for people – ‘push factors’ that force people to seek asylum – as well as the dangerous effects that building larger detention centres in Papua New Guinea will have on local communities there. It makes arbitrary distinctions between how people come to this country to seek asylum, and in doing so creates and reinforces the paranoia and fear of the worst, most racist, elements of Australian society.
We look forward to the day when the lives of people in need are no longer treated as political footballs, and Australia’s immigration policies are based on care and directed at protecting and helping people who come to us seeking asylum.
Please join Jews for Refugees in a protest action on Saturday July 27. Meeting outside RMIT on Swanston Street (cnr Latrobe) at 12.50pm. Event details here.