But with five days before he flies out of the US, and despite numerous attempts spanning more than six weeks, Abunimah – a regular speaker at international events around the world – still doesn’t have a visa, despite the average time of processing an American application running to just a few days.
“They have said no, and they haven’t said no,” Abunimah told New Matilda overnight, via a Skype interview.
“I’m a United States citizen, and for most United States citizens visiting Australia, you apply for something called an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), which you can apply for online or through your airline or travel agent.
“I applied for the ETA online, or I attempted to, back in late January and I was unable to. The website would not take my application. I got in touch with them through their help email, and they said I was using the wrong browser. I tried every possible combination and it still didn’t work.
“So I asked a friend to try with his US passport and it went through instantly. That was the clue that it wasn’t the browser – it was me.”
After a second application through his airline also failed, Abunimah was referred to the Australian Embassy in the US.
He completed a questionnaire in late January, and sent the necessary travel documents, but on February 2nd received an email reply.
“In a small number of cases the department requires that further checks be conducted in order to assess an application,” officials wrote.
“In this instance it has been requested that you apply for a visitor visa subclass 600 in order to have these checks completed. Unfortunately we cannot progress your ETA at this stage.
“The Temporary Work (Short Stay Activity) visa (subclass 400) is a temporary visa for people wishing to enter Australia to conduct short-term, highly specialised, non-ongoing work or participate in an event or events on a non-ongoing basis at the invitation of an Australian organisation.”
“I had some further communication with them by email, where I said ‘You know, I’m really not certain I want to proceed with an application given what appear to be arbitrary and discriminatory procedures, but can you clarify exactly which visa you want me to apply for?’”
Abunimah says he was assured it wasn’t a case of discrimination – it was simply because he was being paid to work in Australia… which he’s not.
“The conference is paying my airfares and expenses – I’m not being paid to participate in the conference, or any other speaking events in Australia.”
“I haven’t been given any reason and I haven’t been convicted or accused of any crimes. So I’m left to speculate that this is political or racial or ethnic profiling. There’s no other explanation for what this could be.”
So it seems as though the official reason is he applied for the wrong visa since they believe he is being paid to appear at the conferences, although Abunimah claims there is something more nefarious at play. And he has directed readers to sign a Friends of Palestine WA petition calling on Australia’s Minister for Immigration to issue him the visa.
My tour of Australia is supposed to begin next week but may be canceled as government is denying me a visa. https://t.co/tNYXV6jNf0
— Ali Abunimah (@AliAbunimah) March 13, 2016
Why don’t I meet the character requirement?
You will not pass the character test if:
- you have a substantial criminal record
- you have been convicted of any offence that was committed while in immigration detention, during an escape from immigration detention, during a period where you escaped from immigration detention, or if you have been convicted of the offence of escaping from immigration detention
- you have, or have had, an association with an individual, group or organisation suspected of having been, or being, involved in criminal conduct
- having regard to your past and present criminal conduct, you are found not to be of good character
- having regard to your past and present general conduct, you are found to be not of good character
- there is a significant risk that you will engage in criminal conduct in Australia; or harass, molest, intimidate or stalk another person in Australia; or vilify a segment of the Australian community; or incite discord in the Australian community or in a segment of that community; or represent a danger to the Australian community or to a segment of that community.
In assessing whether or not you meet the character requirement the following might be taken into consideration:
- you are assessed as a risk to Australian national security
- your presence in Australia:
- is or would be against Australia’s foreign policy interests
- is or would be against Australia’s Autonomous Sanctions Regulations
- might be directly or indirectly associated with the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
- you hold extremist views, such as the view that violence is a legitimate means of political expression
- you are likely to vilify or defame the Australian community or part of it
- you have a record of causing law and order problems, such as by addressing public rallies
- you act in a way likely to be insensitive in a multicultural society, such as by advocating that people in particular ethnic groups should adopt political, social or religious values well outside those acceptable to Australian society
- you are active in a political movement that aims to achieve the non-peaceful overthrow of your own or another government
- you have planned, participated in or been active in promoting politically motivated violence or criminal violence, or are likely to propagate or encourage such actions in Australia
- you are likely to provoke an incident in Australia because of the conjunction between your activities and the proposed timing of your visit and the activities and timing of a visit by another person who might hold opposing views
- you are a war criminal, are suspected or accused of war crimes or are associated with a person or group involved in war crimes
- you are known to be or suspected of being involved in organised crime
- you pose some threat or harm to the Australian community or part of it
- your presence in Australia is likely to be contrary to Australia’s foreign policy interests
- you claim to represent a foreign state or government that is not recognised by Australia
- the Minister is aware of any other credible material that might be relevant to specified public interest criteria.
I have highlighted in bold the parts I believe Abunimah would fail.
- His talks in Australia would likely involve vilifying or defaming part of the Australian community, namely Israel supporters (not Jews, since he is careful about that)
- He clearly holds extremist views, such as the view that violence is a legitimate means of political expression, with his support of Hamas and view they and other palestinian terror groups conduct “justified resistance.”
- He would be “advocating that people in particular ethnic groups should adopt political, social or religious values well outside those acceptable to Australian society” – namely terrorism.
- He is clearly active in a political movement that aims to achieve the non-peaceful overthrow of another government – namely Israel – as his support of palestinian terrorism again demonstrates.
- He has been active in promoting “politically motivated violence,” which is again the aforementioned palestinian terrorism
- All of this means he is not of good character
So it is my contention the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection should refuse Abunimah a visa since he seems to fail their character requirements.
Update: Not surprisingly, Abunimah is whining about this post, but cannot bring himself to mention it, the blog or me.
Instead of coming to debate me in Australia (or anywhere else), anti-Palestinian activists prefer censorship and movement restrictions.
— Ali Abunimah (@AliAbunimah) March 14, 2016
He sure is a champion of freedom of movement – his own. When it comes to Jews getting stabbed on the streets of Israel? Not so much.