Government says there is a risk people may react adversely to Bassem Tamimi’s presence, and his views on the Middle East
The federal government has cancelled the visa of an outspoken Palestinian activist on the eve of his Australian speaking tour because others are likely to “react adversely” to his presence.
The activist, Bassem Tamimi, was due to board a plane this week to begin his Australian speaking tour, which was organised by the Palestine Action Group, Friends of Palestine, and The Social Research Institute.
He was granted a visa on 4 April, but it was cancelled the next day.
The department said Tamimi’s presence would threaten the good order of the Australian community, and invoked section 128 of the Migration Act to cancel the visa.
“The Department recently became aware of information that indicates there is a risk that members of the public will react adversely to Mr Tamimi’s presence in Australia regarding his views of the ongoing political tensions in the Middle East,” the decision said.
Tamimi, a vocal opponent of Israeli settlement in the West Bank, was due to speak in Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne this month.
He said he was disappointed in the decision, and described it as a limit on freedom of speech. He accused Israel of lobbying to have him barred from entry.
“The decision is disappointing [it] means that the Israeli occupation and the Zionist lobby succeed and their allies dominate the decision in all the world countries,” Tamimi told Guardian Australia.
“I think the double standard for the right to speech that the Israelis have, and we haven’t the same right, not as a Palestinian, but also the Australian activities mean there isn’t any freedom of speech, because the lobby forced the government [to] change the decision.”
The Australian-based Palestinian activists organising the tour described the decision as an act of “extreme censorship”.
Activist groups are now consulting immigration lawyers about the decision, and expect to challenge it in court.
An online petition has been created, and activists expect to campaign publicly to have the cancellation reversed.
One of the speaking tour’s organisers, Vashti Kenway, said the decision had left Tamimi stranded in Jordan, where he had travelled to catch the flight to Australia.
“He is obviously deeply upset,” Kenway told Guardian Australia.
“He’s had difficulties getting into other countries, there’s been a campaign against him getting into the US, but he was allowed.
“I don’t think he was shocked [at the Australian decision], but he was certainly disappointed. And he really wants to just not let it go. The ban is actually for three years.”
In 2012, an Israeli military court sentenced Tamimi to four months in prison for his role in a protest near settlements in the West Bank.
He was convicted of taking part in illegal demonstrations and soliciting protesters to throw stones.
His detention prompted protests from Amnesty International, which demanded his immediate and unconditional release.
The then deputy Middle East and North Africa programme director of Amnesty, Ann Harrison, said in 2012 that Tamimi had been protesting peacefully.
“We believe he is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally,” Harrison said.
The EU had previously declared Tamimi a human rights defender, and its representatives were in court for the verdict.
Before that case, he had been arrested 11 times, and was detained for three years under administrative “imprisonment without charge or trial” orders.
The immigration minister, Peter Dutton, has been contacted for comment.