Australia’s fathers day shame

On this coming Father’s Day I want to salute three fathers whose sons, who have not broken Australian law, were and are betrayed by the Australian government: Terry Hicks, John Shipton and Khalil El-Halabi.

Terry Hicks is the father of David Hicks incarcerated in a cage in Camp X-ray Guantanamo Bay for 5 years; John Shipton is the father of Julian Assange who is presently incarcerated by the British government and Khalil El-Halabi whose son, Mohammed former Gaza/West Bank director of World Vision Australia, continues to be incarcerated by the Jewish state of Israel.

As you can empathise, for Terry, John and Khalil, on the unjust imprisonment of their sons, everything fell apart and the centre of normality and morality, with its implied fairness guaranteed by government obligations, ceased to hold as political shysters sacrificed their children to foreign interests (American and Israeli) while ‘journalists’, indentured as government henchmen, discharged venom and lies in the public square.

For them, daily a new alien norm of fatherhood was burgeoned with distress and anguish in knowing their child was daily suffering emotionally, physically, and mentally. For these fathers on a desperate mission of justice, powerlessness struggled with determination, frustration with doggedness, exhaustion with agency.

Terry Hicks

In 2006, ACT chief minister Jon Stanhope nominated Terry as Australian Father of the Year. It was awarded to the amazing Ron Delezio, notwithstanding, Terry stood tall and heroic in the eyes of supporters of his relentless five year campaign to secure a fair trial for his son David, who was arrested in 2001 in Afghanistan and underwent extraordinary rendition to Guantanamo Bay as a ‘terrorist’ and enemy combatant despite not having breached American or Australian law.

Until then Terry was a regular Aussie bloke, Dad and a political ingenue according to Sandra Kanck, the former outspoken Australian Democrat rep in South Australia, “Terry is a wonderful person who started out knowing nothing about politics and had to learn very quickly.”

Nor had Terry been outside of Australia, but as the saying goes  – parents will go to the ends of the earth to protect their children – he did just that “staying in a Guantanamo Bay-sized cage on a New York pavement and outside a convention centre in Adelaide” and followed in the dangerous footsteps of his son in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the making of the Curtis Levy’s documentaryThe President vs David Hicks (2004)

Today Terry, political and justice wise, is a staunch supporter of Julian Assange,

“You might get support from high profile people, but the fight to gain Julian’s freedom depends on ordinary people speaking out. You will win them if you explain the basic issues at stake, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press and democratic rights, and you’ll be respected for your determination and your honesty.”

Concerning David,  political hypocrisy was putridly on the nose; consider ‘until Sept 11, 2001, the United States officially supported the Taliban with millions of dollars in aid and a natural gas pipeline worth billions’. Then there’s the many young Australians who take leave to join the military of a foreign power i.e.  Israel to brutally subjugate indigenous Palestinians, but never end up incarcerated on Christmas Island.

John Shipton

Julian Assange’s 7 year diplomatic asylum at the Ecuador Embassy, London was revoked in April 2019 when left-wing President Rafael Correa was replaced by devoted USA fan, the right-wing Lenin (irony) Morena.

Julian Assange’s father John Shipton now jumps the hurdles of the international advocacy circuit to secure Julian’s unconditional release from Britain’s high-security Belmarsh Prison where he served 50 weeks for breaching bail (but remains remanded) ,

“I’m at this full time,” he says. This is my job now. I came over from Melbourne this year and spent a month in the UK and saw how they kept mucking around with Julian, even with visiting him. They’d mess up an appointment and then you couldn’t go again for another two weeks.”

and to deter USA’s extradition demand and charge under the Espionage Act for the Wikileaks’ exposure of US torture and war crimes in Iraq. Australia, ever the US shoe-shine boy, abandoned Julian.

The mainstream media especially the Murdoch press has for years eviscerated the truth of Julian’s journalistic contribution to freedom of speech and to his reputation. As for the smear that Julian is his own worst enemy,

“That’s horseshit,” [John] says. “What you’re dealing with reminds me of the line in [TS] Eliot about the King and Thomas Beckett. ‘Will anybody rid me of this turbulent priest?’ A lot of that stuff is designed to just get at Julian with no basis for it.

“Julian is a joy of a man, he’s very positive, sweet natured. He’s determined but he always could get his own way by being charming. He didn’t have to bully anyone.”

Khalil El Halabi

Within the restrictions of his own incarceration in the wretched Gaza death camp, Khalil El Halabi pursues online his mission to free his son Mohammad who has been illegally held without charge by Israel since 2016 and is forced to attend court  – over 146 times. This psychological cruelty and abuse of the international standards of the rule of law are condemned by civilised people.

Mohammed, World Vision’s respected Gaza coordinator was falsely accused by the Jewish state of diverting foreign aid (Australian funds) to Hamas.

This fake accusation was officially dismissed by the Australian government in March 2017 and by World Vision, nevertheless the Israeli ‘justice’ department beat, tortured and keeps Mohammed incarcerated. True to form, the Australian government simply threw him to Netanyahu’s wolves.

Yet, with typical Gazan resilience, Khalil persistently pleads to Australia for help,

My son stands by his innocence and without hesitation rejected Israel’s plea deal. He has been honoured by the UN as a Humanitarian Hero and is a loving father of five children, Khalil,15, Asem,13, Amro, 9, Rital,6, and Faris,4 who miss him so much. He is a fine man and son. My heart is broken for my son. All he was doing was trying to help needy people.

Every single day I try to do all I can to raise awareness of my son’s cause. Thinking of him humiliated and mistreated eats me up on the inside. I want to hold him close to my chest and tell him how proud I am for all he has done for Gaza and the Palestinian people.

The majority of Australian politicians are parents and a majority haven’t denounced the grave injustices threatening the children of their parental contemporaries. I say this is mainly down to two reasons:

  1. the majority of politicians belong to two major parties and once elected they make the Faustian pact of sacrificing integrity and honour (if ever existed) for ambition which means. . .
  2. b) towing the party line that involves, in these three cases, another sacrifice  – sacrificing Australian sovereignty for infantile subservience to US interests and/or zionist donor monies.

This Father’s Day I offer my respect to Terry, John and Khalil for their love, courage and moral integrity and also to our First Nations’ fathers who mourn their child’s death in custody or unjust incarceration. And, lest we forget the aching fathers in distant persecuted lands whose asylum-seeking children are cruelly incarcerated for the past 7 years by our government. Shame Australia.

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Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She is the author of East Timor: Reveille for Courage, editor of a volume of Palestinian poetry, I remember my name and writes political commentary for a number of independent online magazines. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was convenor of Australia East Timor Association and coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001.

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