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Sitting in a cafe not far from her Darlinghurst home, Vivienne Porzsolt recounts the story of her detention by Israeli authorities.

As the spokesperson for Jews against Occupation and a Darlinghurst resident, Ms Porzsolt and her friend, former Greens MP Sylvia Hale, were part of an international crew who set out to visit Palestine on the Freedom Flotilla II.

Their aim was to highlight the blockade imposed by Israeli authorities.

“When nine people were killed in the flotilla [in 2010] and so many were injured and the Israelis behaved so brutally it sort of increased the determination of international supporters to try and break this blockade,” Ms Porzsolt said.

But their boat was stopped from leaving Greece by the Minister of the Interior.

“Fortunately we had a number of great marine skills on the boat and we made a decision to make a break for it,” Ms Porzsolt said

Two of the group held up the coast guard in kayaks and they almost reached open seas before being forced to turn back.

“It was very clear they [the coast guard] were with us in their hearts. Even the harbour mistress was with us. The Greek people were clearly with us and against what their government were doing,” Ms Porzsolt said.

Undeterred, Ms Porzsolt and Ms Hale flew to Tel Aviv to join the Welcome to Palestine campaign. They dubbed it the ‘flytilla.’

Most visitors to Palestine don’t state their intention to Israeli authorities. The campaign encouraged people to do this and over 100 protestors had been arrested, detained or deported from Israel so far, according to Ms Porzsolt.

“Sylvia and I marched up to the passport control and say ‘we want to go to Palestine’ and the woman’s jaw dropped,” Ms Porzsolt said.

They were detained for 36 hours, receiving advice and support from the Australian embassy.

“We found these two great young eager human rights lawyers who were very keen to use the law to push the breaches of human rights,” Ms Porzsolt said.

The deportation order was annulled on the condition they paid 2,500 shekels bail and applied to go to the West Bank within 24 hours.

Ms Porzsolt is unsure if their release means an international precedent has been set. But she believes they have drawn important attention to the issue.

“It sort of exposes a lot when all we said was we wanted to go to Palestine and we’re detained. I think that says an awful lot.”

By Victoria Craw

  • dannykid

    Inspiring story. Vivienne Porzsolt and Sylvia Hale heroically joined the Freedom Flotilla II out of concern for the suffering Palestinians.

    Today, Palestinians are being ethnic cleansed and massacred by Bashar al-Assad’s troops in the Palestinian majority, Syrian coastal city of Latakia. Are Vivienne and Sylvia heading to Latakia, with its welcoming harbour, on a boat to protest and show solidarity with the suffering Palestinians? Are they demonstrating outside the Syrian embassy or consulate here in Australia? Are they writing to The Bondi View to alert its readers to the human rights abuses against the suffering Palestinians by their Arab brothers?

    Are Vivienne and Sylvia at all concerned about the suffering Palestinians or is this really all about the vilifying and delegitimising of Israel? Or maybe it’s about the heroic exploits / egos of Vivienne and Sylvia!

  • SC

    I dont understand why Vivienne Porzsolt thinks it is legitimate for israel to accomodate her when they know she is a sworn enemy. would you allow someone into your home who you knew hated you, cross through your loungeroom into your neighbour’s housein order to continue a campaign of destruction against you.

  • John GC

    It’s great to see that Porszolt and Hale were able to go to Israel, demonstrate (as foreign nationals), and find Human Rights lawyers to represent them. Sort of exposes a lot about what a liberal democracy it is.

    I wonder if they thought about going to protest in Syria where the minority Alawite government has killed thousands of its own citizens from the majority Sunni group by turning the tanks on them and shelling them from battleships at sea. If Apartheid can be taken to an extreme, that is it.

    Or they could go into Gaza, where even foreigners who go to help, not demonstrate against the government, like Vittorio Arrigoni, are kidnapped and killed.

    The Middle East is a complex and difficult region, with a long, sacred and bloody history. Israel, where all religions can and do build and worship in their own synagogues, mosques and churches, become members of parliament and be judges, sets an example of liberal democracy. It’s not perfect, but nowhere is.

  • Clive Tanner

    Hmmm, I wonder if Ms Porzsolt and her friend Sylvia Hale would have had a more sympathetic reception promulgating their viewpoints in Syria where those currently expressing their democratic rights are being treated in an abhorrent manner. Interestingly, Ms Porzsolt and Ms Hale, along with the United Nations seem to be remarkbly quiet on this issue. Perhaps Ms Porzsolt and Ms Hale could show real balance in their humantarian concerns by expressing proportional concern and attention towards the 2000 innocent Syrians who have been murdered in the streets by Assad’s regime this year.

  • Luke Weyland

    Vivienne Porzsolt is indeed an extremely courageous old lady who is totally committed to ending the Israeli blockade of Gaza and ending the continuous Israeli theft of Palestinian land.