29 January 2012

Open Letter to LGBTIQ Communities and Allies on the Israeli Occupation of Palestine

An Open Letter to LGBTIQ Communities and Allies on the Israeli Occupation of Palestine - received from Mondoweiss on 28 JANUARY 2012

We are a diverse group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and trans activists, academics, artists, and cultural workers from the United States who participated in a solidarity tour in the West Bank of Palestine and Israel from January 7-13, 2012.

What we witnessed was devastating and created a sense of urgency around doing our part to end this occupation and share our experience across a broad cross-section of the LGBTIQ community. We saw with our own eyes the walls—literally and metaphorically—separating villages, families and land. From this, we gained a profound appreciation for how deeply embedded and far reaching this occupation is through every aspect of Palestinian daily life.

So too, we gained new insights into how Israeli civil society is profoundly affected by the dehumanizing effects of Israeli state policy toward Palestinians in Israel and in the West Bank. We were moved by the immense struggle being waged by some Israelis in resistance to state policies that dehumanize and deny the human rights of Palestinians.

We ended our trip in solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli people struggling to end the occupation of Palestine, and working for Palestinian independence and self-sovereignty.

Among the things we saw were:

* the 760 km (470 mi) separation wall (jidar) partitioning and imprisoning the Palestinian people;

* how the wall’s placement works to confiscate large swaths of Palestinian land, splits villages and families in two, impedes Palestinians from working their agricultural land, and in many cases does not advance the ostensible security interests of Israel;

* a segregated road system (one set of roads for cars with Israeli plates, and another much inferior one for cars with Palestinian plates) throughout the West Bank, constructed by the Israeli state and enforced by the Israeli army; these roads ease Israeli travel to and from illegal settlements in the West Bank and severely impede Palestinian travel between villages, to agricultural land, and throughout a territory which is and has been their homeland;

* a system of permits (identification cards) that limits the travel of Palestinian people and functionally imprisons them, separating them from family, health care, jobs and other necessities;

* militarized checkpoints with barbed wire and soldiers armed with automatic rifles and the humiliation and harassment the Palestinian people experience daily in order to travel from one place to another;

* the reconfiguration of maps to render invisible Palestinian villages/homelands;

* harmful living conditions created and enforced by Israeli law and policy such as limited access to water and electricity in many Palestinian homes;

* violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers against Palestinians, and the ongoing growth of illegal settlements facilitated by the Israeli military;

* homelessness as a result of the razing of Palestinian homes by the Israeli state;

* home invasions, tear gas attacks, “skunk water” attacks, and the arrest of Palestinian children by the Israeli military as part of ongoing harassment designed to force Palestinian villagers to give up their land;

While travel restrictions prevented us from directly witnessing the state of things in the Gaza Strip, we believe the blockade of the Gaza Strip has produced a humanitarian crisis of monumental proportion.

Our time together in Palestine has led us to understand that we have a responsibility to share with our US based LGBTIQ communities what we saw and heard so that we can do more together to end this occupation. In that spirit, we offer the following summary points in solidarity with the Palestinian people:

The liberation of the Palestinian people from the project of Israeli occupation is the foremost goal of the Palestinian people and we fully support this aim. We also understand that liberation from this form of colonization and apartheid goes hand in hand with the liberation of queer Palestinians from the project of global heterosexism.

We call out and reject the state of Israel’s practice of pinkwashing, that is, a well-funded, cynical publicity campaign marketing a purportedly gay-friendly Israel to an international audience so as to distract attention from the devastating human rights abuses it commits on a daily basis against the Palestinian people. Key to Israel’s pinkwashing campaign is the manipulative and false labeling of Israeli culture as gay-friendly and Palestinian culture as homophobic. It is our view that comparisons of this sort are both inaccurate – homophobia and transphobia are to be found throughout Palestinian and Israeli society – and that this is beside the point: Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine cannot be somehow justified or excused by its purportedly tolerant treatment of some sectors of its own population. We stand in solidarity with Palestinian queer organizations like Al Qaws and Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (PQBDS) whose work continues to impact queer Palestinians and all Palestinians. (http://www.alqaws.org, http://www.pqbds.com/)

We urge LGBTIQ individuals and communities to resist replicating the practice of pinkwashing that insists on elevating the sexual freedom of Palestinian people over their economic, environmental, social, and psychological freedom. Like the Palestinian activists we met, we view heterosexism and sexism as colonial projects and, therefore, see both as interrelated and interconnected regimes that must end.

We stand in solidarity with queer Palestinian activists who are working to end the occupation, and also with Israeli activists, both queer and others, who are resisting the occupation that is being maintained and extended in their name.

We name the complicity of the United States in this human rights catastrophe and call on our government to end its participation in an unjust regime that places it and us on the wrong side of peace and justice.

We support efforts on the part of Palestinians to achieve full self-determination, such as building an international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement which calls for the fulfillment of three fundamental demands:


The end of the Occupation and the dismantling of the Wall (jidar).

The right of return for displaced Palestinians.

The recognition and restoration of the equal rights of citizenship for Israeli citizens of Palestinian descent.

We call upon all of our academic and activist colleagues in the US and elsewhere to join us by supporting all Palestinian efforts that center these three demands and by working to end US financial support, at $8.2 million daily, for the Israeli state and its occupation.

Signed, January 25, 2012:

Katherine Franke Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Director, Center for Gender & Sexuality Law, Columbia University; Board Member Center for Constitutional Rights

Barbara Hammer Filmmaker, Faculty at European Graduate School

Tom Léger Editor, PrettyQueer.com

Darnell L. Moore writer and activist

Vani Natarajan Humanities and Area Studies Librarian, Barnard College

Pauline Park Chair, New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA)

Jasbir K. Puar Rutgers University, Board Member Audre Lorde Project

Roya Rastegar Independent artist and scholar

Dean Spade Assistant Professor, Seattle University School of Law and Collective Member, Sylvia Rivera Law Project

Kendall Thomas Nash Professor of Law, Columbia University

Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz intersections/intersecciones consulting

Juliet Widoff, MD Callen-Lorde Community Health Center

All organizational affiliations are listed for identification purposes only and in no way indicate a position taken by such organizations on the issues raised in this statement.


I join the call to stand in solidarity with queer and other Palestinians and progressive Israelis who are working to end the occupation; oppose the state of Israel's practice of pinkwashing; and support efforts on the part of Palestinians to achieve full self-determination including building an international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.


E-mail address:

Affiliation (optional):

The following have signed the petition:

Carlos Juarez

Dani Nayyar


Andrew Brett

Uri Horesh

David Staines

anna in \'t Veld

Nada Elia

Joseph Wilk

Michael Nebeling Petersen

University of Copenhagen

Candice Haddad

Corinne Mason

University of Ottawa, Canada

Cynthia Wu

University at Buffalo

Ximena Mejia


Wendy Elisheva Somerson

Jewish Voice for Peace

thomas reade-duncan

PSOE. Spain.

John Meeks

Liv Rolf Mertz

Translator & independent scholar

Judith Butler

UC Berkeley/Columbia University

Sherry Wolf

author, Sexuality and Socialism

Kevin Henderson

Jesuit Volunteer Corps

Justin Mendoza

Frida Grey

Zohar Weiman-Kelman

Jerusalem/UC Berkeley

Ronak Kapadia

NYU, Board Member, FIERCE

Stephan Edel


Haitham Ennasr

MFA Candidate - Parsons the New School for Design

Kate Huh

Artist, filmmaker and disability rights activist

Tey Meadow

Cotsen-LGBT Fellow, Princeton Society of Fellows

Aous Mansouri

Adelina Anthony

JR Martin

Teah O\'Neill

Chloe Lenow

University of California, Santa Barbara

Dina Siddiqi

Hunter College, New York

Katie Dalby

Michael David Franklin

Christoph Hanssmann

Aren Aizura

Rutgers University

Nika Short

Jules Cowan

Hampshire College

Chandra Talpade Moahnty

Syracuse University

Tamara Lea Spira

UC Davis

Jade Brooks

yvette assem

Marisol LeBrón

New York University

Sophia Kiernan

Angelica Chazaro

Benjamin Doherty

Katherine LaPorte

University of Washington

Yasmin Lorentz

caterina donattini

Moyra Lang

University of Alberta, Canada

Debra Levine

New York University

Scott Tucker

Writer and socialist

Ricardo A. Bracho

Luke Taylor

elle flanders

Filmmaker, Scholar, York University


Kim Wool

susan rouda

Patricia Ticineot Clough


Craig Willse

The College of Wooster

Lily Seaman

Mia Mingus

Moya Bailey

Cecilia Márquez

Jennifer Queenan

Teachers College, Columbia University

Kamea Blackman

Latham Zearfoss

Chances Dances

Himika Bhattacharya

Syracuse University

Luke Andreoni

Alex Cachinero-Gorman

Punks Against Apartheid, Chicago Movement for Palestinian Rights

Sima Shakhsari

Univ. of Houston

Bogdan Sarachev

Goldsmiths, University of London

Suha Dabbouseh

Sakhi, CUNY School of Law, Class of 2011

David Kazanjian

University of Pennsylvania

Priya Kandaswamy

Mills College

Grace Kyungwon Hong

UCLA Women's Studies

Sunaina Maira

UC Davis

Nilda Brooklyn

Sandra Mukasa

Princeton University

Dianne Moore

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid

Sarah Schulman


Tavia Nyong\'o

New York University

amit rai

Kemal Ordek

Pembe Hayat (Pink Life)

Kris Mizutani

Marlon Woodward

Ruth Preser

Isha l'Isha Haifa - Feminist Center

Elizabeth Prada Fredes

Global gender studies in Gothemburg, Sweden

Adriane Chalastra

Halifax Queers Against Israeli Apartheid

Jaroslaw Pietrzak

Jolie Harris

Thrive Social Justice

Rico Chenyek

Brian Lewis

Lamise Noor

Students for Justice in Palestine

Steph St.Clair

Dave Arguelles

Naomi Braine

Brooklyn College, CUNY

Susanna Smith

Dyke Community Activists

Selma Al-Aswad Dillsi

Michael Schembri

Organiser with the Finance Sector Union of Australia

Sid Jordan

Reteaching Gender & Sexuality / PUT THIS ON THE MAP

Terri Ginsberg

International Council for Middle East Studies

Andreana Clay

Stephanie Diebold

Job Path NYC

Rachael Marks

Zoe Holmes

Lisa Duggan

New York University

Valery Hernandez

Irini mar

Alex Barron

St. Edwards University

taryn harnett

Donna Nevel

Jews Say No!

Elizabeth Bernstein

Barnard College

D. Alwan

Birthright Unplugged

Tomomi Kinukawa

University of the Pacific

Marty Correia

Jessica Fields

San Francisco State University

sylas wright

John Greyson


Jordan Stein

Ruth Oppenheim-Rothschild

Timothy Colman

Philly Jews for a Just Peace

Lucy Andich

Laurence A. Padua

Kyle Croft

Caitlin Childs

Nicole Barakat


Megan Zakany

Jian Chen

Ohio State University, Columbus

Jordan Flaherty


Albert Tőkés

Olivier Roy

University of Montreal

krissy mahan


Dalit Baym

Eric A. Stanley


Catherine Gaffney

Colleen Jankovic

University of Pittsburgh

Sasha Jacques

Dalit Baum


LD Follins



Oliver Haimson

Grace Chang

UC Santa Barbara

Joey Mogul

People's Law Office

Erica R. Meiners

Professor, Northeastern Illinois University

Meredith Fenton

Nancy Stoller

University of California, Santa Cruz

Cindy Newman

Rebecca Jordan-Young

Assistant Prof, Barnard College and Board Member, Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS)

Rachel Anton

Nancy Herzig

Amita Swadhin

Fabiola Lazzurri

Ami Mattison

Piya Chatterjee

Elizabeth Walsh

Kate Conroy

New York City

Jane Ward

Rori Rohlfs

UC Berkeley

Elizabeth Pickett

Travis Sands

University of Washington, Bothell

Mahmoud Salama


April Sizemore-Barber

UC Berkeley

Diana Sands

louije kim

Brooke Willock

Sarah K Hogarth

Shawn Tristan

Natasha Vally

Hedy Epstein

marita mayer

Martha Hubert

Genna Watson

Queer Youth Space

Lindsay Hart

Eric Vazquez

Carnegie Mellon University

Suzy Salamy

Conall Cash

Benjamin Wade

human being

Heather Love

University of Pennsylvania

Jack Fertig

Caoimhe Mader McGuinness

independent scholar/sex workers open university

Paul McAndrew

Katrina Thompson

Alexis Canoy

Elise Archer

Roger Hallas

Syracuse University

Maria Evalyn Tapere

University of San Carlos

Hannah Mermelstein

Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel

Julia Lachica

Visual Artist

Megan Shaughnessy-Mogill

Z. Karim

Cindy Shamban

Jessica Rosenerg

Karen Dodds

Treva Ellison

University of Southern California

Rachel Burgess

Catherine Shields

Gregory Bynum

Nava EtShalom

Summer Starr

Hannah Howard

Gender Justice LA

Thierry Schaffauser

Sex worker trade unionist

Marek Falk

Cindy Sousa

Mani Rashtipour

Najma Khanzada

Nadia Sindi

Martje Belka

Annette Dubois

Penny Rosenwasser

May haduong

Adi Moreno

University of Manchester

Laura Horak

Stockholm University

Fred Saliba


Tara Mateik

Artist, CUNY

Sarah Colborne

Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Britain, LGBT activist

Adam Qvist

Free Gaza Danmark


Sita Balani

Leslie Feinberg

Jaimes Mayhew


Jessica Cadwallader

University of Groningen

Dara Silverman

Minnie Bruce Pratt

National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981

Gert Hekma

University of Amsterdam

Leslie Cagan

Susan Barney

Sarah Paule

Sunaina Maira

UC Davis

Sara Driscoll

Pratibha Parmar


eleanor roffman

malini johar schueller

M. Bissenbakker Frederiksen

University of Copenhagen

Kathy Roberts

Maureen Curtin

Alexander Baldassano

Sue Katz

Jewish Women for Justice in Israel/Palestine

Max Kreijn

Joseph Russo

Goldsmiths, University of London

Mikki Stelder

Queeristan (Amsterdam)

Enmaia Gelman

NYC Queers Against Israeli Apartheid

Kate Kozeniewski

Heike Schotten

Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts Boston

David Klein

California State University,Northridge

Merrill Cole

Western Illinois University

Alexandra Juhasz

Pitzer College

Vanessa McEnery

Rae Rozman

Ashley Dawson

City University of New York

Claudia Schippert

Julia Johnson

Alyosha Goldstein

Emma Perez

University of Colorado, Boulder

Amy L. Brandzel

University of New Mexico

Kristine Danielson

Wayne State University

Laurie Wager


Edie Pistolesi

Sharad Chari

London School of Economics

Liam Lair

University of Kansas

Alex Lubin

American University of Beirut

Elisabeth Lund Engebretsen


Chrissy Hunter


Eric Nicolas Every

Lanka Tattersall

Kazim Ali

writer and translator

Ian Barnard

California State University, Northridge


Jay Botsford

Farhang Rouhani

University of Mary Washington

Holly Jones

Clark University Students for Palestinian Rights

Mel Mel Sukekawa-Mooring

Hampshire College

Daniel Werner

Shashi Thandra

Wayne State University

Max Macrae

Clark University

Max Cohen

Joyce Choi Li

Ahwa Al-Busaidy

Nicola Dunn

concerned citizen of Australia

S E Sanbar

Amanda McQuade

Clark University Students for Palestinian Rights

Bob Olivarez Jr.

Anabela Rocha

Hima B.

Filmmaker & member of Park Slope Food Coop BDS

Adifah Crista Kelly Sadler

Emanuela Bianchi

New York University

Aneil Rallin

Soka University of America

Michael Connors Jackman

York University

James C Faris

University of Connecticut (Emeritus)

Susette Min

UC Davis

Sydney Campos

Jenny Peto

Kyla Schuller

Rutgers Unviersity

Amina Mama

University of California, Davis


Gayatri Gopinath

New York University

Caroline Picker

T. Berto

university of guelph

Sara Giordano

sue goldstein

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), Canada

Sasha Klein

Honna Veerkamp

Paola Bacchetta

zillah eisenstein

dept. of politics, ithaca college

Ilona Margiotta

Linda Chavez

Anette Ahmed Lebbad

Feministisk Initiativ

Norma Cardenas

Oregon State University

Herman De Ley

Ghent Univ. (Belgium)

Joan Hawkins

Stuart Comer

Marla Erlien

Elena Glasberg


Kim Ford

Michelle Dallalah

Stanford University

Rosalind Petchesky

City University of New York

Isa Kocher

Rand Carter

Kirk Grisham

Patrick Benitez

Stanford University

Michael Litwack

Brown University

patty ahn

koreans united for equality

Tyrone Boucher

Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance (AORTA)

Johanna Worley

Edwin McCready

Foley Ricchi

Shahla Khan Salter

Muslims for Progressive Values Canada

Millie Wilson

Jess Sundin

MN Anti-War Committee

patricia rodriguez

ithaca college, ny

Stephanie Gilman

Deepti Misri

University of Colorado, Boulder

Martha Wallner

Jewish Voice for Peace Bay Area Chapter

Mary Åberg

David Lloyd

Univ of Southern California

Tanya Aydelott

Mara Conroy Hughes

Rutgers University--Graduate School of Education

Ian Scott Horst

Author of The Cahokian blog; http://thecahokian.blogspot.com/; Occupy Sunset Park activist

John Dickerson

Peter Coviello

april kamilah

Judy Yu

Dana Luciano

Georgetown University

Dr. Joelle Ruby Ryan

TransGender New Hampshire

Eleanor Kilroy

Rüzgår Buschky

Lambdaistanbul LGBT Solidarity Association

Rich Wandel

Mannie De Saxe

Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne (Australia)

21 January 2012



20 January 2012


The article below appeared in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald newspapers on 17 January 2012.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry is a body which represents a portion of Australia's Jewish population, which at the moment is about 100,000 people. Assuming that a number of these are children and a number of these are secular Jews, we are also aware that a very large number - increasing every time Israel performs some further acts of violence against the Palestinians - are not zionists and also do not necessarily count themselves as Jewish in the census, but are atheists who were born of Jewish parents.

There are about 22 million people in Australia, and according to the actions of parliamentarians of all persuasions - now including some of the Greens - there seem to be about 10 million zionists.

The Jewish population works out at about 0.45 per cent of the total population, but seem to feel that they have the right to cry "anti-semitism" as soon as some issue arises which shows Israel in a negative light.

As this seems to be happening more and more frequently with less and less justification, it is time that organisations such as the ECAJ and JCCV and NSW Jewish Board of Deputies are made to understand that some Australians are still allowed a certain modicum of free speech, that not everything must be banned or censored because they demand it and because the federal government and its loyal opposition support them in the Jewish/Israel/Palestine issue, and that when films or programmes are shown on television or the big screen, people have the right to see them.

Criticise if they will, ban or censor they may not!

Oh, and if the Jewish zionists are so unhappy about life in Australia, I am sure Israel beckons!!


Jewish outcry on SBS series

By Leesha McKenny

January 17, 2012

The Promise.

A LEADING Jewish body is seeking to halt promotion and DVD sales of SBS series The Promise, a drama set in Israel and the occupied territories that it likened to Nazi propaganda.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry said the British-made drama, inspired by accounts of British soldiers who served in Palestine during the 1940s, was anti-Semitic and in direct violation of the SBS code covering prejudice, racism and discrimination.

The four-part series, which screened late last year, depicts a young British woman retracing the footsteps of her grandfather, a soldier in the final years of the British Mandate in Palestine.

In its 31-page complaint to the SBS ombudsman, the council said historical inaccuracies and ''consistently negative portrayals'' of the central Jewish characters made the series comparable to the 1940 Nazi film Jud Suss.
It contended that identifiably Muslim characters would not be similarly portrayed by SBS.

In a letter to the broadcaster, the council's executive director, Peter Wertheim, said the complaint also related to any marketing or sale of the DVD, which would be ''inappropriate'' while the determination was pending.

The TV drama prompted a similar reaction following its screening in Britain last year. The UK's Office of Communications received 44 complaints about the series, none of which were upheld.

In an online question-and-answer session after the final episode aired in Britain, its Jewish writer-director, Peter Kosminsky, said 80 British veterans had been interviewed during research for The Promise.

''If criticism of Israel becomes entirely synonymous with anti-Semitism, it becomes almost impossible to attempt any kind of reasoned analysis of what is clearly one of the saddest and most intractable conflicts facing the human race today,'' he said.

The General Delegation of Palestine to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, which represents the Palestinian Authority, said the council's complaint was ''an attempt to silence legitimate historical investigation, recollection and representation''.

An SBS spokeswoman said the broadcaster had received a high level of positive and negative viewer feedback on the series. She said that as the complaint was expected to be resolved before the February 8 DVD release, ''it is unnecessary to provide any undertaking regarding the DVD release''. ''SBS will assess its position in relation to the sale of DVDs once the complaint has been resolved,'' she said.

Letter in The Age 18 January 2012

A leading Jewish body, in an effort to suppress DVD sales of the SBS series The Promise, has likened the program to Nazi propaganda. This shameful attempt at censorship is bad enough without the use of such loaded language. If the Executive Council of Australian Jewry thinks the show is unbalanced, fine; if they think it is bad television, say so; but to label it Nazi propaganda diminishes the credibility of the council and the dignity of Jews everywhere. I have no doubt that the council would have had no trouble at all with the program if the “consistently negative portrayals” were of Palestinians or British characters or if the “historical inaccuracies” fell in their favour. You may call the program propaganda; I call your public-relations efforts hypocrisy.

Jeremy Kenner, Mordialloc

16 January 2012


Article in the Sunday Age:

A son's act of mercy divides a family

By Peter Munro

January 15, 2012

Sean Davison in court.

THE blue mortar and pestle had gathered dust on his mother's Welsh dresser, before he used it to crush a dozen morphine pills in her kitchen. The powdered drugs dyed the water murky brown in the glass he held to her lips. She smiled gently after drinking, holding his hand.

''You are a wonderful son,'' she said. But Sean Davison's decision to help his mother die exposed a fault-line that has since torn at his family - and sparked claims his own sister in Melbourne betrayed him to police.

Late last November, New Zealand's High Court sentenced Davison, whom the judge described as an ''exceptionally devoted and loving son'', to five months' home detention for ''counselling and procuring'' his mother's suicide. He spoke to The Sunday Age last week from his three-bedroom confines, about the death that has come to define his life.

Sean Davison and mother Patricia at her home near Dunedin.

''I've had enough, this is not life,'' his mother, Patricia, 85, had said repeatedly from her sickbed. Cancer had spread to her lungs, liver and brain. She half-joked for someone to throw her into Otago Harbour, which she could see from her home near Dunedin, on New Zealand's South Island.

Davison, who lives in South Africa, had come home to nurse her. Patricia - a former GP and psychiatrist who loved painting, dancing and cathedral music - was desperate to die, he says, but feared a failed overdose might leave her alive and brain damaged. She started a hunger strike, hoping to hasten her demise but was still alive 33 days later, on October 25, 2006. Her body was rotting, she could no longer hold a glass of water to take the morphine she had instructed her youngest child to stockpile.

''I always kept trying to keep her alive … I was her caregiver. I would read to her and put CDs on to make her life as enjoyable as possible. It was only after some agonising that I conceded I had no choice,'' says Davison, 50, his soft voice shuddering on Skype. ''I had doubts all the way leading up to that moment … If she had told me at that last minute, 'No, don't do it,' I would have been relieved.''

Plea for help: Patricia Davison

He is lean with wispy hair and a square jaw. His home and own family - his partner Raine Pan and their boys, Flynn, 3, and Finnian, 18 months - are far away in Cape Town. Davison, head of the forensic DNA laboratory at the University of West Cape, was ordered to serve detention in a friend's house in Dunedin. ''I don't regret what I did, I regret being in a situation where I had to do what I did,'' he says.

''Once I told her I was going to help her, she was so relieved. I helped her to drink, then we waited and talked and I held her hand, and we chatted about family things … I felt great relief when she died. I was happy. I hugged her. It was only the next morning I started to think about the ramifications of what I had done.''

Davison's memoir of that time, Before We Say Goodbye, published in June 2009, omitted his role in the death on the request of his publisher's lawyers. But by then an earlier draft, which detailed his mother's overdose, had been given to police. The incriminating manuscript was separately sent to a New Zealand newspaper anonymously in late June.

As in Australia, euthanasia is illegal in New Zealand - despite two parliamentary attempts to pass ''death with dignity'' laws. Davison was visiting friends in Dunedin in September 2010 when he was arrested and charged, initially with attempted murder. He recalls the moment an officer placed the damning manuscript in front of him - it was then he saw it was the same copy he had given his older sister, Mary, a gerontologist and consultant in cognitive dementia at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

''I felt shock,'' he says now. ''My instant reaction was the police had taken it from her when they interviewed her. Subsequently I learnt she wasn't interviewed … and then it became very obvious.'' Mary had twice taken legal action to stop publication, arguing Davison's book was libellous and breached her family's privacy (some of her identifying details were removed subsequently).

Davison had sent about a dozen manuscripts to family and friends. But on the front of Mary's copy he specially glued a photograph of their mother's self-portrait, to encourage his sister's sympathy. What he believes to be that same portrait stared at him in the police station. ''I try to see the best side of her, that her sole goal was to try to stop publication and maybe she went too far and she wasn't intending it to end up like this,'' he says now. ''I don't seek revenge if it was her … I am hoping she regrets doing it and regrets what's happened to me.''
Mary Davison, though, strongly rejects the allegation. ''I deny it. I don't have a motive for it either. He is entitled to believe that. It didn't come through me … I wouldn't do it. I love my brother,'' she tells The Sunday Age in Melbourne. She declines to comment further, except to say her mother was a very private person and that she cannot explain why the police had the self-portrait copy. ''I didn't write the book, I didn't hand the article to the police and I wasn't there when my mother died.''

Neither Sean nor his other two siblings have questioned Mary directly about the manuscript. ''I think she couldn't see beyond the fact that this [issue] was bigger than our family,'' says sister Jo Bennett, 51, a high school English teacher in Christchurch. ''I think in most cases it doesn't split families. I don't think Mary's anger had anything to do with Sean euthanising Mum.''

She praises Sean for his ''bravery''. ''He was closest to her. I think he probably felt he was the one who couldn't refuse her,'' she says. ''My mother asked me, she asked all of us. She said: 'Please, please, please, if you care about me please end it for me.' I felt very brutal in my reply. I said: 'Mum, it's a murder rap and I have children to look after.' I was choosing my life as a mother over hers.''

Eldest sibling Fergus, 60, a biomedical scientist in London, says Sean felt trapped into helping their mother. ''I don't condemn my brother for what he did - if I was there at the time and had a lot of courage I might have been prepared to do the same.'' He questions, though, his brother's decision to publish his diary. ''If he had been very quiet about it none of this would have happened … Obviously I wish it hadn't happened to him. In some ways he has dug his own ditch.''

Sean Davison is now marking off his days in home detention on the wall. ''I phone home by Skype but … I find it very upsetting to see my children and not being able to be with them,'' he says.

His mother's death has transformed him into a campaigner for the legalisation of euthanasia. ''I think it is an individual's right to choose the time of their death, especially when they're terminally ill and there is no pleasure in life,'' he says. ''I started to feel if I didn't take a stand it would have been cowardly, because I knew what I had done was right and I knew a law change was right, and to not stand up … would have been cowardly.''

15 January 2012


This article comes from the print version of the Johannesburg Sunday Times of 27 November 2011. It is an interesting fact that most of the articles from that day's newspaper are able to be found online, but not this one!! One wonders why!!


Sugar-coating a new attempt to bully the courts fools no one

Sunday Times – South Africa 27 November 2011

BY MAMPHELA RAMPHELE, Executive Chair of the Letsema Circle and a board member of the Open Society Foundation

The cabinet decision on the judiciary this week seemed like a sweet offering, even a conciliatory gesture after the rancour of the secrecy bill fight. Cabinet spokesman Jimmy Manyi spoke of the independence of the judiciary, of enhancing the integrity of the Judicial Service Commission, of a mechanism that would promote the constitutionally enjoined obligation of cooperative government.

But all this was sugar coating, because at its heart there was poison for our democracy.

The core of the decision is that the role of the judiciary is to be assessed by an institute appointed by the government and that even the decisions of the Constitutional Court are to be subject to such assessment. This assessment, at the instigation of the executive, invites the assumption that the role of the courts, and the Constitutional Court in particular, as ultimate arbiters of our constitution is to be usurped.

There can be no escaping the impression that the cabinet’s cross-hairs are firmly pointed at the judiciary’s independence.

I know only too painfully well what it means when the judicial arm of government is cowed, is subjugated before the executive. Thirty-four years ago this month, the inquest into Steve Biko’s death was held. Despite the extensive and overwhelming evidence that Biko had been abused and murdered by the Security Branch, Pretoria’s Chief Magistrate delivered a verdict that exonerated each and every one of them. Counsel for the family, Sidney Kentridge, argued that such a verdict would give license to abuse helpless people with impunity. And it did. Scores died in detention in the years that followed.

A journalist wrote at the time: “There’s no word of sorrow or anger by the authorities, not even a suggestion detainees in future won’t suffer the same treatment. They just don’t care. And that is what South Africa voted for.”

And of course, that is what the small white electorate voted for.

Had the judiciary not been under the thumb of the executive, there is no guarantee that the chief magistrate would have reached a different verdict. But if the magistrate had had the assurance that finding the state culpable, that assessing fairly and independently would have earned him no recrimination from the executive, there is a much greater likelihood he would have delivered a just verdict.

Thankfully, we live now in different times. And yet the importance of strong, independent courts able to check government folly when it occurs remains. In the Treatment Action Campaign case, the Constitutional Court famously held that the government’s then policy of distributing Nevirapine, medication reducing the transmission of HIV from mother-to-child, to pregnant mothers living with HIV at only two clinics per province was in breach of the constitution’s right of access to healthcare – and unreasonable, given that the manufacturers of Nevirapine had offered it free of charge for two years and that the World Health Organisation had concluded that Nevirapine was an appropriate intervention to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

Who knows how many lives have been saved as a result of that decision. A cowed court, a court unduly fearful of executive repercussion could not have made such judgment. That the Constitutional Court did, that policy was altered, is a reflection of the health of our democracy, a tribute not only to our courts, but to our executive and legislative branches as well.

From our past, to our near past, the Constitutional Court is almost certain to be the next staging ground in the fight over the secrecy bill. Recent pronouncements by the executive highlight the fear that policies decided by a government elected by the popular vote will be countermanded through the courts. And our President is not wrong when he says: “Political battles must be fought on political platforms.” But majorities in parliament in South Africa and elsewhere – are not determinative of the constitutionality of laws made. Where there is concern for the legality or constitutionality of a law, courts must make the appropriate determination.

In many respects, the Constitutional Court is the bellwether of our democracy. It was the most significant new institution created at the time of our constitution’s enactment.

Interference with the court, implicit in the suggestion that its judgments and record are to be assessed, sets us back on the path to our constitutionally envisaged future.

And the sleight of hand – the cabinet’s talk of the need to “affirm the independence of the judiciary” through an assessment that cannot but create the impression that the independence of even our very highest court is at risk – undermines our intelligence.

As if we, who have been fighting for democracy all our lives, would not know.

08 January 2012


In the aftermath of Peter Roebuck's death and the stories which have been written trying to explain the inexplicable, several issue stand out.

To me, the main issue is homophobia, and this is followed by homophobia in sport, and this again is followed by homophobia in the world of cricket.

If anybody has read about people coming out as gay, lesbian or transgender in the cricketing world, then it seems not to have been in the public arena.

Many areas of sport have produced episodes which have made those sporting bodies challenge their built-in homophobia - not that it has necessarily made all that much difference, but it has brought matters out into the open.

Sports such as tennis, rugby of all codes, swimming, and possibly other sports which need more public airing, have been given a certain amount of publicity which shows just how far we still have to go to obtain equality in the world of homophobia in which we live.

An article in The Age newspaper a few days ago about Roebuck and his life, including stories of his "abuse" of young men who are sponsored by him for educational and sporting opportunities. Roebuck is accused of smacking them on their bare buttockses and other forms of abuse. Nowhere does it state that the young men are 16 years of age or younger - in fact mostly they seem to have been in their early to late 20s, big enough and strong enough to have withstood the abuse and being able to fight back. No stories of this nature have appeared in the public arena.

The letters in the Sunday Age of 8 January 2012 are particularly foul in the accusations made about this unfortunate man who was brought up and lived in a time of acute homophobia and who got involved in a sport which ought to hang its head in shame at its total silence on the issue of homophobia in sport in general and cricket in particular.

In recent years there has been some sort of liberalising in our social relationships in regard to gay, lesbian, transgender and HIV/AIDS issues and the people who happen to be part of these groups who have had more opportunities for self-expression than those of us born 50, 60, 70, 80 years ago.

But we still have such a long way to go.

And yet another few conspiracy theories which may well need more investigating:

1) What were the South African police doing, leaving only one with Roebuck in his hotel room, while the other went out, ostensibly with Jim Maxwell who was answering Roebuck's distress call?

2) Because so many of the young men Roebuck was dealing with in his hostel and elsewhere were Zimbabweans and Mugabe's influence with South Africa's politicians is easily investigated, did Mugabe have something to do with the police investigating the complaint made by a young Zimbabwean against Roebuck?

These are but a few of the unanswered questions, but there are many more.

Peter Roebuck may have been a gay man, but remained in the closet due to the circumstances of the sport and people he was involved with in his professional life.

Shame on so many of them for the role they have played in being silent on the issue of homophobia in thier sport of cricket~

03 January 2012


This document arrived enclosed in a political journal magazine to which I subscribe. It contains a message which needs to be broadcast far and wide, and a blog is a useful tool for this purpose. Please help to spread the message!

01 January 2012


2 JANUARY 2012

The following article was published in the University of Western Sydney's GradLife alumni journal - Volume 3 Issue 2 November 2011. It is an article of such importance as to merit publishing it in as many places as possible to give the matter as much publicity as possible:

Opinion piece:

ten years on from the Tampa - refugees denied fundamental rights

UWS Law School Professor Michael Head reviews the controversial Malaysia Solution.

Inflated claims have been made by some lawyers about the August 31 High Court ruling on the refugee 'Malaysian Solution' - such as that the court has become a 'people's court' and a de facto court of human rights.

In reality, the court's decision was an extremely narrow one. It leaves in place the system of 'onshore' detention within Australia - a system that denies fundamental legal and democratic rights to asylum seekers, such as to seek political protection without being penalised, and not to be detained without trial.

It should be recalled that in 2001, the High Court permitted the forced removal of the Tampa refugees to Nauru, and in 2004 the court ruled that the government could keep refugees detained within onshore Australian detention centres indefinitely, even in violation of international law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The latest High Court decision was based on an interpretation of specific sections of the Migration Act and the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act.

In particular, section 198A(3) of the Migration Act was interpreted to reflect obligations under the international Refugee Convention. These obligations are minimal: not to deport someone who is officially classified as a refugee to face political persecution and not to punish people making protection applications.

As several judges made clear, the ruling does not prohibit other versions of so-called offshore processing, as long as they satisfy these very limited requirements.

The High Court decision leaves intact mandatory detention, that is, the imprisonment of all asylum seekers arriving in boats - a punitive regime that, in effect, violates the Refugee Convention by seeking to deter refugees from exercising their right to seek asylum. Australia is the only country to maintain such compulsory detention, which was first introduced by a Labor government in the 1990s.

Much of the commentary surrounding the court's ruling was guided by the conception that detention is acceptable as long as the Australian government remains in control of the process. This standpoint ignores the fact that the treatment of asylum seekers in Australian facilities is punitive and degrading, and has caused immense personal suffering.

Across Australia's detention network, incidents of self harm, most often through attempted suicide or mass hunger strikes, have escalated. According to statistics obtained by the Ombudsman from the Immigration Department, there were 1132 instances of actual or threatened self-harm in 12 months - an average of three per day. In just one week during July, there were 50 such incidents.

In line with the reaction of successive governments to any challenge by incarcerated refugees to the denial of their fundamental rights, the federal government has responded with repression, including the use of tear gas and rubber bullets. Desperate protests by inmates, attempting to draw public attention to their plight, have been met with the arbitrary removal of demonstrators to high-security prisons and threats by government ministers to retaliate by stripping refugees of their right to seek asylum.

The experience of the past two decades suggests that the conditions inside the detention centres will only worsen as asylum seekers wait longer and longer for decisions on their visa applications. The High Court late last year held that detainees on Christmas Island could not be denied access to the courts. Given the numbers of detainees and the lengthy nature of the official and judicial processes, however, many are likely to remain imprisoned, waiting months, if not years, for appeal outcomes.

The government's move to circumvent the latest ruling reveals a contempt for basic legal norms. Its draft legislation effectively repudiated the requirements of the Refugee Convention, placed all power in the personal hands of the immigration minister to declare any country an 'offshore processing country' in the 'national interest' and precluded any overriding vote by parliament.

More fundamentally, the entire political establishment, including the Greens, advocate some form of 'border protection' regime, which ultimately means using military force, in one way or another, either to physically 'turn back the boats' or to otherwise block refugees. Intrinsically, it denies the right to flee persecution and seek asylum, which means nothing if countries shut their borders.

Political and media commentators generally attribute this policy to widespread public hostility to refugees. An interesting opinion poll conducted by Fairfax Media, however, found just 25 percent support for 'offshore processing'.

To the extent that anti-refugee sentiment exists among certain layers of the population, it is largely the result of political and media campaigns aimed at fomenting xenophobic fears about the country being 'under siege' or facing 'invasion' by hordes of aliens responsible for driving 'Australians' out of jobs, lowering their wages and cutting their living standards. Such rhetoric has always been used in times of economic crisis to deflect domestic discontent away from the real culprits - the political and ruling elite and the profit system itself.

Not only the right to asylum but a more basic democratic principle is at stake in this issue: that all people should have the elementary right to live and work with full citizenship rights in any country of their choosing. Without that fundamental right they can be denuded of virtually any other civil and political right.


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Preston, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm