This is a public statement by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), concerning the humanitarian disaster currently taking place in Gaza.
The United Nations has unequivocally condemned recent Israeli government actions, and we believe that it is time for the whole international community to act decisively, including the international community of social workers.
The majority of the Gazan population are refugees and we note the International Federation of Social Workers policy statement on refugees in which it states: “The social work profession accepts its share of responsibility for responding to the distress of refugees”. Social workers in Gaza are fulfilling their responsibility, for example in the Rapid Response Team set up by the Palestine Trauma Centre. However, they are working in desperately hard circumstances and they need firm support. As social workers around the world, we need to act on this responsibility ourselves.
We therefore welcome the lead taken by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) in responding to this disaster, in particular by their statements of 28 July and 2 August 2014. In the more recent statement, the IFSW calls on its members to develop their own campaigns at a national level, and this statement signifies BASW’s intent to do just this, here in the United Kingdom.
We have also been contacted by our professional colleagues in the Palestinian Union of Social Workers and Psychologists (PUSWP), who have asked for our support by making clear our own position as social workers in the UK. We are pleased to do so and to stand in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues.
The British Association of Social Workers joins with our IFSW colleagues in being appalled by Israel’s attacks on Gaza and its ongoing illegal occupation of Palestinian land. While we condemn all indiscriminate attacks on civilians, the scale of the actions of the Israeli government forces, especially the shelling of UNWRA schools and the killing of children while they sleep, in supposedly safe places, is grossly disproportionate. We are appalled by the many violations of human rights that are taking place in Gaza, leading to ever-rising numbers of deaths and serious injuries, particularly among the civilian population. We condemn Israel’s attacks on people’s homes, hospitals and even on children while they play on the beach.
We call for an end to Israel’s aggression, a lifting of the blockade of Gaza and the end of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.
We believe too that the Israel Association of Social Workers have a particular responsibility to act, and we urge them to make their voices heard in Israel and abroad in opposition to what their government is inflicting on the people in Gaza.
We were saddened and angered to hear of the killing of Hashem Khader Abu Maria, a social worker at Defence for Children International (Palestine Section), who lived in Beit Ummar in the West Bank. He was shot dead by Israeli forces while participating in a peaceful demonstration against Israel’s assault on Gaza. Hashem was instrumental in setting up the Hebron branch of PUSWP, who once hosted a visit by BASW members. We send our condolences to Hashem’s family and to his social work colleagues.
As social workers in the UK, we will be turning our attention to our own government and institutions, in relation to the occupation of Palestinian land and the current intensification of the Israeli government’s attacks. We call on the British government to condemn Israel’s actions as grossly disproportionate, to support any motions at the United Nations condemning Israel’s aggression or calling for an end to the blockade of Gaza and the occupation of Palestinian land, and to stop all arms sales to Israel.
We will be making direct contact with our elected representatives, and we encourage individual social workers, whether or not you are members of BASW, to take similar action.
We look forward to a time when there can be a just peace in the region, and we hope that as social workers, drawing on our principles of human rights and social justice, we can play our part in such an outcome.
Guy Shennan Maggie Mellon Bridget Robb
BASW Chair Vice Chair Chief Executive