Solidarity in motion: Let us work together

By Eileen Joy and Meryl Fraser.

Earlier this month members of the Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work Journal issued a plea for Justice for Palestine. Sadly we note that our plea must remain, that Palestine is still under bombardment and the genocide of Palestinians continues apace. In that plea we noted the weak responses of both the International Federation of Social Workers and our own professional association the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW). We also said that we would follow up our plea with a list of actions people could take. We know that many fellow social workers are likely to feel a sense of bewilderment, horror, and confusion about what is happening and these feelings can lead to paralysis. That paralysis is often accompanied by a sense of helplessness. Here in Aotearoa it might seem that there is nothing you can do. Hopefully this list will help you – and others – realise that there is a lot you can do.

But first I want to start with the words of Brittany Packnett who was writing in 2018 about the death of a young Black woman in the United States. These words have been shared anew via Instagram in recent weeks. I share them to frame this conversation:

The most important step is this: Train yourself toward solidarity and not charity. You are no one’s saviour. You are a mutual partner in the pursuit of freedom. Lilla Watson, an Aboriginal activist and artist once said ‘If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.’ I want to be free. I want you to be free. And you aren’t free until I am. 

This means we have to work together. This means that solidarity is a verb. This is about working together, it is about kotahitanga to achieve rangatiratanga, both are values embedded in the ANZASW Code of Ethics – these are values that social workers in Aotearoa should be very familiar with. 

Given that what can solidarity look like when we are in Aotearoa – miles away from bombs and genocide? What follows is a non-exhaustive list of things you can do – and I encourage you to add things to this list in the comments section.

  • First up, see here for an informative google document about Palestine, Abolition and Social Work. There are a lot of resources here that you can use to educate yourself and others, which leads onto the next point!
  • Educate yourself about the situation and the long history of Palestinian struggle, how Israel was established on Palestinian land. Be clear in your head about the difference between Hamas and Palestinians and anti-Zionism and critiques of Israel versus antisemitism. It is frustrating when people say they do not know enough to comment and then do not bother to educate themselves – having said that there is nothing complex about opposing genocide or apartheid.
  • Push back against incorrect framing. This isn’t a war. It’s not a conflict. Israel is not defending itself when it slaughters unarmed civilians.
  • Follow Palestinians on social media, read books by Palestinians. Social media will allow you to see what is happening in real time. Know also that this can be distressing and upsetting, so you may need time out, but do not let that make you turn away from solidarity.
  • Take all the actions you are capable of taking – posting on social media (this is not performative, Palestinians are literally asking people to do this). This also means signing petitions, go to marches, write emails to your MPs, (find yours here) give money to campaigns, take part in boycotts. The feeling of helplessness is by design – we are supposed to feel that way so we don’t recognise the power we hold, especially when we come together.
  • Make the connections between the violent colonial oppressor of Palestinians and other Indigenous peoples are the globe, including here in Aotearoa

More specific actions:

  • Sign this petition for the NZ government to demand an immediate ceasefire
  • Purchase from Palestinian owned business – see here for a place where you can buy an assortment of items and part of the purchase goes to donating meals to children in Gaza.
  • Go to this Link-tree for more petitions and actions you can take.
  • Download this app – Halal Kiwi – Apple or for Android – which can show you what foods are halal but also contains a list of companies that have supported Israel in various capacities so you can make more informed consumer choices.

Remember you can make a difference. We can stand together. Millions of people around the world are calling for a ceasefire, for a radical rethink about the occupation of Palestinian land. You can and should join those calls for action. Solidarity is a verb, take action. Do the mahi. Fight back.


Raed’s last message to the IFSW

The letter below has just been mailed by Raed Amira, a Palestinian social worker, to challenge the neutral stance of the IFSW with regard to the genocide of Gazan civilians. Raed is based in Bethlehem and is a representative of the Human Rights Commission for the Asia Pacific Region, a member of the Palestinian Union of Social Workers and Psychologists, and a member of the Arab Federation of Social Workers. Raed wrote this as the death toll in the 2023 Israel-Gaza war approached 9,000, two-thirds of whom were women and children: these are not just statistics; they are loving family members lost, ambitions broken and dreams destroyed.

At the same time, in his community in Bethlehem in the West Bank, Raed’s colleagues, friends and families are being shot at by settlers and detained and tortured by the Israeli occupation forces.

The Reimaging Social Work collective stands shoulder to shoulder with our Palestinian brothers and sisters and we condemn the IFSW for its neutrality and complicity with Israel’s settler colonial war crimes.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

Bishop Desmon Tutu

I fear not execution

Not torture and not hate

Not death from rifle barrels or

The shadows on the gates

I fear not restless nights with

Shooting stars of streaking pain

I fear but blindness from a world

Indifferent and insane.

Halfdan Rasmussam

My colleagues in IFSW,

I hope you are doing well. This will be my last message to you. Today, I will be more frank with you. I will share this message with our colleagues around the world.

First of all, it is not permissible for anyone in this world, especially when he calls for human rights, to equate the victim with the executioner, the oppressor with the oppressed. You are human rights advocates, and you are the ones who taught us that social work is about resistance, that social work is about sacrifice, giving, and freedom.

You are the ones who told us that you are committed to the United Nations and its institutions, the Security Council and its resolutions, human rights, international law, and so on, which all call for the illegality of the occupation and the Palestinian rights to self-determination and resistance.

Raed Amira, Palestinian social worker.

Today, you are called be the owners of a real cause and to take a clear position, otherwise, there is no need for your words and sermons. The truth is clear to you, and you know it very well. Many of you spoke to me and admitted that these are atrocities and crimes and that the occupation is criminal and brutal. Many of you tell the truth but cannot say it publicly. Who would have expected that in the year 2023, in which the world imagined flying cars, we would instead witness a genocide live on social media and in front of silent mouths?

You and your administration know that members of the Israeli Union of Social Workers participate in the killing of Palestinians because they, like most Israelis, carry a conscription ID, and support the terrorism of their government and their settlers among us. Yet, you still embrace this fascist, racist, and Zionist institution. This was acknowledged by the president of the Israeli Union of Social Workers in Dublin in 2018, where she said frankly and proudly that the members of the Israeli Union participate in the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), killing and arresting Palestinians. Including the repeated arrests of Palestinian social workers who were supposed to have received international immunity from you. The whole world knows that Israel kills doctors, paramedics, journalists, and children, yet no one acts to deter them?

Currently, the Arab Union of Social Workers are waiting for our opinion regarding your shameful and neutral statements. There is anger among social workers, not only in Palestine but also in many countries. We are waiting for your response. By the way, there are many social workers in Gaza. I wish we could communicate with them and be reassured they are still alive. But, the policy of collective punishment imposed on Gaza, cut both the electricity supply and the Internet. I do not know anything about my fellow specialists in Gaza. I do know that one of my colleagues was injured and lost her family in the frenzied Israeli bombing.

Nor should we forget the many Palestinian social workers locked up in Israeli prisons, sentenced to administrative detention and held without charge. I keep them in my prayers and supplications. The situation here in the West Bank is deteriorating every day, and one of our colleagues, Riad Arar (a well-known social worker) and his son have just been brutally arrested by the occupation forces.

For the sake of all this, do not be silent. For the sake of all the blood and the pain, do not be silent. Otherwise, I am ashamed to be a member of this union.

Free Palestine!

Best Regards



Genocide in Gaza

It’s hard to believe that we are here again. Watching helplessly as Israeli planes drop American-funded bombs on civilians in the crowded Gaza Strip. Home to 2.3 million Palestinians subject to a brutal blockade by Israel for 16 years and now victims of a total siege starving the population of food, water and medical supplies. In just twelve days, the death toll exceeded that of the horrifying 90-day 2014 war on Gaza . Unless we stop it, what is unfolding is nothing short of a genocide.

Anyone who watches Al Jazeera News can see with their own eyes the daily demolitions of family homes, apartment blocks, refugee camps, schools and hospitals. Of course, as social workers, we condemn all acts of violence against civilians and the taking of civilian hostages, but we also understand the root causes of violence that lie in 75 years of violent displacement, 56 years of military occupation, a cruel system of apartheid fences, walls and checkpoints and the endless humiliation of armed Israeli settlers evicting Palestinians from their homes and murdering their whānau (under the watchful and complicit eyes of the occupation forces).

Across Aotearoa and the world, people are protesting, rallying and marching in solidarity with Palestinian people. Don’t let anyone tell you that this is too complicated or that this is a religious war. There are many progressive Jewish people overseas, and here in Aotearoa who refuse to be complicit in Israel’s war crimes, they call for a ceasefire now, and an end to the occupation.

The Reimagining Social Work collective stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people and with our brothers and sisters in the Palestinian Union of Social Workers and Psychologists. We also support the call issued by the Palestine-Global Mental Health Network.

Green Party MPs outside the US Embassy with activists from Justice for Palestine

In the coming days and weeks, please take time to look beyond mainstream media and take what action you can to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people.


Tough times

We have talked about the big picture : small picture stuff on this blog for some time. This is because it is THE question for social work – the key issue that we wrestle with in theory and practice. As suggested, these disturbing times are bringing out the best and worst of the human condition. The mounting social disruption and economic fall-out from the pandemic is severely troubling a world already severely troubled by the cumulative fall-out from global warming. The future as we have understood it in the main-stream Western narrative of progressive development no longer makes sustained sense – unless, perhaps, to the hyper-wealthy.


Feeling the tension: where to from here?

A guest post from Bex, Luis and Su:

Workers find themselves assigned substantially changed workloads and mandates and charged with enforcing definitions of need and entitlement with which they may be politically, professionally, and personally at odds.’                                  Aronson & Sammon, 2000, p.168)

What started just like any other ANZASW Facebook page post spawned a series of entries regretting the way in which social workers were, at times, forced to practice in ways which did not align to their beliefs and values. This got a few of us thinking as to why this may be the case. What powerful forces were in play that compelled some social workers to practice in ways incongruent to their value systems and, according to one entry, potentially against the law?  Why and how do skilled and passionate social workers end up in positions where they must compromise on practice integrity? What creates that tension and are there ways to resist?