This text is a formative advance version of a special editorial from the following members of the ANZSW Journal Editorial Collective: Neil Ballantyne, Liz Beddoe, Kerri Cleaver, Yvonne Crichton-Hill, Ian Hyslop, Eileen Joy, Emily Keddell, Deb Stanfield, and Shayne Walker. It will be further developed, refined and published in the forthcoming Reproductive Justice issue of the journal. It has been written to express unconditional solidarity with the Palestinian people at this time.
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.
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.
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!
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).