Those of us involved in the movement for Palestinian rights are very used to the twists and turns of the Israeli state and its accomplices abroad. They act together to silence and smear the movement for the liberation of Palestine. The Israelis refer to this as hasbara or advocacy for Israel. In reality, hasbara consists of well-funded campaigns of misinformation that work to delegitimise and demonise any criticism of the seemingly endless military occupation of Palestinian land. Israel even has an army of social media trolls that can be mustered at a moments notice to intervene in any social media critique of the Israeli state. False allegations of antisemitism are usually enough to chill the debate.
This is a speech made by Shannon Pakura on 3rd February 2018 to a rally organised by Wellington Palestine protesting the arrest of Ahed Tamimi and all Palestinian child political prisoners
Kia ora, I’m Shannon Pakura, President of the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers and I’m here to protest the arrest and detention of Ahed Tamimi and all Palestinian child political prisoners.
The facts are appalling: the Israeli state detains between 500 and 700 children (aged between 12 and 17) each year. They are tried in military courts with a prosecution rate of almost one hundred percent. The vast majority are tried for the crime of throwing stones at heavily armed Israeli Occupation Forces and their military vehicles: a crime that is punishable, depending on circumstances, by up to ten or twenty years in prison. A UNICEF report found that around two thirds of children detained by the Israeli military testified to being violently abused during their arrest and detention, some said they were threatened with sexual assault. Since the year 2000 more than 12,000 children have been detained, and the problem is becoming more acute. The Palestinian child prisoner population has doubled in the last three years.
Context is everything. All social workers know this: that to make sense of a situation, to assess it, we need to put events into context. Put another way, private troubles are often connected to public issues, but we only see this when we make an effort to join the dots, to locate the micro in the macro. This connection, between the personal and the political, is at the heart of what it is to do social work. As the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) states:
Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work. Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledges, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing (IFSW, 2014)