BASW & SWU statement on situation in Israel and Palestine/Gaza

SWU & BASW Statement

Updated on 20 February 2024

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) and Social Workers Union (SWU) are horrified by the escalation of military violence in Gaza and continuing humanitarian crisis. Every day of extreme violence and destruction in Gaza undermines the possibility of long-term peace and security of Palestinians and Israelis.

Following the Hamas terrorist atrocity against Israeli civilians on 7th October 2023 in which over 1200 civilians were murdered and many subject to sexual abuse and rape, 250 civilians were taken hostage, 134 of whom remain in Gaza. An Estimated 200,000 Israelis are internally displaced to escape rocket fire.  Since the attack, it is estimated that, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have killed over 28,000 Palestinians, mainly civilians, including more than an estimated 10,000+ children with a further 67,000 people wounded.1 Civilians in Gaza are experiencing relentless bombardment, mass displacement, and nightmarish living conditions with outbreaks of deadly disease and a looming famine.2  More than one million people – over half of Gaza’s population – are sheltering in Rafah and have nowhere else to go. 

Palestinians have been told over the past months by the IDF to evacuate south for their own safety but the World Health Organisation has stated that “no one and nowhere is safe in Gaza.”3 Airstrikes have killed over 100 people in Rafah this week,4 Gaza’s southernmost point, and the IDF is now planning a large-scale military incursion into Rafah.5 The UN warns that such an operation will likely result in an extremely high number of civilian casualties, further limiting an already hampered humanitarian operation,6 and that it “risks further atrocity crimes” being committed.7

This war must not be allowed to continue. We continue to call on the UK and international governments and all political parties to press for an immediate, permanent ceasefire. This means an end to Israeli military action in Gaza and for Hamas and Hezbollah to stop sending rockets into Israel and to move out of civilian areas. We call for the immediate release of all Israeli hostages held by Hamas and an end to Israel’s siege that is restricting delivery of humanitarian and medical aid to Gaza.

As social workers, we work for peace and dialogue between all communities. In the UK, we abhor the huge rise in reported antisemitic attacks and the fears arising from this within the Jewish community. We equally abhor the rise in Islamophobic threats and attacks in the UK. Our commitment to calling for the human rights of Palestinian civilians to be protected is equaled by our commitment to calling for the rights of the Jewish community to live free of the fear of antisemitism. Our call is for fundamental human rights to be upheld for all people in accordance with the UN Declaration and the European Convention on Human Rights, and in alignment with our social work Code of Ethics.

Key sources as at 20/02/2024

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Links to previous joint BASW & SWU statements on the situation in Israel and Palestine/Gaza: