Did BASW’s statement on the Gaza conflict go too far?

Some social workers feel uneasy about the tone of of the professional body's intervention. What do you think?

A statement released by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) on the Gaza conflict has provoked debate among social workers. Below, Twitter user @tasha_a7, a social worker who resigned her BASW membership over the statement, explains why she feels the professional body overstepped the mark and went beyond its remit. But first, Maggie Mellon, BASW’s vice chair, outlines the association’s reasons for making the statement and why they stand by it.

‘We made our statement in defence of morality, law and civilians’

by Maggie Mellon, BASW vice chair

Our statement is summarised here but the full version is available on the BASW website:

The British Association of Social Workers joins with (the) International Federation of Social Workers 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.

It is our belief that peace can never be achieved by the use of overwhelming force, the destruction of civilian infrastructure and disregard of human rights. Only continued conflict will be the result of Israel’s military response to the protests and cries of the Palestinian people. That has been proved time and again in Israel, and elsewhere, and is indeed being proved yet again in Iraq today.

That is why, as part of the international social work family, and as a part of civil society here, BASW condemns Israel’s actions and calls for Israel to bring itself into line with international law and to commit itself to a just and equitable peace which will bring peace and safety for all in this disputed territory.”

The statement was agreed after consultation within BASW Council, with our chief executive Bridget Robb, and the chair of BASW’s international committee. It is our firm view that condemnation of the Israeli government is the only moral position that can be taken in the face of the mass killing of children and families, including those sheltering in UN shelters and what appears to be a deliberate destruction of the civilian infrastructure of homes, health, education, water and sewage disposal, and power supply.

We are clear that the Israeli government’s claim that rockets were fired from near or within civilian areas, from family homes, from United Nations Work Relief Agency (UNWRA) shelters in schools, or near hospitals, is not either a moral or legal defence for what was an appalling slaughter of civilians.

Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Everywhere in Gaza is ‘near’ civilians. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were instructed to evacuate their homes within hours, or even minutes, to avoid air strikes that destroyed whole districts, townships and villages. These fleeing civilians then found that  ‘safe’ UNWRA shelters that they fled to were attacked without warning, and despite clear and repeated notice by the UN and the civilian authorities in Gaza of their position and their status.

Only those who believe that Israel can never be wrong, and can never be criticised, can believe that the Israeli government’s actions in Gaza over the last weeks are in any way defensible. There is no case for any country, including our own, to be exempt from moral or international law. We made our statement in defence of morality, of law, and of the civilian population of Gaza.

‘BASW’s role shouldn’t be to form opinions on complex political conflicts’

by @tasha_a7, a social worker in a children’s services department 

I’m very aware that the conflict in Gaza has stirred up many feelings across the UK and the international community and that this is a very emotive issue for many people. This is the main reason I don’t think BASW should be issuing de facto political statements. I feel that it was obvious that a statement like theirs would cause alienation amongst its members.

I believe that it is always right to speak out about humanitarian crises and I think that most people around the UK would agree that there has been a devastating loss of Palestinian lives during this conflict, one of which I understand was a Palestinian social worker. I think it is fair and just for BASW to highlight this and to unite the social work community around the issue.

However, I believe that whilst difficult, it is possible, to issue a statement on the humanitarian issue without getting into the political domain, as has been done here.

I do not believe that it is BASW’s role to form opinions on very complex political conflicts and to include deeply controversial matters in their statement, which was issued on behalf of all British social workers. I feel this brings division to the social work community – which already has more than its fair share of anger directed at it on a regular basis.

I wrote a complaint to BASW, and I’m aware others did the same. I do not want to get into a battle about the rights and wrongs of the Middle East conflict. I think everyone is entitled to their opinion. My battle is about BASW’s role and remit – I don’t believe it has the mandate to express such subjective political views. I was very surprised that in Guy Shennan (the chair of BASW’s council)’s response to my complaint, he referred to the IFSW’s statement as being very clear that ‘the cause of the conflict is the occupation’ – as if a conflict that has been ongoing for decades can be summed up with a statement like that.

I also raised the point that if BASW feels the need to make a statement about international humanitarian crises, members should also be expecting to see statements related to the many other crises that are taking place currently. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled their homes in Iraq over the past weeks fleeing the brutal ISIS but so far BASW have failed to issue any statement, despite noting in their Gaza message that ‘the social work profession accepts its share of responsibility for responding to the distress of refugees”.

Finally, I’d just like to reinforce that this debate is not about whether you agree or disagree with BASW’s opinions on the Israel-Gaza conflict but about whether you feel BASW has the mandate to express subjective political views on behalf of all British social workers.

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24 Responses to Did BASW’s statement on the Gaza conflict go too far?

  1. Ermintrude2 August 19, 2014 at 8:49 pm #

    I completely agree with Tasha and well done to her for challenging the statement by BASW. There are many humanitarian issues – I do wonder why BASW chose this one and why they chose aggressive and highly political language to do so. Well, I can guess but best not. Why aren’t BASW focusing on the injustices in this country if they are going to claim it’s a humanitarian issue. If they do feel they have to make a statement, then make it a neutral one that condemns aggression. I’m not a member of BASW so hadn’t noticed their statement but I am rather glad of that now

    • Mark Culwick August 20, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

      “We made our statement in defence of morality, law and civilians”

      Really? the three Israeli children murdered by Hamas (not the victims of indiscriminate airstrikes, but plain and racially motivated murder is not even touched upon by BASW, nor is the indiscriminate firing of rockets from Palestine into Israel. As well as being a Social Worker I am an ex-combat soldier (Tank Commander) in the British Military. The Israeli Defence Forces and their Political leaders are doing plenty wrong (land incursions, settlements etc), that is not in question, and they have access to the most technologically precise targeted weapons systems on the planet, so indiscriminate bombing by tanks, artillery and aircraft that kill and maim children and non-combatants is indefensible.

      But lets be balanced and look on the flip side, HAMAS does not fight in uniform, they fight a guerrilla style action and place their rockets in highly populated Palestinian areas close to schools, hospitals and UN buildings, in fact any place they know people will flock to for protection to gain maximum media effect when they are predictably targeted by Israeli forces. HAMAS have been killing people for decades due to their political and religious ideology, but when someone stands up to them, the world does not like it. HAMAS put those children and non combatants in extreme danger, intentionally!

      How lawful or moral was the carpet bombing of Dresden, Berlin, Hannover, Kiel etc. in the second world war? primarily targeted at civilians and celebrated by the British every year on Remembrance Sunday for the guys who did it, because low and behold, they assisted in saving our liberty so that was ok! My uncle was a bomber pilot on those raids and I am not judging, I am drawing a comparison; we were fighting a uniformed foe for something that we believed in. If they had not, see how much of a say we would have now under a national socialist regime! Are the Israeli’s not allowed to protecting their homeland?

      Therefore do not deign to use me as a political toy due to my profession; I take deep exception to that. I am extremely pleased I am not a member of BASW as getting into these issues in this way will make our lives even harder. For example, say I had to work with a Jewish family, that’s going to look really good and fill them with confidence that they are going to get an equal and unbiased service. Anti Oppressive practice works in both ways, the statement was biased, and oppressive to Jews, if it had been balanced then fair enough, it wasn’t!

      • Pauline Kewley August 20, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

        You talk sense. Thank you.

      • A Mitchell August 21, 2014 at 9:43 am #

        Please don’t conflate Judaism with Zionism; they are not the same at all. Jews throughout the world are speaking out against the state of Israel and saying loudly and clearly, not in my name. Those speaking out in Israel have been subjected to vilification and intimidation and they, along with our Palestinian brothers and sisters should receive our unequivocal support.

        This conflict is not an equal war with equal responsibility. Israel is the fourth largest military power in the world against a people with no army, airforce, navy and precious few weapons with which to resist the occupation – and let’s be clear, under the Geneva Convention Palestinains have a legal right to resist the illegal occupation. Israel is a brutal apartheid state with racism at the centre of its practice. Over 50 laws are based on ethnicity and discriminate against Palestinian Arabs. As a retired social worker I fought against apartheid in South Africa and against all forms of discrimination in this country and elsewhere.

        Frankly, I’m proud of BASW for making such a statement and recognising the brutality of the state of Israel, and in so doing condemning apartheid, ethnic cleansing, theft of land and water, the uprooting of olive trees, the demolition of homes, the administrative detention without charge or trial of hundreds of Palestinian men and women, and the brutal traumatisation of Palestinian children under the military court system who have not even the most basic legal safeguards to which they would be entitled in most civilised societies.

        We do not help Israel by allowing the repeated violations of international law to continue. Our silence reinforces Israel’s belief that it can continue to act with impugnity. The hypocrisy of the USA, EU, and UK governments in speaking out against Russia’s ‘land grab’ and ‘breaches of international law’ in the Ukraine whilst remaining silent on Israel is breathtaking.

        Social workers have always stood for justice, equality and human rights and I’m proud that they have done so. Many were silent before and I hope we will never be silent again.

        • David Wright August 21, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

          Absolutely right. The claims of anti semitism conflate Judaism with Zionism. The challenge is not in relation to Judaism but about a hugely oppressive military state. Thank you.

      • Barbara kirk August 22, 2014 at 10:35 am #

        I agree with Mark Culwick.

  2. Sumayya August 19, 2014 at 11:22 pm #

    When I saw BASW’s statement I felt proud to be a part of the Association. As a Social Worker I am against oppression and discrimination. I am proud that we have BASW speaking up about important issues that surely as Social Workers we would share the same anti oppressive views. In fact it concerns me to hear there are Social Workers that think BASW was wrong to take this moral stance. Well Done BASW!!

  3. David Fleming August 20, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    If BASW cannot make a statement about the slaughter of ordinary people including women and children-then what is BASW about? My only concern is identifying this particular group. We could add Syrian’s, Nigerians, Linbyans etc etc. Unfortunately there are many opeoople around the world suffering greatly, whilst our foreign policy has drawn criticism from radicals such as the Archbishop of Canterbury! As social Workers we should be empathetic to the suffering of others irrespective of their political affiliation and stand up for the weak and dispossessed. Lets not criticise BASW for a well meaning attempt to make a stand.

  4. Liz McAteer August 20, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

    I am not a member of BASW and never have been. I am a social worker of many years standing, mostly in the field of safeguarding and have lectured, written, researched and run my own consultancy in safeguarding and the protection of vulnerable people. Whilst my work has been concentrated in the UK, there have been cases I have carried that have crossed international boundaries. What happens to children in other countries, particularly in a country were over 400 children have been killed in a matter of weeks and others have been maimed, lost siblings and parents, is a matter for me as a social worker and as a human being. Social work crosses international boundaries, we support and learn from each other. I expect any professional body to offer an opinion on significant harm to children and the erosion of their human rights wherever they live. I expect them, as has always been the case, to make contacts with social workers and their representatives in other countries and recognise the international statements on the rights of children wherever they live in the world. We in the UK are signatories to the CRC, much of which underpins the CA1989. No profession is an island, to misquote a saying and particularly not social work or their professional bodies.

  5. John Ramsey August 20, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    I am not a member of BASW either, but i would say that BASW is what its members would wish it to be. I tend to se BASW as an alternative to a Trade union, and BASW itself seems to be somewhat split on this. I would see any decent Trade Union as having a broader role in natonal and international political life

  6. V August 20, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    This is what I have now sent to BASW
    As a very committed and long standing member of BASW I read your statement with huge discomfort.
    I am a practising Jew, the child of refugees from Nazi Germany (doubtless the motivation for becoming a SW). I have always been uneasy about BASW’s work in Gaza being somewhat one sided and was very much hoping to discuss this with Elizabeth O’Dell, who died so recently, someone whom I deeply respected, after she had attended the conference on the work being done in Gaza.
    I am very far from being a supporter of Netanyahu. I do believe that most of the settlements should be returned. I actively support the Peace village, Neve Shalom.
    I am horrified by the deaths of so many civilians, many of them children, in Gaza. But beware of Hamas statistics and of the photos they distribute.
    Your statement made no mention of the number of children in Israel who are now living in shelters- do you suggest that they should not use the shelters? Should Israel not defend itself?
    Who supplies Hamas with the funds it needs to build its tunnels and with its weapons-why not use these funds to build its own shelters or better its whole economy?
    No reference is made to the United Nations allowing Hamas weapons to be stored in civilian homes, hospitals and the UN schools. There is now ample evidence that this is true. Hamas as much as Israel is responsible for the death of its own people.
    Do you think there is any real difference between Hamas and what is happening in Iraq and Syria? Why is BASW not urging our Govt. to give asylum to persecuted Christians and others?
    I attached an article, admittedly written by my daughter, who is a journalist, on the growth of anti-Semitism in this country as well as the rest of Europe. I would hate to think that BASW has fallen into this trap. However social workers have asked me whether I have ever thought of returning home i:e to Israel. I was born in Britain, educated here. I am a British citizen and have never lived in Israel.

    • John Metcalfe August 20, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

      Like you , I am a supporter of the peace village, NeveShalom-Wahat al Salam, and I should have preferred the statement to recognise and support the minority in Israel who oppose the occupation and the Israeli government’s repressive policies.

      I too think that the settlements should be returned , that there should be right of return and that Israel should not be a Jewish state but a modern secular state reflecting the rights of its non-Jewish Arab minority and others. These are the principles of Palestinian and United nations policies.

      I sympathise with the child of a generation that escaped the holocaust and wanted the holocaust survivors to be happily accomodated in a humane state of Israel. I also pity the poor British tommies who tried to keep the peace between the Zionists and the Palestinians in a war that was not a true war of Israel’s independence but also a Nachbar and a rebuff to the ideals and efforts of the United Nations which has continued ever since.

      Any statement about the suffering of children in Israel has to take into account proportionality. The gross disproportion in casualties between Israelis and Palestinians is recognised throughout the world.

      Who supports Hamas with weapons and who supports the Israeli government with weapons ? Oh dear we are in murky waters here..it couldn’t be us could it ?

      The cry of Jewish people since the end of WW2 has been that they should have defensible space and never again be subjected again to attempted annihilation. I think we have to ask what is defensible space in the modern world. It comes from international co-operation not warring national states. I recognise the imperfection of this view, particularly after recent events in the Balkans and soon, it may be said, Gaza, but this is our only hope.

      When people are desperate, they will fight from anywhere, churches, mosques and even UN schools.

      We have to be cautious about our analogies. Palestine is not Iraq although moderate forces in Iraq should be supported in Iraq as well as Palestine particularly now that Hamas has linked with the Palestinian authority which has resisted the “divide and rule policy of the Netanyahu [ I can never remember his Polish name] government.

      It would be morally wrong for Christians to be selected for special protection which should be for the most vulnerable of any faith and none.

      There are repeated attempts to associate criticism of the Israeli government with anti-Semitism. This is simply not true.

      So far as the actions of BASW are concerned I appreciate the sense of outrage that provoked our association’s initial response. To the many social worker non-member critics of BASW I suggest that you join our association and seek to bring us round to your point of view through dialogue and debate.

      Finally, I know that the people of the peace village, who live in a joint community of Israelis and Palestinians are frightened by the social tension in Israel and the threat to those who dare to speak arabic on the street.

  7. David wright August 20, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

    Silence on this issue is complicity. when there is distinct independent evidence from the mouths of other professionals and independent journalists in that area who are witnessing extreme devastation and genocide we have a moral and professional responsibility to speak up about it. Unfortunately I think the avoidance of controversial subjects is indicative of fear and the impact of government and media propaganda, which has resulted in a high degree of apathetic professionals with an insular focus on specialised areas of social work rather than engaging with the huge structural oppressions within the political context. I thought the job of us as a profession was to raise conciousness on such issues and be a unified voice, where there is no doubt about the oppressive actions upon others, especially governments.

    It was a commitment of mine to be the ‘voice of the voiceless’, to not shy away from difficult issues, particularly on the issue of corrupt governments, including our own (who are now being taken to court for their continual supply of arms to Israel). When you have many professional organisations, unions, acclaimed academics (Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein), secretary of the UN, singing from the same song sheet on this issue, that this is undoubtedly a genocide going on, how can we not make a strong statement? We need to be bold and I’m very proud my union made this statement. I join the 150000 strong stop the war demonstration in London on 09.08.14 and was proud to say as a social worker my union endorsed such an effort.

    I think we all need to be properly educated about these issues rather than bury our heads in the sand and excuse ourselves from engaging with ‘complex political conflicts’ and ‘deeply controversial issues’. It’s precisely these kind of issues that need problem solving and unravelling because usually undeneath is the truth of oppressions of monumental proportions.

    I am now following the daily reports of an independent journalist who is sharing accounts of a people that are surrounded by walls, military occupation, blockade, nowhere to run to, any means of further aid stifled due to bombing the tunnels referred to as ‘terror tunnels’, no passage out of Egypt, under surveillance by sea and air. She has shared stories of a woman carrying her baby which was shot by Israeli military and then told to drop it or she would be shot, a man carrying his decapitated daughter to the hospital so he could lay her to rest somewhere he felt at least her body would be at peace, 40 people to a room in UN schools with outbreaks of scabies and overflowing toilets, a young boy blown out of his house and in plaster from pelvis down which was completely shattered, a shell shocked woman, trembling with a vacant look in her eyes barely able to stand without support in the hospital. The list of horrendous tragedy goes on and she was still reporting from her room last night as the shelling resumed.

    To pass this off as beyond our remit to get involved with making statements on, is to fail the humanistic ethos of social work and to be complicit with the dehumanisation of these people. Yes there are other oppressions and we can attend to them, but this one is of significant proportions in terms of the level of brutality and devastation. Let’s not get stunned into an academic analysis about whose oppression is greatest and diminish the importance of challenging the oppression in this conflict because there are many others. It is for that reason we need to take special committed focus to each one, in this case it’s high time the Palestinian people were freed from this awfully oppressive occupation.

  8. Mark Wogan August 20, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    I am visiting Israel in about 5 weeks… Social work in that part of the world is perhaps one of the hardest environments to operate in and I am ashamed that i complain about the conditions of work life in Great Britain. We are so very comfortable with our houses our hot and cold running water our food and our leisure time. I go to Israel to deepen my understanding of the area. I am completely polarised on the issues between Israel and Palestine.

    BASW statement is particularly arrogant. It is a fallacy that its views represent all British social workers. I also think it has not been truly impartial in its interpretation of the facts seeking to also insert a caveat about lifting occupation by Israel – Embarrasingly naive! to comment on internal affairs between other countries.

    BASW should have stopped sooner and reflected longer before releasing their public statement.

  9. Martin Allen August 20, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

    Whilst I rejoice when people and organisations stand up against the Israeli state (and any oppressive state), i do have some reservations about a statement being made without any reference to the membership.

  10. Dru Long August 20, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    I support BASW’s stand.We are involved in child protection, our job is to safeguard the welfare, safety and happiness of children-is that only ‘British children’? NO, not for me – I believe we are ethically and morally obliged to care for all children in common humanity. If they live in an illegally occupied land, under siege and blockaded from receiving food and medicine, and then in addition being murdered, maimed and having their heads and arms blown off in their 100’s, by the use of sophisticated weaponry which my country has sold to an illegal occupier, I believe we cannot say we are ‘social workers’ if we do not stand side by side with those children and their parents, in support of their resistance to this massacre. The Israeli State is an illegally occupying force and as quoted by John Pilger, “the Judges at Nuremberg were succinct in saying that individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity,” and I hope the citizens, workers and trade unionists of Israel will call for withdrawal from occupation and will demand that their citizens and Palestinian citizens live in harmony in one state for all, with equal rights. Harmonious co-existence was the case, I believe prior to Britain’s interference in that region .

    • Tom Patterson August 20, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

      Perhaps you should read the Hamas Charter. They consider any formal Israeli governed territory anywhere in the middle east to be an illegal occupation. This is why calling for Israel to end illegal occupation is tantamount to requiring them to pack up what they can carry and become refugees in other countries again.

      UN resolution 242 states the ” inadmissibility of the acquisition of land through war”.

      The United Kingdom acquired the now disputed territory through the first world war, and established the mandates commission to administer it. It was only through their “illegal acquisition” that the state of Israel, and the Arab state of Palestine could be within their power to grant.

      Therefore ending illegal occupation means far more to Hamas and to Israel than what most people in UK think it means. It means wiping out the state of Israel.

      So BASW demands the dissolution and dispersal of Israel?

      Is that what members really want Jewish and Israeli citizens to think we stand for?

      We should be pressing both sides to reject military action and renew pressure for a negotiated solution.

      Look at a similarly bloody and atrocious action against civilians and children in Northern Cyprus by Turkey, still condemned as an illegal military invasion and occupation by the UN, and what a peaceful solution will cost.


  11. Nicole August 20, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    I would like to add my support to Tasha’s comments and to thank her for making her statement. There are human rights atrocities being committed all over the world and while I deplore any act of aggression against a civilian population , I feel that BASW’s singling out of this particular conflict is outside of their remit and that their statement was inflammatory and one-sided. I am social worker, but not a member of BASW and therefore I do not sanction them to make statements expressing political views on my behalf.

  12. David wright August 20, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

    I see lots of superficial arguments here in support of the opening view. If you call yourself objective i would suggest getting a breadth of information. Mainstream corporate controlled media will confuse and distract you from the truth of the issues. BBC had to bow to public pressure to start reporting these issues, particular evidence was the anti austerity march which was pretty much ignored and included support from stop the war coalition.

    I am informed Israeli commentators speak with objectification and contempt that completely dehumanises the Palestinian people. So the Israeli population has been conditioned to hate and see these people as savages.

    If only more social workers would take the time to research this issue properly. I have met with other professionals and an anthropologist who can all see the truth of this massive propagandised deception surrounding one of the biggest human rights injustices facing our world today.

    There is nowhere on earth quite like Gaza. 30 foot high walls, intermittent watchtowers with guards with huge machine guns all around and checkpoints restricting flow of goods in (putting Palestinians on a diet) and not allowing people out make it the largest open air prison in the world. When they have tried to peacefully protest their rights for freedom they have been gunned down, one of these involved the social worker killed over there. Please, before you pass judgement about the political correctness of a statement that was made out of sheer commitment to ending the grossest of human rights injustices, get properly informed rather than express contempt prior to investigation. Detracting from the incredible suffering of these people in favour of a misinformed academic debate is a shame on the humanistic commitment of our profession.

    “All these people want is to be recognised as human beings, their suffering to be recognised, for their right to life and liberty to be recognised. It so important and when they see that recognition happening around the world finally after 70 years it does put the wind beneath their wings and it gives them the kind of strength to just keep on.” Kerry Anne Mendoza/aka Scriptonite.


    This independent journalist who is risking her life to bring first hand accounts of the plight of these people puts some social workers to shame. I’m working alongside activists, some of them professionals themselves, who truly embody social work values on this issue. they are constantly researching, protesting and speaking about human rights injustices meted out on the Palestinian people. The activities of Israeli military have even branded war crimes and they have ignored 69 UN resolutions to date, so there’s not much room for debate there.

    This link from amnesty international talks about an investigation into mounting evidence of human rights injustices.

    “An immediate investigation is needed into mounting evidence that the Israel Defense Forces launched apparently deliberate attacks against hospitals and health professionals in Gaza, which have left six medics dead, said Amnesty International as it released disturbing testimonies from doctors, nurses, and ambulance personnel working in the area.”


    Below is the link for an interview with Noam Chomsky who is well informed and has been speaking on this issue for over 50 years.


    If you are objective, research before making comment rather than ducking the issue of this being a complex political conflict that we have no remit to comment on. This is a human issue. And let’s not argue about other conflicts thus detracting from the issue even further. That’s like being faced with a scene of horrific multiple injury and sitting around analysing why the people helping are helping those people and not others rather than assist yourselves. This one is being given worthy attention and is in the interests of limiting immense suffering of Palestinian men women and children. This stuff is heartbreaking and fellow human beings need our support, not your cold academic analysis.

    • Mark Culwick August 21, 2014 at 2:03 pm #


      The largest open air prison in the world is North Korea, you try getting your facts right instead of criticising and maligning other poeples point of view due to poor research.

      • David wright August 21, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

        Thanks for the correction Mark. I am always learning. I’m not maligning anything. I’m very passionate about issues concerning human dignity as should all social workers be.

  13. Vivien Freeman August 21, 2014 at 8:15 am #

    So we have no responsibility for the traumatised children of Sedorot (Israel) who for several years have spent much of their lives in shelters as the rockets from Gaza regularly attack them and who like the children of Gaza suffer PTSD!

    Does no-one recall that Israel forcibly evacuated its Israeli inhabitants Gaza, handing it over to the Palestinian Authority? What happened?-Homes were pulled down, arable land destroyed and became the base for rocket attacks against Israel.

    Also is no-one aware of the intimidation of journalists in Gaza reported by the BBC and other news media throughout the world?

    Why only the criticism of Israel? To say its policy is one of genocide is such a gross distortion of the facts that sadly I can only relate it to anti-Semitism, something i never ever thought to have to do in England and certainly not in a social work context., .

    • David wright August 21, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

      Yes we have a reponsibility wherever there is suffering. I would say the anti semitism argument is superficial and ignores the fact that even people in Israel including some from the orthodox Jewish community, are speaking out about the level of aggressive defense used by Israel. There can be no defense against the level of brutality and aggression being used against Palestinian civilians. Israel has an iron done which intercepts rockets. There have been 3 civilian deaths in Israel since the recent military offensive resumed. Over 2000 and mounting in Gaza.

      To continue to use words like anti Semitic is a propaganda tool used to deflect any criticism whatsoever from Israeli military and actually I would suggest its manipulative and emotive way of minimising the excessive actions of the Israeli state, not to mention quite inflammatory and assumption based remark to make in relation to a social worker, particularly in respect of defamation law. It doesn’t matter what religion you are, large scale murder is large scale murder. We can turn the argument around and from what you imply are you saying the level of state force being used against Palestinian people is justifiable.?

      Watch the report from Kerry-Anne Mendoza. She is there now and hasn’t seen any Hamas fighters or known of any rockets being fired. She also says she has been met with such warmth and compassion from the Palestinian people. When Jeremy Bowen was there he saw no evidence of civilians being used as ‘human shields’ and soon after this statement was conveniently ‘on leave’.

      Desmond tutu has now spoken out in an Israeli newspaper about this issue. He encapsulates the issue quite well.

      “If you add together all the people who gathered over the past weekend to demand justice in Israel and Palestine – in Cape Town, Washington, D.C., New York, New Delhi, London, Dublin and Sydney, and all the other cities – this was arguably the largest active outcry by citizens around a single cause ever in the history of the world.

      A quarter of a century ago, I participated in some well-attended demonstrations against apartheid. I never imagined we’d see demonstrations of that size again, but last Saturday’s turnout in Cape Town was as big if not bigger. Participants included young and old, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, blacks, whites, reds and greens … as one would expect from a vibrant, tolerant, multicultural nation.

      I have condemned those in Palestine responsible for firing missiles and rockets at Israel. They are fanning the flames of hatred. I am opposed to all manifestations of violence.

      But we must be very clear that the people of Palestine have every right to struggle for their dignity and freedom. It is a struggle that has the support of many around the world.”


      So your implication that anti semitism must be surmised is based on the fallacious premise that this is an equal conflict. This is anything but an equal conflict. The Palestinian people are prisoners fighting for their freedom and dignity. That is what I see in all the evidence I’m coming across so as social workers this is the highest value we must be unified on. The Palestinians have been treated as second class citizens ever since the Balfour agreement.

      “Ninety-five years ago tomorrow, on November 2, 1917, British imperialism in Palestine began when Lord Balfour, the then British foreign secretary and former prime minister, sent a letter to Baron Rothschild, one of the leaders of the Zionist movement. This letter became known as the “Balfour Declaration”.

      In that letter, Balfour promised British support for the Zionist programme of establishing a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. This pledge of support was made without consulting the indigenous Christian and Muslim inhabitants of Palestine, the Palestinian people. And it was made before British troops had even conquered the land.

      Balfour, on behalf of Britain, promised Palestine – over which Britain had no legal right – to a people who did not even live there (of the very small community of Palestinian Jews in Palestine in 1917, very few were Zionists). And he did so with the worst of intentions: to discourage Jewish immigration to Britain. No wonder Lord Montagu, the only Jewish member of the Cabinet, opposed the declaration.”


      So in short yes this is a complex issue but there is plenty of immediately accessible information to gain an informed view. It is our responsibility as social workers to engage with complexity and the people suffering are not done any justice if those committed to being involved in engaging with such complexity, raising public consciousness in order to alleviate such suffering by using inflammatory assumption based judgements such as the term ‘anti Semitic’ to deflect attention away from large scale human rights abuses labelled by UN secretary as ‘criminal’.

      The world is waking up from propaganda. Are you?

  14. David wright August 24, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    Just in case anyone was in any doubt, but a clearly emerging picture of Israel’s extreme oppression of Palestinians. So the BASW statement is primarily humanistic not political, as there is no ambiguity about what’s happening. The only ambiguity is in the state propaganda of the media that is talked about by these holocaust survivors below.

    To call any criticism of Israel anti Semitic is like calling any criticism of our secular British society anti Christian.

    ” As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.

    We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting Neo-Nazi insignia.

    Furthermore, we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.

    We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. “Never again” must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!”