01 Nov Statement on Palestine and Israel
Friday 20 October 2023
Statement on Palestine and Israel: We must humanise civilians, condemn violence, and be a place for refuge
Australia’s settlement sector is comprised of organisations grounded in principles of human rights. One of our primary roles is restoring a sense of safety to those who have been deprived of it due to war and conflict.
As a sector, we have long supported those who flee violence in their homelands. Australia’s settlement program emerged post-World War II, and in the decades since Australia has provided refuge to people from every corner of the globe. Australia must always offer refuge to those seeking safety regardless of their nationality, ethnic origin, or religion.
We have consistently advocated that the international community take all reasonable steps to ensure the protection of civilians, prevent persecution – and, when that fails, that the international community offer refuge to those subject to violence.
Today, we take that same stance in relation to Palestine and Israel.
Together, with international organisations such as the United Nations, we call for upholding the fundamental principles of International Humanitarian Law and we condemn the targeting of innocent civilians regardless of their background. All human beings have a right to safe passage to escape conflict, and humanitarian assistance must never be prevented from reaching those who do not, or cannot, flee.
Australia has, in relation to many conflicts, facilitated the emergency evacuation of civilians and our sector has ably supported this process. We again, reiterate that we are ready and willing to support any civilians seeking refuge in Australia.
Further, we all play a role in preserving life by ensuring we use humanising language and condemn violence against civilians in all its forms. How Australia responds is also vital for social cohesion both in the short and long term. We therefore call on all our civil society partners to join us in using their voice and resources to create an environment where the atrocities that gave rise to the UN Refugee Convention are never allowed to occur again.
We must collectively humanise civilians and offer refuge to those escaping violence. This humanitarian spirit has allowed for decades of peace and social cohesion in Australia, and we have an obligation to continue to express this spirit to preserve that in Australia and promote it abroad.
Finally, we acknowledge the heavy emotional toll of current atrocities on our sector, including the people who use our services and frontline workers who may be affected either directly or indirectly. Our organisations will continue to offer our support, and commit to treating each other with empathy, respect and kindness.
This has been a distressing time for many of us, our communities, colleagues, friends, and families. The Australian Red Cross has developed the following resource to support people impacted by disasters and distressing events: https://www.redcross.org.au/emergencies/looking-after-yourself/english/