14 January 2018

More Social Workers Arrested in Palestine: Statement by the PUSWP

A statement issued by the Palestinian Union of Social Workers and Psychologists – General Secretariat

The Palestinian Union of Social Workers and Psychologists, an affiliated member of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), works to support and enhance the knowledge and skills of Palestinian social workers and to defend their rights. For 70 years the Palestinian people have suffered under the brutal occupation of their lands by Israel’s military forces. The unarmed, popular resistance to occupation by our people, a resistance that is legal under international law, has been met with harassment, detention, imprisonment and death at the hands of the occupation forces. Our social workers, who work closely with the local communities, are never far from what is happening on the ground. They are experienced human rights defenders who work hard to protect and advocate for children and families experiencing the daily stresses, and longer term trauma, of the occupation.

It is difficult to convey the intensity of the continuous surveillance, harassment and humiliation of the Palestinian people. On a daily basis, checkpoints, road blocks and the infamous “separation wall” are used to implement Israel’s apartheid system. Women, children and university students who are simply travelling, or attempting to go about their daily business, are all subject to routine checks, harassment and detention. Israel does not respect international human rights conventions or agreements and has effectively criminalised peaceful protests under Military order 101. Unlike Israeli citizens, Palestinian people are detained by military authorities and tried in military courts with a conviction rate approaching 100%.

Significant numbers of social workers have been detained as a result of their involvement in peaceful marches requesting the release of detainees and an end to the occupation. Two social workers (Nidal Abu Aker and Ghassan Zawahra) have been in administrative detention since 2014 (the same year in which Israeli occupation forces assassinated the social worker Hashem Abu Marya). More recently, on the 9th of January 2018, Mohammed Lutfi (Habashe) was arrested; and on 12th of January 2018 Hassan Faraj and Wesam Hamdan were arrested as they participated in a peaceful march demanding the release of child detainees and our colleague Munther Amira (arrested on 27th of December 2017).

Our message to the world, the IFSW and to all human rights organizations is to stand in solidarity with Palestinian social workers, and to recognize their role as human rights defenders in an occupied territory. We call on all media to support our call for the release of all social workers detained by the Israeli state: Nidal Abu Aker, Gassan Zawahra, Munther Amira, Mohammad Lotfie, Hassan Faraj and Wesam Hamdan. International social work organizations can also help the Palestinian people by affiliating to the BDS movement and boycotting apartheid Israel.

We will continue to defend the rights of our colleagues and people until Palestine is independent and free.

Viva Palestine

Free all detained social workers

The Palestinian Union of Social Workers and Psychologists – General Secretariat