MAPW Statement on Israel and Palestine: “Assert the right of all peoples”

Oct 13, 2023
Israel Palestinians Gaza Civilian Toll Relatives mourn people killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on Monday, Oct. 9, 2023. As Israeli warplanes pummel Gaza to avenge the Hamas attack, Palestinians say the military has largely unleashed its fury on civilians. Image: AAP-AP /Fatima Shbair

The current escalation in bloodshed in Israel and Palestine reflects the fact that peace cannot be built on decades of oppression; it can only be built on justice. The Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW) condemns not only the recent attacks, but also the failure – despite concerns expressed by many leaders and governments around the world – to address the oppression directed over a long period towards the Palestinian people. 

MAPW utterly condemns the recent attacks by Hamas on civilians in Israel, which were brutal, illegal and clearly designed to lead to escalation. The prospect of a further full-scale war enveloping the Middle East is to be deplored, and it must be prevented by every available peaceful means.

We should not equate Hamas with the civilian population in Gaza, who, along with Israelis, are paying the price for Hamas’ reprehensible actions. However nor should we consider the recent actions of Hamas in isolation from the brutality of Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territories which has been allowed to fester for over five decades. The suffering caused by that occupation has been severe, and little reported.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs reports that from 2008 to September 19 this year the number of Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli armed forces is 3705, while 33 Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinian armed groups in that period. Deaths caused by delayed access to medical treatment and other inhumane aspects of the occupation were not included; nor do these figures show all the despair and suffering caused by daily deprivations, poverty and humiliations, correctly labelled by many as apartheid.

On 10 July this year, Francesca Albanese, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory, said in a new report to the UN Human Rights Council, that “Israel’s military occupation has morphed the entire occupied Palestinian territory into an open-air prison, where Palestinians are constantly confined, surveilled and disciplined”.

The current escalation in bloodshed reflects the fact that peace cannot be built on decades of oppression; it can only be built on justice. MAPW condemns not only the recent attacks, but also the failure – despite concerns expressed by many leaders and governments around the world – to address the oppression directed over a long period towards the Palestinian people. We condemn the arming and political support given to the oppressor, including by Australia. In December 2022, Australia voted against a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly expressing deep concern about Israel’s gross violations of human rights and international law.

MAPW urges the Australian government now to assert the right of all peoples – including Palestinians and Israelis – to defend themselves, and the right of all people to live in dignity, with life’s essentials provided. Essential services must be restored to the people of Gaza as a matter of urgency, and Australia must unequivocally demand this. Australia must also make clear to the Israeli government that we support the rule of law in all circumstances, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations and their infrastructure, no matter who commits them.

To assert the rights of only one side in this conflict will simply add fuel to the fire that threatens to engulf the Middle East and beyond, yet again.

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