Joint statement from 74 civil society groups calls for action on crisis in Gaza

Oct 18, 2023

Update:. Statement now released, and signatories continuing to be received. 104 signatories as of 30/10/23.

A joint statement to be released tomorrow, signed by 74 civil society organisations in Australia, calls on the Australian government to act on the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

In the statement, the organisations ask for Australia to immediately call for a ceasefire and for an end to the targeting of civilians in Gaza.

Today, as a ground invasion by Israeli forces looms, the people of Gaza face an unrelenting humanitarian crisis. The Israeli government’s complete siege of Gaza has cut people off from clean water, food, fuel, and power. There are no humanitarian corridors to allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, and the Rafah border crossing to Egypt has been repeatedly attacked.

In a horrific escalation overnight, Al Ahli hospital in Gaza city was bombed, with initial estimates of 500 people killed.  The signatories include Anglican Overseas Aid, who fund the hospital (link to their MR).

As the crisis unfolds and civilians continue to pay the price, signatories ask that the Australian government intervene and call for the Israeli forces to make every effort to protect the lives of civilians. They call for the government to continue to call for restraint and for the protection of civilians, but to condemn all war crimes, regardless of the perpetrator.

These organisations include human rights organisations, trade unions, aid organisations, faith groups, and organisations representing Jewish people and Palestinian people. Among them are Amnesty International Australia, the Australian Centre for International Justice, the Australian Council for International Development, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the Australian National Imams Council, Arab Council Australia, and the Human Rights Law Centre.

Quotes from signatories: 

Nikita White, Campaigner, Amnesty International Australia:

“Amnesty International is greatly concerned about violations of international humanitarian law (the laws of war) by Israeli forces in Gaza. We have collected evidence of horrific human rights abuses; from the use of white phosphorus, which burns the skin, to airstrikes pounding residential buildings, killing children, to the cutting off of water, food, fuel, and electricity to millions of people. 

In spite of this, the Australian Parliament disappointingly chose not to condemn war crimes committed by Israel this week. Calls for restraint and the protection of civilians from the Prime Minister and Minister Wong are welcome, but we call on them to condemn war crimes committed by Israel. We cannot allow any country to commit war crimes with impunity.” 

If the government continues to call for the protection of civilians and condemns all violations of international humanitarian law, regardless of the perpetrator, we can make a real difference to the people of Gaza.”

Anglican Overseas Aid condemns the attack on Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza (hospital funded by AOA): 

“The hospital’s Diagnostic Cancer Treatment Centre was already severely damaged by Israeli airstrikes on October 14, injuring four hospital staff members and affecting the mammography and ultrasound departments. The latest attack on the hospital compound, which was sheltering thousands of displaced people, is a grave violation of international humanitarian law and human rights.

AOA strongly condemns this attack and all other attacks on civilians and health facilities in Gaza and Israel. We call for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the violence that has claimed more than 2,000 lives and injured more than 10,000 people since October 6. We urge all parties to respect the sanctity of life and the dignity of all people.”

Nasser Mashni, President, Australian Palestine Advocacy Network: 

“The situation in Gaza is utterly catastrophic. And completely avoidable.  Israel has illegally imprisoned over 2 million people, half of them children for 16 years and has now decided to cut off food, water, electricity and medicine – this is collective punishment and a war crime. Israel has not only imprisoned the Palestinians of Gaza it is now indiscriminately bombing them – including schools and hospitals, the Egyptian Rafah border, and even a convoy of civilians fleeing south as directed by the Israeli army.

This must end. It must end now.

Israel’s impunity from international rebuke and sanction must stop.

“This past 10 days has seen horrific human rights abuses committed against Palestinian people. But they have yet to see any condemnation from our Government nor any calls for a ceasefire.

“For Australia to champion the international rule of law, we must apply our words equally”.

Chief Executive of the  Australian Council for International Development, Marc Purcell said:

“We call on the Albanese Government to work for a ceasefire. Mr Albanese please act to prevent people being bombed further, and to lift the siege that denies water, food, medicine to children, elderly, women and the disabled. Gazan people – half of whom are children – are dying of dehydration. Negotiations must start to release the hostages.  We need Australia’s voice calling for peace now. “