It urges the Albanese government to reverse its decision to suspend funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the primary aid agency supplying humanitarian assistance to the 2.3 million Palestinians in the besieged Gaza strip.
The open letter is reproduced below:
1st February 2024
Dear Prime Minister
We, the undersigned, urge the Australian Government to reverse its decision to freeze funding to the UN aid agency for Palestinians, UNRWA. We are deeply concerned that Australia, America and others that have paused funding to UNRWA, based on unproven allegations from Israel, are contributing to Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza and in doing so, are most likely violating their obligations under the Genocide Convention.
Close to 26,000 Palestinians have been killed, thousands of them children, and more than 65,000 injured since October 2023. In a horrifying case of collective punishment, much of the population of Gaza is facing starvation and hospitals are non-functioning, deprived of fuel and medical equipment.
Children and others are suffering through surgical operations in Gaza without anaesthesia. Hundreds of doctors, nurses and ambulance workers and more than 100 UN workers have been killed. More than 70 journalists have been killed while trying to show the world the reality of Israel’s attacks on Gaza. UN schools and shelters, despite being protected by international law, have been attacked.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) found on 26 January 2024 that South Africa presented a plausible case that Israel had intent to commit genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. Furthermore, the court ruled that Israel is legally bound to “take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of Article 2 of the convention, in particular (a) killing members of the group [Palestinians], (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, (c) deliberating inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, and (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”
This ruling in effect requires a ceasefire for Israel to comply with it. Likewise, it obligates all parties to the Genocide Convention, including Australia, to prevent and punish the crime of genocide. The Australian Government must call for a ceasefire by Israel and the urgent, unfettered provision of ongoing and sustainable amounts of humanitarian aid.
With the UNRWA being the only organisation currently distributing the limited aid that Israel permits into Gaza, its work is truly life-sustaining. UNRWA Chief Phillipe Lazzarini has stated that Australia and its allies’ suspension of funds puts this vital agency at risk of collapse. As such, we urge Australia to reverse the cuts to UNRWA as a statement of commitment to the ICJ’s ruling, and the human rights and lives of Palestinians in Gaza.
Australia must also recognise Israel’s stated intent to continue to defy international law and persist with its atrocities in Gaza, its displacement of Palestinians from their homeland and its further occupation and colonisation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Australia must act collectively with governments across the globe to urgently and decisively pressure Israel to end its violence and commit to a political resolution.
To this end, we urge the Australian Government to:
- Immediately reinstate Australia’s funding to UNRWA;
- Officially express Australia’s support for the ICJ’s rulings;
- Call for an immediate unconditional, permanent ceasefire and unfettered, ongoing and sustainable humanitarian aid to be provided to Gaza;
- Expel the Israeli ambassador until a continuing ceasefire is in place;
- End any military support for, or contracts with Israel, including:
- Ending Australian supplies of military equipment to Israel, eg, provision of parts for Israel’s F-35 Joint Strike fighter plane;
- Halt any intelligence going to the Israeli government from the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap;
- Expel Elbit Systems, an Israeli weapons and military equipment firm providing drones and white phosphorous to the Israeli armed forces, from Australia;
- Implement cultural, sporting and economic sanctions on Israel until there is an end to the brutal Israeli apartheid system in the West Bank, Gaza and in Israel.
- Australia must not be complicit in genocide being committed by Israel in Gaza and the West Bank.
Invitation to sign – Click the button below if you or your organisation would like to endorse IPAN’s open letter to the Prime Minister.