We write to express our concern, on behalf of the National Tertiary Education Union, at the decision of the Australian Government to suspend humanitarian aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
We note that the decision follows allegations that 12 members of the UNRWA’s 30,000 staff participated in some way in the Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians on October 7 last year.
UNWRA responded to these serious and concerning allegations by immediately terminating the contracts of the accused staff. UNRWA launched an immediate investigation to establish the truth without delay. Given international aid agencies describe the situation in Gaza as a “humanitarian disaster”, the decision by Australia and other western governments to suspend aid to UNRWA will be to the collective detriment of the Palestinian population.
We note that on 26 January the International Court of Justice issued Interim Provisional Measures in Gaza. These measures included that “The State of Israel shall take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip”. Instead of assisting Israel in complying with this measure, the Government’s decision to cut-off assistance can only exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
NTEU calls on the Albanese Government to reverse its decision to suspend aid to the UNRWA and work with its international partners to ensure all parties to the conflict comply with international law. This means that Palestinians should not be subject to acts that risk them being killed or experiencing serious bodily or mental harm including treatable disease, infection or illness.
We call for the full compliance with international law which also requires that Hamas immediately and unilaterally releases all the Israeli civilians taken hostage on October 7.
NTEU is committed to working with others in the Australian and international labour movements for the realisation of a permanent and just peace in the region.
Dr Alison Barnes Dr Damien Cahill
National President General Secretary