Call for Immediate Ceasefire

Published: 17 October 2023

The UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration for Languages and the Arts calls for an immediate Ceasefire in Palestine.

Statement from UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and Arts

October 16th, 2023

The UNESCO Chair calls for an immediate ceasefire by Israel to allow for hostage negotiations and urgent medical and humanitarian supplies to reach the 2.2 million population of the Gaza Strip. This is a political conflict to which there is no military solution. Partners must be found for peace and for a just, enduring settlement for all the people of the lands to live without fear. Do not remain silent on genocide and attempted genocide.

We urge political leaders in the UK to retract statements which risk making the country complicit in war crimes, including in the potential crime of genocide. We urge the U.K to work as a diplomatic broker using the norms and conventions of the United Nations and following their guidance.

We follow the call of the UN Secretary General that “It’s time to end this vicious circle of bloodshed, hatred and polarization” and for this to be a moment when an enduring peaceful settlement might be found. We call on the UN Secretary General to call unequivocally for a ceasefire. “We are on the brink of an abyss” requires direct calls for weapons to be laid down to prevent further loss of innocent life.

Whilst the right to self-defence is enshrined in international law there is a line between the manner of the defence and the committing of war crimesProportionality is a requirement in international law but the scenes we have witnessed and statements from Israeli politicians and military leaders reveal an intent which is beyond proportionality or self-defence. Reports of calls from political leaders is Israel and from Israel’s allies of calls for a second Nakba (catastrophe like 1948) and for the illegal occupation of Gaza by settlers point to a military objective which is not focused on proportionality and hostage release but on objectives which are illegal under international law. It is a war crime to deprive a population of food, fuel, electricity, and water. It is a war crime to bomb hospitals, civilians, and to bomb areas into which people have evacuated under orders.

The creation of 1.1 million internally displaced people many of whom are already refugees in Palestine is a catastrophe, during catastrophe. The people of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem have a right to live in peace on their land. This must be respect.

The Chair asks for unimpeded, safe passage without obstruction for those who wish to flee the conflict. It affirms the right of Palestinians not to be coerced into leaving their homes by Israeli forces. The Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council has said  “The order to a million Gazans to relocate is an illegal forced transfer of people as there is no accommodation to receive them, no satisfactory conditions of transfer, nor the right to return or repatriate. Neighbouring states and international partners must be able to offer safe, unimpeded routes out of the conflict, assistance must be given to refugees by legitimate and experienced actors, both to receiving states and to refugees. There must be a right of return post-conflict and the right of settlement as per Refugee Convention. What has been offered by the UK. for Ukraine, and a small number of Afghan, Syrian and Hong Kong nationals must also be offered, in proportion, for Palestinians fleeing the war.

What can you do:

  • Write to your elected representatives demanding the U.K retract its incriminating statements and calls for an immediate ceasefire, release of hostages especially the sick, the wounded, women, children, and the elderly, and humanitarian assistance. Civil society protest movements in Israel must be protected. Ask for support for organisations documenting war crimes.

  • Support calls for a ceasefire, negotiation, and political not military solutions. Inform yourself of the treaties written in calmer times which seek to protect people from the aggression of States against people in their land. Read reports from previous conflicts, for example, the report on the Tigray ethnic cleansing and war crimes from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Attend protests with discernment. Do not keep silence on genocide.

  • Support those who are working to save lives not those to take lives. There are many. This means both urgent medical and humanitarian efforts: Medical Aid for Palestine or through Médecins sans Frontiers, UNRWA.

  • Support those NGOs documenting potential war crimes and verifying reports: Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Without careful, judicious reporting there can be no justice and truth and reconciliation processes rely on this evidence and this difficult work. Incidents where there is evidence of war crimes require pains taking review by international human rights experts, documenting, interviewing, and piecing together evidence, with impartiality, of what happened.

  • Ensure you are appraised of the history of the Palestine and the State of Israel. Listen to those from the region. Read their work. The conflict is profound, complex, and historical, routed in colonial violence. There are claims and counterclaims. The present occupation by Israel of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the siege of Gaza are illegal under international law. 75 years of occupation and deprivation of rights of neglect and mistake by successive international actors and world leaders means the situation today is on the brink of genocide. Understand why the Holocaust is imprescriptible and the place of the 1929 massacre in the Arab – Israeli conflict, and also the way education which is based on the premise of its repetition will inevitably lead to whole communities caught in a web of fear. Understand the history of the Occupation, the role of the Balfour Declaration and the many wars which have not resolved this intractable political, conflict over the rights of indigenous and refugee peoples.

  • Be discriminating in your use of language and your use of categories. Reach out to Muslim, Jewish, and Christian people who are all affected by the war and occupation. Know that Palestinian people and Israeli people have many different views and understandings, and that this diversity can only thrive when people are not categorised as enemies or complicit without evidence. Compassion is needed.

  • Be careful to verify your social media reports. There are sadly many fake accounts, bots, and paid operatives seeking to fuel the conflict and manufacturing propaganda. Follow actors who have experience, who are careful journalists, who verify sources and investigate claims, who publish apologies for mistakes. Follow leaders in United Nations agencies including the Special Rapporteurs responsible for the people and the themes of this conflict, mindful that balance and neutrality are expected, that caution is expected in operating international law, and this very caution can inflame in a conflict.
  • The best security system is peace. Dialogue is the only way to ensure the possibility of living in peace. Commit to strengthening democratic institutions, and solidarity and civil support. It is likely this new and bloody phase of the conflict will be protracted, and structures must be put in place, through intercultural dialogue, conflict transformation and peace-building measures which guarantee building back in ways which create the defences of peace sustainably and long term, with those who have lost so many and so much.

First published: 17 October 2023