Prominent British Jews call for an end to Israeli bombing

Prominent British Jews call for an end to Israeli bombing

By staff writers
11 Jan 2009

Some of Britain's most prominent Jews, "passionate supporters of Israel", have joined together to call on Israel to cease its military operations in Gaza immediately, believing them to be wrong and counter-productive.

They warn that Israel's current actions actions, far from improving the country's security, will "strengthen extremism, destabilise the region, and exacerbate tensions inside Israel".

Describing themselves as "profound and passionate supporters" of Israel - and supporting its right to defend itself against the "war crime" of Hamas rocket attacks - they added that the current tactics threatened to undermine international support for Israel.

The communication comes in the form of an 'open letter' to the government of Israel.

Prominent rabbis, academics and political figures are among the signatories, including Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield, head of the Movement for Reform Judaism; Sir Jeremy Beecham, former chair of the Labour party; Professor Shalom Lappin of the University of London; Baroness Julia Neuberger; Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism; Rabbi Professor Marc Saperstein, principal of Leo Baeck rabbinical training college; and lawyer Michael Mitzman, who set up Holocaust Memorial Day Trust for the Home Office.

The comments are published as a letter in today's Observer, and they are reported on the front and leader column of the newspaper.

They coincide with fears that Israel is about to launch a "new phase" of its military offensive inside the Gaza strip.

On Saturday 10 January warplanes dropped leaflets warning Gazans "not to be close to terrorists, weapons warehouses and the places where the terrorists operate".

The fortnight long campaign has already killed more than 800 Palestinians, while 13 Israelis have died, three of them civilians killed by Hamas rockets.

Although individual Jewish writers and religious figures have expressed their opposition to the conduct of Operation Cast Lead, the letter represents the most significant break with Israel's tactics from a group of British Jews.

The letter in full:

To the government of Israel

We are writing this letter as profound and passionate supporters of Israel. We look upon the increasing loss of life on both sides of the Gaza conflict with horror. We have no doubt that rocket attacks into southern Israel, by Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups, are war crimes against Israel. No sovereign state should, or would, tolerate continued attacks and the deliberate targeting of civilians.

Israel had a right to respond and we support the Israeli government's decision to make stopping the rocket attacks an urgent priority.

However, we believe that only negotiations can secure long-term security for Israel and the region.

We are concerned that rather than bringing security to Israel, a continued military offensive could strengthen extremists, destabilise the region and exacerbate tensions inside Israel with its one million Arab citizens. The offensive and the mounting civilian victims - like the Lebanon war in 2006 - also threaten to undermine international support for Israel.

We stand alongside the people of Israel and urge the government of Israel and the Palestinian people, with the assistance of the international community, to negotiate:

• An immediate and permanent ceasefire entailing an end to all rocket attacks and the complete and permanent lifting of the blockade of Gaza.

• International monitoring of the ceasefire agreement, including measures to ensure the security of the borders between Israel and Gaza as well as the prevention of weapons smuggling into Gaza.

It is our desire to see a durable solution for ordinary people and our view that an immediate ceasefire is not only a humanitarian necessity but also a strategic priority for the future security of Israelis, Palestinians and people of the region.
Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield
Sir Jeremy Beecham
Professor David Cesarani
Professor Shalom Lappin
Michael Mitzman
Baroness Julia Neuberger
Rabbi Danny Rich
Rabbi Professor Marc Saperstein
Rabbi Dr Michael Shire
Sir Sigmund Sternberg
Paul Usiskin

Keywords: ceasefire | gaza | israel | jews
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