British Jews tell Israel stop now
A GROUP of Britain’s most prominent Jews has called on Israel to cease its military operations in Gaza immediately, warning that its actions, far from improving the country’s security, will “strengthen extremism, destabilise the region, and exacerbate tensions inside Israel”, reports the London Observer
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 intervention, in a letter published in today’s Observer, came as fears grew that Israel was to launch a “new phase” of its military offensive inside the Gaza strip. Yesterday warplanes dropped leaflets warning Gazans “not to be close to terrorists, weapons warehouses and the places where the terrorists operate”. The two-week-old 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 UK Jews.
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.
Their demand comes amid increasing pressure on Israel from the diplomatic community to halt its operations, and rising criticism of the humanitarian impact on Palestinian civilians, including allegations of potentially serious breaches of international humanitarian law. Demonstrations around the world yesterday called for a ceasefire.