On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day and a week before Israel marks its 60th Independence Day, a group of over 100 British Jews comprised of well-known academics, writers, actors and other public figures has launched a scathing attack against the Jewish state.
'We're not celebrating Israel's anniversary,' proclaimed the letter carried by the Guardian newspaper on Wednesday. Among the signatures of those claiming Israel forced 70,000 Palestinians into a Death March in 1948 are Prof. Haim Bresheeth, a professor at the University of East London who organized the call for an academic boycott against Israel, playwright Harold Pinter, Attorney Daniel Machover, who filed a lawsuit against Maj. Gen. Doron Almog, and Stephen Fry.
"We cannot celebrate the birthday of a state founded on terrorism, massacres and the dispossession of another people from their land," say the letter writers. "We cannot celebrate the birthday of a state that even now engages in ethnic cleansing, that violates international law, that is inflicting a monstrous collective punishment on the civilian population of Gaza and that continues to deny to Palestinians their human rights and national aspirations. We will celebrate when Arab and Jew live as equals in a peaceful Middle East."
"In July 1948, 70,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes in Lydda and Ramleh in the heat of the summer with no food or water. Hundreds died. It was known as the Death March. We will not be celebrating," the letter continues.
"In all, 750,000 Palestinians became refugees. Some 400 villages were wiped off the map. That did not end the ethnic cleansing. Thousands of Palestinians were expelled from the Galilee in 1956. Many thousands more when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza. Under international law and sanctioned by UN resolution 194, refugees from war have a right to return or compensation. Israel has never accepted that right. We will not be celebrating."
In an interview with Ynet Prof. Haim Bresheeth rejected any claim that the letter was in any way anti-Semitic. "I don't understand why the signatories are being accused of anti-Semitism and support of terrorism. None of those who attached their names to the letter supports harming civilians or senseless victims on both sides," he said.
"We want Israel and the Palestinians to live side by side in peace, without missiles, without Qassams and without warplanes hovering above. I want to live in Palestine, without killing on both sides.
"Israel is unwilling to talk to Hamas, which won the democratic elections. Hamas on the other hand, is willing to talk to Israel so long as it withdraws from all the territories."
Bresheeth accused Israel as being responsible for the situation in the territories: "The real terror is the one Israel has inflicted on the Palestinians for 40 years now, the terrorism of a strong state against a relatively weak organization. We are pushing the Palestinians into a corner where they have no choice by the attacks. We must not do this, the fact that the government of Israel cannot ensure the safety of its residents and the safety of Sderot is solely its own fault."
Israel's ambassador to Britain, Ron Proser, responded to the letter : "Israel is a democratic nation where anyone can speak their mind and freely criticize anything with virtually no restraints, but when a group
such as this one, of Jews and former Israelis, sums up 60 years of Israeli existence with hate slogans like these – they deserve to be denounced and even ostracized.
"We are proud of the marvelous achievements Israel and the Jewish people have accomplished in our 60 years of existence and we will not allow this harebrained group to spoil our celebration."