British Jews criticize Gaza raids

July 8, 2006 - 0:0
GAZA (BBC News) -- Some 300 British Jews have signed a petition condemning Israel's military actions in the Gaza Strip.

The group, including dozens of well-known figures, says it has "watched with horror" Israel's response to the capture of a soldier.

Palestinians in Gaza were being subjected to "collective punishment" because of the actions of militants, said Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

An Israeli spokesman said this view did not represent those of British Jews.

The petition, which appeared as a full-page advert in Thursday's Times Newspaper, condemns the way Israeli forces have responded to the capture of Cpl Gilad Shalit.

Palestinian militants captured the soldier on 25 June amid a cross-border attack between Israel and Gaza.

Israeli forces have targeted infrastructure in Gaza in an effort to secure the soldier's release, a move that had led to accusations that it has breached humanitarian norms.

The Times advert, which cost £10,000 (US $18,400), is signed by well-known figures in British society including playwright Harold Pinter, film director Mike Leigh, historian Prof Eric Hobsbawn, and actor Miriam Margoyles.

The group also includes a large number of academics. Dan Judelson, spokesman for Jews for Justice for Palestinians, said: "We simply do not see how Israel can defend attacking civilian targets such as water works and power supply."

"There are those in the community who say that Jews should not criticise Israel. But Israel is damaging itself through this kind of action."

Mr Judelson said that many people believed the attacks on Palestinian infrastructure were less about liberating Cpl Shalit and more about seeking a pretext to over-throw Hamas, the militant Islamist organization elected to run the Palestinian Authority "Whatever your views are of Hamas, and I of course do not share the politics of Islamists, you cannot kick out democratically-elected governments because you do not agree with them."

Growing crisis

Israel has defended the action, saying it is justified to target institutions and infrastructure which "facilitates terrorism".

An Israeli embassy spokesman in London said: "The views expressed by these individuals do not reflect the position of the British Jewish Community. Nor does it represent the British Government, or even the British media.

"Israel is doing everything possible to secure the release of the abducted soldier and to put an end to the barrage of Qassam attacks, with minimum civilian casualties. "If the signatories are so concerned about our region, one must ask why they have not also chosen to voice solidarity with the residents of Sderot and Ashkelon, who are living under daily threat of Qassam Rockets."

Daniella Peled of the Jewish Chronicle, the influential London-based community newspaper, said that the story was significant but had to be put in context.

"The advert is likely to cause a strong reaction amongst many mainstream Jews," said Ms Peled. "But vigorous debate and diversity has always been part and parcel of Jewish life.”