British Jews: “We’re not celebrating Israel’s anniversary”

On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day and a week before Israel marks its 60th Independence Day, a group of over 100 prominent British Jews issued a letter proclaiming, “We’re not celebrating Israel’s anniversary,” citing the dispossession of 750,000 Palestinians. Among the signatories are Prof. Haim Bresheeth of the University of East London, who organized the call for an academic boycott of Israel; playwright Harold Pinter; attorney Daniel Machover, who filed a lawsuit against Maj. Gen. Doron Almog, and actor 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 the Israeli news service Ynet, Haim Bresheeth rejected any claim that the letter is 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. (YNet, April 29)

A similar letter by American Jews is being coordinated by Stanley Heller of

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