Sunday, January 11, 2009

Letter by British Jews to government of Israel

The following letter was published today in the Guardian newspaper. This letter comes pretty close to representing my current views.

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.

I believe this as well, but I don't see how negotiations with Hamas on a long-term settlement are going to go anywhere as long as Hamas is unalterably opposed to the existence of the state of Israel.

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 (head of the Movement for Reform Judaism)
Sir Jeremy Beecham (former chair of the Labour party)
Professor David Cesarani
Professor Shalom Lappin (University of London)
Michael Mitzman (who set up Holocaust Memorial Day Trust for the Home Office)
Baroness Julia Neuberger
Rabbi Danny Rich (chief executive of Liberal Judaism)
Rabbi Professor Marc Saperstein (principal of Leo Baeck rabbinical training college)
Rabbi Dr Michael Shire
Sir Sigmund Sternberg
Paul Usiskin

When I was an undergraduate at Harvard, Professor Marc Saperstein was my adviser. I hadn't realized that he was now in Britain - the last I had heard he was teaching at Washington University in St. Louis. His brother, David Saperstein, is head of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C.

Z-Word blog has an interesting response to the open letter.


  1. The whole things is purely stupid. How come 13 lives of Isreal vs 836 palestanian. I belive isreal is bullying the whole region with the support of USA. Bull shit

  2. Adrian - your message would be improved if you learned how to spell and how to write a coherent sentence. You seem to believe (not "belive") that Israel has done something wrong - a more articulate explanation of why would help your case.

  3. If you're going to comment on this post, please stick to the topic - I'm not interested in random posts on recent movies, William Hone. That's why I deleted your comment.

  4. Negotiations are feasible with Hamas, as awful as their actions are, because they have made clear that they are willing to accept the existence of Israel on the 1967 borders. They will no sooner accept the "right" of Israel to exist than the Native Americans would accept the "right" of the US to exist on their land after they took it over. All states have a right to live in peace in security, but no state has a "right to exist."

  5. Hamas has made it clear they are willing to accept the existence of Israel on the 1967 borders? Please supply proof of this assertion - I've heard no such thing from any Hamas spokesman.

  6. April 21. 2008, Khaled Mashaal, Hamas leader in Syria, said:

    "We agree to a (Palestinian) state on pre-67 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital with genuine sovereignty without settlements, but without recognizing Israel," Mashaal said."We have offered a truce if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, a truce of 10 years as a proof of recognition." (see
    Jerusalem Post

    And in an interview with the Washington Post, Haniyeh repeated the same theme:

    "What agreements will you honor?

    The ones that will guarantee the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital with 1967 borders -- as well as agreements that would release prisoners.

    Would Hamas recognize Israel if it were to withdraw to the '67 borders?

    If Israel withdraws to the '67 borders, then we will establish a peace in stages.

    What does that mean?

    Number one: We will establish a situation of stability and calm which will bring safety for our people -- what Sheikh [Ahmed] Yassin [a Hamas founder] called a long-term hudna.

    Obviously, its offering of acceptance but not recognition is less than ideal, but at the same time Israel has never accepted a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders and there was even a time when the Labor-Likud unity government said "There will be no additional Palestinian state" (in "addition" to Jordan). Does this make Hamas is a bunch of nice guys amenable to an easy diplomatic solution? Hardly. But it shows that they are approachable.

  7. That's interesting - I didn't know that any Hamas leaders had said things like that.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. wtfbollos - I'm deleting your comment since it adds nothing to the discussion. If you'd like to participate in a discussion, I suggest you refrain from uninformative (and uninformed) statements like "zionist is EVIL." Try to make a substantive point that adds to discussion.