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Group of British Jews calls for Gaza ceasefire

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Some of Britain's most prominent Jewish academics and politicians have called for an immediate end to the violence in Gaza.

In a letter to the Observer newspaper, the group, which said it consisted of "passionate and profound supporters of Israel", said Israel had a right to respond to Hamas' firing of rockets into its territory but added that only negotiations would guarantee the long-term security of the country.

Signatories to the letter include: Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield, head of the Movement for Reform Judaism; Sir Jeremy Beecham, former Labour party chair; 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 the Home Office's Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

In the letter the group said: "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 now only negotiations can secure long-term security for Israel and the region."

Professor Lappin told the newspaper that the use of "overwhelming military force" in response to acts of terrorism would only radicalise Palestinian people. He called for "rational, long-term political options" in order to promote moderation and to marginalise extremists.

Former Labour party chair Sir Beecham added that both sides would gain if they chose peaceful engagement over violent confrontation.

The letter comes after anti-war protests in London on Saturday which the Metropolitan police say were attended by up to 12,000 people.

Rallies in support of Israel are set to take place in London and Manchester today.

© Adfero Ltd
11 January 2009 10:30 GMT

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