Dear Siobhan Baillie,
We write as Jewish residents and residents of Jewish heritage living in the Stroud Constituency.
The last few weeks have been difficult. Several of us have family members or friends living in Israel, some have been directly impacted by the Hamas attack one month ago today on 7th October. Others have been periodically moving to bomb shelters. We are all troubled by a rise in antisemitic incidents here in Britain. We are grateful to friends who aren’t Jewish who have reached out to offer their support to us in one way or another.
All of us are profoundly concerned about what the future holds given the devastating violence in Gaza at the moment, and the escalation that is occurring in the West Bank and on Israel’s border with Lebanon.
As such, we have all signed the open letter from the Stroud Ceasefire Now Coalition calling on you and all other local politicians to support the calls for a ceasefire. Those of us who have been able, have attended the candlelit vigils outside your offices. Our collective family histories include pogroms and the Holocaust, and needing to seek asylum in the UK. All of which have informed our call for a ceasefire.
We are disappointed by your response to the open letter and vigil, and to our own efforts to contact you. Some of us have written polite emails to you weeks ago, and not received any reply other than an automated acknowledgement.
Your main response to the open letter seems to have been to accuse one of the people involved in organising it of failing to sufficiently condemn Hamas. You claim that “Demanding an immediate ceasefire now” equates to “ignoring the reality of Hamas.”
As such, we should like to share with you comments from survivors and family members of the victims of the Hamas massacre. These were collated by the organisation Breaking the Silence – made up of veterans who served in the Israeli Defence Force since 2000. In sharing these, that organisation said: “Through their pain, they ask us all to channel our humanity. They call to return the hostages and for [their] government to recognize that violence won’t solve these endless rounds of violence.”
Maoz Yinon, who lost both his parents on October 7th: “I’m not crying for my parents, I’m crying for those people that will lose their lives in this war. We must stop the war. War is not the answer. […] Our family is not seeking revenge. Revenge will just lead to more suffering and more casualties. […] I’m afraid for the soldiers, the civilians, from both sides – from Gaza and Israel – who will pay with their lives. […] This is why it was so important for me at this difficult time to do this interview and to cry out to the world: stop the war. Please.”
Yaakov Argamani, whose daughter Noa was taken hostage and is being held in Gaza said:
“Let’s be honest: In Gaza, too, there are families who are mourning their children. There are fathers who are worried for their sons there too. People have died there too. What will killing more people do for us? They are in pain too, just like us.”
Noy Katsman, who lost their brother Hayim, on October 7th said: “We were all created in the image of God. I believe that it would have been important for Hayim to call for an end to the killing of innocent people. I am with him on this path and I take up this call. I have no doubt that even in the face of Hamas’ people that murdered him, and in the face of their extreme rightwing beliefs, he would still call out against killing and violence of innocent people- here, too he would be empathetic to pain and oppression.”
Yotam Kipnis, the son of Terry, who was killed on October 7th: “We will not be silent while the artillery fires, and we will not forget that our father loved peace. […] Don’t say ‘May God avenge his blood.’ Say ‘May his memory be a blessing.’”
Michal, the mother of Laor, who was killed on October 7th said: “I’m begging the world: stop all the wars, stop killing people, babies. War is not the answer. War is not how we can solve things. […] I hear voices of people who want revenge and the voices of people who want to kill the monsters, and I want to say I do not want revenge in my name.”
Ziv Stahl, survivor of the Be’eri Massacre: “as the last twenty years, and even more so the events of this horrific Shabbat, prove, all the military might on earth will not provide defence and security. A political solution is the only pragmatic thing that is possible – we are obligated to try, and we must begin this work today.”
We firmly believe it is possible to call for a ceasefire while condemning Hamas and its war crimes specifically, and antisemitism more generally.
But we cannot reach Hamas. We can write to you. You are our MP. You are a member of the governing party. You have influence. The UK government has influence over the Israeli government. We ask you to use your influence. We ask you to support the demands of the open letter:
- An immediate ceasefire on all sides.
- For all captives to be released.
- An end to the blockade preventing civilians in Gaza from accessing food, fuel and water.
- A process for real and lasting peace for Palestinian and Israeli people
James Beecher, Sandi Beecher, Denise Needleman, Ruth Schamroth, Jeremy Green, Simon Jacobson, Hannah Boss, Miriam Yagud, Alex Raeburn, Adam Horovitz, Colin Levine.