Academy Award-winning Spanish actor Javier Bardem walked back his signature on a letter accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza.
Bardem and his wife, popular actress Penelope Cruz, early last week joined a letter signed by 100 Spanish celebrities published in the Barcelona-based El Periodico de Catalunya, and in other Spanish media outlets. The letter read, in part, “This is a war of occupation and extermination against a whole people without means, confined to a minuscule territory without water and where hospitals, ambulances, and children are targeted and presumed to be terrorists.”
In a statement released Thursday by his publicist, Bardem said his signature on the letter was “solely meant as a plea for peace.”
“While I was critical of the Israeli military response, I have great respect for the people of Israel and deep compassion for their losses. I am now being labeled by some as anti-Semitic, as is my wife — which is the antithesis of who we are as human beings. We detest anti-Semitism as much as we detest the horrible and painful consequences of war,” Bardem wrote in his statement, published by the Hollywood Reporter.
“Palestinians and Israelis in the region deserve to have their safety and human rights recognized and respected so in the near future they may find peace and co-existence, for themselves and their innocent children. So generations to come could bring hope, forgiveness and compassion for each other. This is the most basic and necessary way to peace for all of us,” he wrote.
Cruz also issued a clarification: “I don’t want to be misunderstood on this important subject. I’m not an expert on the situation and I’m aware of the complexity of it. My only wish and intention in signing that group letter is the hope that there will be peace in both Israel and Gaza. I am hopeful all parties can agree to a ceasefire and there are no more innocent victims on either side of the border.”
Cruz and Bardem, as well as acclaimed Spanish director Pedro Almodovar and dozens of other artists from the country, had signed their names last week to the open letter castigating Israel’s incursion into the Gaza Strip, whose aim is to stop ceaseless rocket fire from Gaza onto Israeli towns as well as rout out dozens of cross-border terror tunnels.
The situation in Gaza, the letter says, “is difficult to understand and impossible to justify. And it’s shameful that the Western stance is to allow such a genocide.”
The letter was published in a number of Spanish newspapers. It also called for Israel to lift its blockade on Gaza and accused the international community of sitting idly by while the citizens of Gaza were subjected to destruction, lack of access to water and electricity, and restricted movement.
It made no mention of the actions of Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, firing thousands of rockets at Israeli citizens and plotting and executing kidnappings. It also failed to mention the fact that Gaza’s border with Egypt also remains sealed.
On Saturday, Hollywood actor Jon Voight penned a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter in which he lashed out at Bardem and Cruz for attacking Israel.
“My name is Jon Voight and I am more than angry,” he wrote. “I am heartsick that people like Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem could incite anti-Semitism all over the world and are oblivious to the damage they have caused.”
He said Bardem and Cruz were “obviously ignorant” of the history of the formation of the State of Israel, the attempt to destroy the fledgling state upon its inception in 1948, and its attempts to seek peace with its neighbors.