A Nobel Peace laureate has been heavily criticised by the Northern Irish Jewish community for “demonising” Israel in a lecture last week.
Mairead Maguire, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate from Belfast, gave this year’s Erskine Childers lecture in London, under the auspices of the UK United Nations Association.
She described Israel as having carried out a “siege” of Gaza and called the Israeli government’s recent incursion a “crime against humanity” and a contravention of the Geneva Conventions.
Ms Maguire, 65, said she would “encourage people to support the boycott/divestment campaign against Israel until they start to uphold their obligations under international law and give human rights and justice to the Palestinians”.
She described Israel’s actions as constituting “an all-out military bombardment of Gaza, killing 2,300 people, the majority of them women and children, thus committing war crimes and crimes against humanity”.
“The tragedy is this was preventable and the political/military Israeli mindset which continues to believe that problems will be solved through militarism must be challenged.”
Dr Leon Litvack, spokesman for the Belfast Jewish community, said: “Mairead Maguire was previously involved in peace efforts in Northern Ireland, through the ‘Peace People’ movement.
“As a Nobel Prize winner, she should have the potential — and responsibility — to make a positive contribution to peace in the Middle East by engaging meaningfully with Israelis and Palestinians.
“It is truly unfortunate that in delivering the Erskine Childers lecture she missed an opportunity to apply intelligently her wealth of experience as a peace campaigner; instead, she delivered an oversimplified address that demonised Israel and whitewashed Hamas — an organisation which renounces peace initiatives at every opportunity and actively seeks to obliterate the Jewish state.”
Ms Maguire jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 with Betty Williams for co-founding the Community for Peace People, which sought non-violent means to end violence between Republican and Loyalist factions in Northern Ireland.
In April 2007, while participating in a protest against the construction of Israel’s West Bank barrier, she was hit by a rubber-coated bullet and inhaled tear gas, requiring medical attention.