Hundreds of leading Israeli figures have asked diaspora Jews to support their quest to end the Israeli occupations of the Palestinians, warning that “if you care about Israel, silence is no longer an option”.

The unusual step was taken by almost 500 high-profile individuals, including seven retired high-ranking IDF officers and 20 former ambassadors, ministers, high-ranking government officials and parliamentarians. Among the other signatories are 48 winners of Israel’s most prestigious awards, including the Israel Prize, as well as authors, artists, scientists and professors.

“We call upon Jews around the world to join with Israeli partners for coordinated action to end the occupation and build a new future, for the sake of the State of Israel and the generations to come,” their open letter reads.

The new push for peace comes as the country prepares to recognise 50 years’ of occupation, as signatory Prof. Daniel Bar-Tal explained that Jewish communities in Britain, the U.S. and elsewhere now had a chance to help.

Amos Oz

Amos Oz

“Jews around the world treasure the novels of Amos Oz and David Grossman,” he said. “They love the music of Achinoam Nini and David Broza. They need to know that these figures need their help now to save Israel from the very real threat posed to Israel by the continuing occupation.”

Psychologist, economist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, who was recently listed by The Economist as one of the ten most influential thinkers in the world, joined the call for diaspora Jews to help.

“Jews around the world who love Israel but believe the occupation is wrong should raise their voices and make sure they are heard,” he said. “Israelis who oppose the occupation urgently need this support.”

Cambridge-educated Alice Shalvi, who represented Jewish students at the Basel Conference in 1946 and later won the Israel Prize for her work to improve the progressive education of Jewish girls, said the stakes had rarely been higher.

“Never since 1948 have we been as much in need of an alliance between Israel and the diaspora,” she said. “Then we fought together for the establishment of an independent Jewish State. Now we must invest all-out efforts in saving Israel’s soul, restoring its moral compass.”

The letter was organised by new group ‘Save Israel, Stop the Occupation’ (SISO), saying: “The present situation is disastrous. The prolonged occupation is inherently oppressive and fuels mutual bloodshed. It undermines the moral and democratic fabric of the State of Israel and hurts its standing in the community of nations.”

SISO said it was “building a continuous cycle of activities leading up to June 2017,” adding: “We are looking for groups that can commit to one week of activity against the occupation,” which may include film screenings, art or photography exhibitions, campus activities, rallies or meetings and discussions with Israeli diplomats.