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Bardem, Cruz backpedal on genocide charge against Israel

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(JTA) — Academy Award-winning Spanish actor Javier Bardem walked back his signature on a letter accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza.

Bardem and his wife, the actress Penelope Cruz, joined the letter early last week signed by 100 Spanish celebrities published in the Barcelona-based El Periodico de Catalunya as well as other Spanish media outlets.

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,” Bardem wrote in his statement, which was published by the Hollywood Reporter. “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.

“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 cease fire and there are no more innocent victims on either side of the border.”

The celebrities’ letter read, in part, “This is a war of occupation and extermination against a whole people without means, confined to a miniscule territory without water and where hospitals, ambulances, and children are targeted and presumed to be terrorists.”

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