To Daniel Uziel and fellow Holocaust researchers and historians.

Seminar 3- 5 May 2009, Yad Vashem.

I am very grateful for the invitation to Yad Vashem and I had been looking forward to taking part in the seminar, so I am writing this letter with deep regret.

Since the Israeli attack on Gaza in December and January, during which time the IDF killed more than a thousand people, and due to Israel’s continued violation and disregard for international law and human rights, I am afraid that as much as I respect the work of Yad Vashem, I find it impossible to accept an official invitation from an institution of the State of Israel.

When I began to think about my presentation on Holocaust images for the seminar and looked again at the pictures of the Warsaw and Lodz ghettoes and their destruction, I could not prevent myself seeing an inherent connection. Only a few kilometres from Yad Vashem, a place of tranquillity and remembrance of those who suffered and died during the Holocaust, stands a new ghetto, called Gaza, where more than a million people are confined with barely the adequate means of life, and where nearly half of the children suffer from malnutrition and trauma. The situation is well documented by international human rights, legal and medical groups, and by some Israeli journalists.

During the research for my book Photographing the Holocaust it was images that portrayed cruelty, humiliation, the disregard for human life and the most basic principles of human decency that I found among the most disturbing. Now I find similarly disturbing the images from Gaza that show vast areas reduced to rubble, grieving homeless families, and distressed and hungry children – the result of the abhorrent activities of the IDF.

This has been far from an easy decision, but I would find it simply too difficult to talk about images of Jewish suffering, while only a few kilometres away another people are being made to suffer in the most cruel and appalling way by the State of Israel.

Janina Struk, April 2009