It was with shock that I learnt of the death of the founder of Jews for Justice for the Palestinians, Irene Bruegel. JfJP was a key part in the undermining of the Zionist hegemony over the Jewish community in Britain. I had and have many disagreements with JfJP, not least its woolly non-Zionist politics, its support for 2 states and its disavowal of activism or Boycott, which resulted in political incoherence at times. There is however no doubt that JfJP's growth marked a change in the previous wall to wall support for Israel by the Jewish community and Irene herself was indefatiguable. She will be missed.
We are very sorry to have to write with such bad news but Irene Bruegel, founder and long time Secretary of JfJfP, has died. Her immediate family was with her and she died peacefully.
Irene had long ago been diagnosed with a degenerative auto-immune liver disease for which the only treatment was a transplant. To be considered for this she needed to have an ovarian cyst removed - an operation from which she never recovered because her liver was already so severely depleted.
Irene's energy, commitment and creativity and that of her partner Richard Kuper, were central to the establishment and spectacular growth of JfJfP. She returned from a trip to the West Bank at the end of 2001, determined to do something, and when she was determined, something usually got done. From a meeting of fifteen of Irene and Richard's friends in a pub near Kings Cross, JfJfP has grown into one of the biggest and most influential Jewish organisations campaigning for the end of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the negotiation of a just and peaceful settlement in Israel/Palestine. Irene was brimful of ideas about extending JfJfP's work. She avoided sloganizing, ever aware of the importance of reaching people who might join in a campaign for justice, if they were only prompted in a constructive way. She was usually the one who picked up the pieces if one of us dropped them.
For several years Irene also chaired JfJfP's charitable offshoot - the British Shalom Salaam Trust. Her loyalty, determination and tenacity ensured that BSST became a hugely important lifeline for dozens of grassroots education, health, peace and cultural projects on both sides of the Green Line.
In this year, the sixtieth anniversary of Israel' s foundation, Irene had two priorities - that the sixtieth anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba be remembered, and that we celebrate the courage of all those Israelis whose lives are committed to combating the occupation. The 'Another Israel' exhibition, which she organized, oversaw, and which continues to be dispatched all over Britain , is a memorial to her imagination and enthusiasm.
Irene was many things - a feminist, an internationalist, a writer and a teacher. Above all, she was an activist, who thought the point of her academic writing and her other work was to effect progressive change. We hope to establish a fund to commemorate her work and will let you know as soon as this has been agreed.
Our thoughts are with Richard and the children, Martin, David, Dan & Jo and the other members of her family.
Messages of condolence should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Jews for Justice for Palestinians Executive (Sylvia Cohen, Arthur Goodman, Dan Judelson, Vivien Lichtenstein, Diana Neslen, Naomi Wayne)
P O Box 46081, London W9 2ZF