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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hedy Epstein (Jew and Holocaust survivor)

Hedy Epstein was born in 1924 in Freiburg, Germany. She was 14 when she escaped from Nazi persecution via the Kinderstransport to England. Since her 1948 arrival in the U.S., Epstein has been an advocate for peace and human rights. In 2001 she founded the St. Louis chapter of the Women in Black anti-war group that originated in Israel, and has actively advocated for Palestinian rights since visiting the West Bank in 2003. As the last decade came to a close, Epstein continued her advocacy by travelling with the women's peace advocacy group Code Pink to the Gaza Freedom March. The December 31 March was a planned nonviolent demonstration to protest Israel's blockade of Gaza, with 1,000 advocates from abroad joining Palestinians in a march to the Gaza-Israel border checkpoint (see: ).

Hedy Epstein, Holocaust survivor, explains why she became a Palestinian human rights campaigner (2010):  “I was born in Germany, I'm Jewish -- after Hitler came to power, my parents realized very quickly that Germany was not a good place to raise a family. They were willing to go anywhere in the world, but one place they were not willing to go to was Palestine -- they were anti-Zionists. As a child I didn't quite understand this, but if my parents were anti-Zionist, I was anti-Zionist. I came to the U.S. in 1948, around the same time Israel became a state, about which I had mixed feelings. On the one hand it was a place for Holocaust survivors to go to, those who could not or did not want to return to their homes, but on the other, I considered my parents' ardent anti-Zionism. While I was new in the U.S., Israel and Palestine remained on the back burner of my interests. In 1982, I heard about the massacres in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon -- I wanted to know who was responsible for this, what had happened between 1948 and 1982. As I learned more, I became increasingly disturbed by the policies of Israel and its military. Fast forward to 2003 -- I was in the West Bank for the first time, and have been there five times since then… I'm an inveterate optimist, so someday there will be peace, but a lot of things have to change before that happens. If the occupation were to stop overnight, it would make all the difference in the world. Israel is the fourth-largest military entity in the world. They have the newest equipment, and it's used on the Palestinians. Also, if the U.S. stopped funding Israel, that would be another way of bringing about peace. We have humongous problems in this country, people are unemployed, losing their homes, we could use that money instead of overseas in a destructive way.” [1].
[1]. Hedy Epstein, interviews by La Times, “Holocaust survivor explains why she became Palestinian rights campaigner”, The Palestinian Telegraph, 8 January 2010: .

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