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Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem backtrack over Israel comments

Backlash prompts stars to clarify position after signing open letter condemning Gaza conflict

Penélope Cruz attends a post-Oscars party.
Penélope Cruz attends a post-Oscars party.

First Penélope Cruz, and now her husband Javier Bardem, have both attempted to walk back from the comments made in an open letter sent by the Spanish film industry and signed by them, along with Oscar-winning film director Pedro Almodóvar, condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza.

“I’m not an expert on the situation and I’m aware of the complexity of it,” said Cruz in a letter to newspaper USA Today on Thursday. “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 ceasefire and there are no more innocent victims on either side of the border. I wish for unity, and peace... I believe in a civilization that can be capable of bringing the courage to have a world where humans can live side by side.”

My only intention in signing that group letter is the hope that there will be peace in both Israel and Gaza”

Penélope Cruz

On Friday, Bardem sent a similar statement to the same newspaper saying he was critical of the Israeli government’s military response in Gaza, not the country’s people. “I have great respect for the people of Israel and deep compassion for their losses,” he said. “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.”

The open letter, sent to the Spanish media on Monday, reads: “Gaza is experiencing horror these days, besieged and attacked by land, sea and air. Palestinians’ homes are being destroyed, they are being denied water, electricity, access to their hospitals, schools and fields, while the international community does nothing.” The signatories also pin the blame for the current hostilities on Israel, saying that the country “keeps advancing and invading Palestinian territories instead of pulling back to the [19]67 borders.”

Among the letter’s other signatories were film director Almodóvar and actor Eduardo Noriega.

Bardem and Cruz were immediately attacked on the social networks in the United States, as well as by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Jewish human rights group, while television commentators also criticized their comments, calling them anti-Semitic.