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Britain mourns loss of famous pro-Palestine, anti-war 'rebel'

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo shows Harry Leslie Smith, a UK activist known for his criticism of Israel and its crimes against Palestinians, who died at the age of 95 on November 28, 2019, in Ontario, Canada.

Britain is mourning the loss of World War II veteran Harry Leslie Smith who famously defended social justice, called for the boycott of “apartheid” Israel and condemned UK austerity measures and the lack of support for refugees.

Smith, who lived through the Great Depression and always described himself as the “world’s oldest rebel”, died Wednesday in a Canadian hospital while visiting his son John in Ontario.. He was 95.

His son announced his death on Smith's official Twitter account.  

“At 3:39 this morning, my dad Harry Leslie Smith died. I am an orphan. #istandwithharry,” read the post.

The son of a miner, Smith joined the Royal Air Force in 1941 and served in the World War ll.

After retiring, he became a prominent campaigner against austerity measures, social injustice and racism, with his own podcast and Twitter account which was followed by more than 230,000 people.

He was the author of several books about Britain during the Great Depression, the world war and post-war austerity. His books included Love Among the Ruins and Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future.

A fierce moral campaigner, Smith was infamous for speaking out on a wide variety of issues including the Palestine-Israel conflict and anti-war movements.

Smith was a strong critic of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel's crimes against Palestinians while he openly called for a boycott of “apartheid” Israel.

 

The war veteran rose to fame in 2014 after giving a powerful speech at a UK Labour Party convention and documented his fight for social justice in a podcast called Harry’s Last Stand.

He wanted to “document this preventable tragedy”, he said. A video essay he produced with the British newspaper The Guardian on the refugee crisis has been viewed more than two million times.

Following the news of Smith's death, senior Labour Party figures took to social media to express their sorrow at the loss of the famous pro-Labour campaigner.

“We will all miss Harry Leslie Smith – he was one of the giants whose shoulders we stand on,” read a tweet by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

“A world war two veteran who dedicated his life to fighting for our National Health Service, a peaceful world and for countries to meet their moral responsibility by welcoming refugees," said Corbyn.


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