Jewish Goups Call Congress to Authorize Military Action in Syria


People killed by a chemical attack in Ghouta last month.

Before Rosh Hashanah, Jewish groups expressed support for President Obama’s plan for a military response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and urged Congress to authorize the action.

B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:

B’nai B’rith International supports President Barack Obama’s call for Congressional authorization of military action in response to the Syrian government’s use of nerve gas against civilians last month.

The United States has a moral obligation to enforce a global norm against using chemical weapons. It is in the national security interest of the United States to prevent the use and spread of chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction by Syria, Iran or terrorist organizations that are surely monitoring the situation. A U.S. military response would send a clear message that no one can engage in this depraved activity.

We urge bipartisan Congressional authorization for the White House proposal, sending a message that the immoral use of these chemical weapons of mass destruction will not be tolerated.

More after the jump.
Marc Stanley, National Jewish Democratic Council chair, stated:

We need to be clear about what is at stake here. This is not about choosing sides in Syria’s civil war or starting a war with Syria. This is about deterring the Assad regime from using chemical weapons again. The US should send a message to the world that the use of these horrible weapons is unacceptable and that the consequences of using weapons of mass destruction will always outweigh any perceived benefit.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) Chair Larry gold said:

For over two years now, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has proven himself unfit to rule his country, choosing to meet political protest and armed resistance with the massacre of tens of thousands of civilians. Now, with persuasive evidence that he has used large amounts of sarin gas in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), other international treaties and basic human decency, Assad himself has invited retaliation. The President’s plan is a clear message that we will no longer watch on the sidelines as civilians are gassed.

JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow added:

The use of force is never arrived at lightly. But given Assad’s indifference to the worldwide consensus that chemical weapons are too barbaric to use even against combatants, let alone civilians, he must face the consequences. We support President Obama’s decision to launch a targeted and limited military response. It will communicate to Assad and any others tempted to use or acquire weapons of mass destruction that the United States stands by our warnings and our values. The Congress should act quickly to authorize the action. We also strongly urge the United States and international community to enhance humanitarian aid to the millions of refugees fleeing Assad’s reign of terror.

A group of prominent American rabbis and Jewish leaders from the Orthodox, Reform and Conservative denominations of Judaism petitioned Congress last Tuesday. Evoking memories of the Holocaust, the rabbis stated that Congressional approval would deter enablers of atrocity and save thousands of lives.

Signatories to the petition included Rabbi Eric Yoffie, former president of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Yosef Blau, a rabbinic leader of Yeshiva University; prominent Jewish history professor Jonathan Sarna; popular Conservative leader Rabbi David Wolpe; lecturer and author Rabbi Joseph Telushkin; Rabbi Mark Dratch, Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of America; and Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, who founded the Jewish social justice group Uri L’Tzedek.

“Regardless of politics or denomination, the Jewish community has an instinctive response when we see that hundreds of children have been gassed to death,” said Yanklowitz. “That response is one of sympathy and a desire to protect the innocent. That response is in our DNA.”

The full text of the petition is included below:

Dear Congressional Leaders,

We write you as descendants of Holocaust survivors and refugees, whose ancestors were gassed to death in concentration camps. We write you as a people who have faced persecution for many centuries, and are glad to have found a safe refuge where we can thrive in the United States. We write as a people proud of our religious and historical tradition of helping the needy and defending the weak.

The recent chemical weapons attacks on the Damascus suburbs constitute a serious crime against humanity. These attacks killed upwards of 1400 people, the majority of them innocent women and children. As a people who themselves once faced the horrors of genocide and survived, we had hoped that we would never again open our newspapers to images of mass graves filled with suffocated young children. Now that we have seen such images coming from Syria, we call upon you to act.

Intelligence assessments from the U.S., U.K. France, Israel, Turkey, the Arab League, and many other allies all show conclusively that the Assad regime was responsible for the horrific chemical attacks of August 21st. We fear that if this attack passes without a decisive response, we might open our newspapers to more images of mass graves from Syria – and elsewhere — in the near future. We have learned from our own history that inaction and silence are the greatest enablers of human atrocity.

For this reason, we call upon you with great urgency to authorize the President to use force in Syria “in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction,” as outlined in his August 31st draft legislation. Through this act, Congress has the capacity to save thousands of lives.

These are the Days of Awe for the Jewish people. In one of the climactic moments of our High Holiday prayers, we read “On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed, who will pass and who will be created, who will live and who will die, who in his time and who before his time.” May this coming year be one of life and creation the world over, in which we cease to witness the deaths of so many innocent human beings.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, Founder & President, Uri L’Tzedek

Leon Wieseltier

Rabbi Avi Weiss, President-Emeritus, YCT Rabbinical School (Yeshivat Chovevei Torah)

Rabbi Yosef Blau, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshiva University

Professor Jonathan Sarna, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University

Rabbi David Wolpe, Senior Rabbi, Sinai Temple

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President- Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, Senior Rabbi, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun (KJ)

Shlomo Bolts

Rabbi Mark Dratch, Executive Vice President, RCA (Rabbinical Council of America)

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

Rabbi Jason Herman, Director, IRF (International Rabbinic Fellowship)

Rabbi Sid Schwarz, Senior Fellow, Clal: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin, writer, Temple Beth Am, Bayonne, NJ

Rabbi Dr. Yehudah Mirsky

Rabbi Barry Dolinger

Rabbi Andy Koren

Rabbi Richard A. Block, President, Central Conference of American Rabbis

Share:

Comments

  1. jsmagid says

    I very much disagree with the rationale that has been put forward by so many for a military strike on Syria.

    I see no way for any military action to accomplish the stated goals. Assad will not be deterred by military action. He’s already in a protracted fight for his rule and life and he has continued support from Russia. Someone else coming after him can only make him more desperate and willing to do whatever it takes to survive.

    If he cared a whit about international norms or law he would not already be complicit in the death of over 100,000 of his countrymen, regardless of the cause of their deaths (and the dead probably don’t much care by what weapon their life was taken).

    We should certainly pursue international court prosecution for crimes against humanity and press Russia and Iran, with their own unhappy history with chemical weapons (for which we have blood on our hands and serious credibility issues when it comes to our supposedly strong moral position), to withdraw their support for Assad, using whatever diplomatic carrots and sticks are at our disposal.

    Further, if we do take military action and somehow tilt the balance of power in the on-going multi-sided civil war, then what? We have no way of knowing what havoc may ensue.

    This is a powerfully bad idea, despite the allure of sticking it to one of our longstanding enemies and the oft stated moral imperative to “do something”.

    L’Shana Tova

Leave a Reply