Reform Group Urges Action for Kurds As Senator Scores White House Stance

Sen. Albert Gore (D-Tenn.) urged the American Jewish community Tuesday to lend its voice in urging the Bush administration to act to prevent the continuing slaughter of Kurds in Iraq by Saddam Hussein’s military forces.

Nearly 400 rabbis and lay people attending a conference here sponsored by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism responded immediately with a call for all Jews to urge the administration to demand a U.N. resolution to stop “all military assaults upon refugees in all parts of Iraq.”

The Reform leaders also urged the creation of “an enclave in Iraq in which the fleeing Kurds can find refuge and security” until a solution is found to allow them to return to their homes.

The Reform leaders acted after they heard a blistering statement from Gore in which he said the administration had made a “conscious decision to allow that slaughter to continue,” because it wanted to see “stability and order” restored in Iraq.

Gore, a potential presidential contender in 1992, said the administration was returning to the policy that existed before Hussein invaded Kuwait, when Washington supported the Iraqi regime.

The administration does not want Saddam Hussein to remain in power, but it does want his Ba’ath Party to survive, Gore contended.

In that context, Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Maine), who also addressed the Reform “Consultation on Conscience,” warned against repeating the same mistake by too close an embrace of Syrian President Hafez Assad, whose human rights record is as bad as Hussein’s.

The Reform statement accused the administration of “undermining” the just and moral action that forced Iraq out of Kuwait “by the failure of the United States and its coalition partners to prevent the slaughter of the Kurdish people of Iraq by the bloodthirsty forces of Saddam Hussein.”

It called this failure “a shameful abdication of political and moral responsibility.”

LOBBYING MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

Several other U.S. Jewish groups issued statements of concern about the Kurdish refugee problem this week. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations praised its constituent groups Tuesday for taking a strong stand on the issue.

The rabbis and lay leaders attending the three-day meeting here are involved in the Commission on Social Action of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

They ended their conference by visiting the offices of 14 senators and 66 representatives to lobby their position on the Kurds as well as to urge support for Israel and an end to the proliferation of biological and nuclear weapons.

The Reform leaders also lobbied Congress on domestic issues, including a seven-day waiting period for those wishing to buy handguns; the Religious Restoration Act, which would restore protection denied by the Supreme Court under the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment; and for the Civil Rights Act, which would facilitate legal relief for those discriminated against on the basis of race, sex, nationality or religion.

NEXT STORY