NEW YORK (Feb. 26)
The planting of two pipe bombs here Wednesday, apparently to publicize the plight of Syrian Jews, has upset mainstream Jewish organizations that have been trying lately to raise the issue’s public profile.
But at least one militant Jewish group is refusing to condemn the bombings, though it is also not taking credit.
One of the bombs exploded early Wednesday morning in front of a building housing the Syrian Mission to the United Nations, shattering windows and damaging the lobby doors.
A note reading “Free Syrian Jews” was found a few hours later alongside a similar device left in front of a Woolworth’s store on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, not far from the Lincoln Square Synagogue. That bomb did not explode.
“We hope this incident will serve as a warning and deterrent for Syria and Syrian terrorists that the long arm of Jewish vengeance can reach them too,” said a statement issued by the militant group Kahane Chai.
“There is a time for diplomacy and a time for violence and hard action against those who understand no other language,” said Mike Guzofsky, a spokesman for the group, which was founded by the son of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.
“But as a legal organization, we cannot and will not take responsibility for that action,” he said.
Two other militant Jewish groups linked to violence in the past, Kach International and the Jewish Defense Organization, denied responsibility without qualification or hesitation.
Seymour Reich, chairman of the National Task Force on Syrian Jewry, said in a written statement that “the resort to violence is abhorrent and disserves the cause of Syrian Jewry.”
The statement was released as well on behalf of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Council for the Rescue of Syrian Jews, the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.
The National Task Force, a project of the Conference of Presidents, was recently organized to fight for the release of the 4,000 Jews living in Syria, who are barred from emigrating and face numerous other restrictions.
Gilbert Kahn, executive director of the Council for the Rescue of Syrian Jews, said the issue already has a heightened public profile.
He pointed out that on Monday, Rep. Bill Green (R-N.Y.) pressed Secretary of State James Baker on the right of Syrian Jews to emigrate, and specifically on the fate of Eli and Salim Swed, two brothers imprisoned in a Syrian jail for over five years.
Kahn reported that on Tuesday, Baker confirmed that the Bush administration is pursuing the matter with Damascus.