NEW YORK (Mar. 23)
American Jewish leaders have promised to increase their lobbying of the U.S. government to take a stronger role in saving Bosnia-Herzegovina.
They made this pledge in a meeting Tuesday with Alija Izetbegovic, president of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The meeting was called by Izetbegovic to thank the Jewish community for its leading role in trying to mobilize American support for Bosnia.
It came as the United Nations was discussing whether to enforce no-fly zones over Bosnian territory, which would open the way for NATO troops to shoot down Serbian airplanes.
Those discussions were in the context of the continuing wrangling over the proposed peace plan for Bosnia, which would divide the country into 10 different ethnic cantons.
The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, which organized the meeting, last month adopted a strong resolution regarding Bosnia.
It calls for no-fly zone enforcement, limited air strikes to lift the siege of Sarajevo and other cities, and — if there is no progress in the peace negotiations — lifting the arms embargo on the former Yugoslavia.
Lifting the embargo is a high priority for Bosnian officials, who say the embargo cripples their ability to defend their people, while not impeding the better-armed Serbs.
During the course of the nearly hour-long meeting, the pained expressions on several of the dozen Jewish participants showed how seriously they took the parallels drawn by the Bosnian president between the “ethnic cleansing” suffered by the Moslem Bosnians today and the genocide inflicted on the Jews 50 years ago.
The Jewish leaders were clearly frustrated at how little the community’s position had succeeded in changing that of the American government, or in stopping the ongoing killing.
“All we have done is pass pious resolutions,” lamented Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Reform movement’s Union of American Hebrew Congregation. “Even as we are talking, people are dying.”
Izetbegovic, as well as U.N. Bosnian Ambassador to the Mohamed Sacirbey, responded that no, the resolutions and the show of support mattered.
The Jewish officials said they would step up their activity in the political sphere.
The first result of this renewed resolve is likely to come next week, at a previously scheduled meeting in Washington between Jewish leaders and members of the National Security Council.
The crisis in Bosnia is likely to be elevated to near the top of that meeting’s agenda, said Jewish leaders.