Interfaith Coalition Demands Immediate Aid for Bosnian People

With winter fast approaching, Jewish and other organizations joined to prod the U.S. government into taking stronger action to help the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Over the past year, Jewish groups have been pushing the Clinton administration to do more to alleviate the suffering inflicted on Bosnia’s Muslims by primarily Serb forces who have called for “ethnic cleansing” of the former Yugoslav republic.

Some in the Jewish community see echoes of the Holocaust in the current Bosnian situation.

And they say that the Clinton administration is not doing enough to help the Bosnians.

“The problem isn’t the slowness of the administration. That’s far too kind a description,” Henry Siegman, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, said Tuesday.

“The problem is the total abandonment of the Bosnians by the administration,” he said.

Last weekend, Siegman and other concerned leaders addressed the initial conference of a new coalition, which has two parts: the American Committee to Save Bosnia and the U.S. Coalition for Humanitarian Assistance. More than 40 organizations participated in the conference.

Representatives of the Lifeline Network, a humanitarian group, and the International Relief Committee, a North Carolina-based relief organization, spearheaded the effort.

“The Bosnians can’t wait until after Christmas” for our help, Beverley Britton-Elkashef, the founder of the Lifeline Network, said Tuesday.

After a news conference Monday announcing the group’s formation, George Spectre, associate director of B’nai B’rith’s office of international, governmental and Israel affairs, said the administration should work to end the arms embargo in Bosnia and should “orchestrate deliverance of humanitarian aid without asking the permission of the parties.”

Siegman said Tuesday that the State Department has estimated that 2 million Bosnian Muslims and another million Bosnian Serbs and Croats will die this winter from cold, starvation and gunfire.

Other Jewish groups active in efforts on behalf of Bosnians include the American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council and Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

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