In one of the first Jewish outcries against the escalating war in Bosnia- Herzegovina in months, leaders in the organized Jewish community have called on President Clinton and Congress to end the arms embargo on Bosnia.
The renewed appeals come in the wake of the rebel Bosnian Serb capture of Srebrenica, a U.N. “safe haven,” last week.
In separate statements, the American Jewish Congress and the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council condemned Srebrenica’s fall and the West’s ineffectiveness.
“It is time for our leaders to recognize the clear failure of present policies, and at long last allow the Bosnian government to defend its citizens from further aggression and put a stop to the genocide,” wrote AJCongress President David Kahn and Executive Director Phil Baum in a letter to Clinton.
They disagreed with those who say lifting the embargo would force the United Nations to leave Bosnia and result in the loss of “safe areas” to Serbian forces.
“Unfortunately, however, these safe areas have tragically proved not to be safe,” they wrote.
In a NJCRAC statement, Lynn Lyss, the umbrella group’s chair, said the organization was “outraged” at the Bosnia situation’s deterioration and the July 11 assault on Srebrenica.
“We deplore the United States’ failure to provide effective international leadership while millions of people have been forced to flee their homes and hundreds of thousands have been killed because of their ethnicity or religion,” she said.
Lyss criticized U.N. forces, saying recent events show that they cannot or “will not fulfill their obligations to defend the safe areas.”
The presence of the U.N. forces also prevents NATO from using air strikes to protect the safe spots, Lyss added.
Since Srebrenica fell, the Jewish community, which had been active on the Bosnian issue early in the three-year war, has begun to raise its voice again.
On Sunday, five days after the attack, dozens of demonstrators, including Jews and Muslims, were arrested outside the White House while protesting the Clinton administration’s policy on Bosnia.
On Capitol Hill, action is under way as well.
Sens. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), Congress’ only Orthodox Jew, have co-sponsored a bill terminating the arms embargo that the United Nations imposed in 1991.
The legislation would lift the ban either after the U.N. peacekeeping forces withdraw or 12 weeks after the Bosnian government requests such action.
The Senate was expected to vote on the measure this week.
Bosnian leaders have repeatedly asked for the embargo to be lifted.
In a speech here July 17, Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey noted the “friendship and commitment” of the Jewish people and said he would direct the Bosnian government to extend friendship to Jewish communities around the world, including Israel.
The move will “continue the cooperation between our people and the Jewish people,” Sacirbey said.