LONDON, Oct. 11 (JTA) — British Jewish leaders are strongly backing the joint U.S.-British air strikes against Afghanistan.
Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said the strikes were “no instinctive act of revenge, but a focused, precise strategic intervention designed to make our world a safer place.”
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, one of the strongest European advocates of strikes against the Taliban regime, which is sheltering suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, met Sacks and other religious leaders on Monday, the day after the first strikes were launched.
Sacks commended Blair on his strong leadership and said he was confident that every attempt would be made to avoid civilian casualties. He also gave the prime minister the biblical blessing: “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid or discouraged.”
He also composed a special prayer to be recited in United Synagogues — the mainstream British Orthodox movement — in Britain and the Commonwealth, which is mostly madeup of former British colonies.
The prayer asks God to grant “wisdom and courage to the leaders of the world that together they may defeat the forces of violence and hate.”
It also pleads for God to “implant a new heart and faithful spirit in all the dwellers on earth, that we may learn to live together in coexistence, not conflict.”
The Community Security Trust, a British Jewish organization that deals with security issues, is also backing the airstrikes.
“Islamist terrorism threatens the security of the United States, Britain and the Jewish community worldwide,” said a Trust spokesman who asked not to be named.
“Jewish communities have faced it for 25 years. Anything that can effectively fight it is good for the Jewish community,” he told JTA.
“We have been going to the government about this for years. It takes something like” the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington to make politicians “realize that incitement leads to action.”
Britain has a small but vocal number of militant Muslim leaders who are suspected of recruiting young men to fight in what they consider holy wars abroad.
A new British law went into effect early this year making it a crime to support organizations that the government classifies as terrorist — including bin Laden’s Al Qaida network.
But the Trust spokesman warned that air strikes alone were unlikely to solve the problem.
“It’s a long-term project. It’s not just about knocking out Osama bin Laden or some terrorist training camps,” he said.
He dismissed the suggestion that military attacks on Afghanistan would radicalize Muslims and lead them to support extremists like bin Laden.
“You don’t deal with terrorism by walking away from it,” he said. “You deal with it by confronting it.”