WASHINGTON (JTA) — The National Council of Jewish Women joined a coalition of groups asking President Barack Obama to review U.S. opposition to cluster bomb bans.
The Feb. 10 letter, signed by 67 groups and organized by the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines, urges Obama "to launch a thorough review within the next six months of past U.S. policy decisions to stand outside the treaty banning cluster munitions, as well as the treaty banning anti-personnel landmines. We expect that such a review will give appropriate weight to humanitarian and diplomatic concerns, as well as to U.S. military interests."
It notes the ban on cluster munitions signed in Oslo in December by much of the western world.
"The use of weapons that disproportionately take the lives and limbs of civilians is wholly counterproductive in today’s conflicts, where winning over the local population is essential to mission success," it says.
In the U.S. Senate, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has spearheaded an effort to ban the manufacture and sale of cluster munitions that are less than 99 percent reliable. She was spurred in part by Israel’s use of more than a million of the bombs, which scatter over a large area, in its 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Israel claimed at the time that it dropped the bombs in unpopulated areas, partly to ensure the safe retreat of its troops. Many of the bombs did not go off in time and civilians subsequently returned to those areas; human rights groups estimate that 40 civilians have died from contact with the bombs since the end of the war.
NCJW is the only Jewish group among the letter’s signatories, which also include a number of Arab-American groups.