Abe Foxman: Jewish Responsibility to Act When People Gassed

Photograph by Oren Ziv/Getty Images

A postal office worker shows an Israeli child how to wear a gas mask at a gas mask kit distribution station in a mall on January 31, 2013, in Pisgat Ze’ev, East Jerusalem, Israel. Israel remains on high alert after the Israeli air force reportedly launched an airstrike January 30, on a convoy that Israeli officials said was carrying weapons from Syria to Lebanon on the Syria-Lebanon border.

After a coalition of Jewish and pro-Israel organizations came together yesterday and endorsed President Barack Obama’s request for congressional authorization to attack Syria, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, called it a “moral imperative” to act.

Foxman said he wished the world had responded 70 years ago when Jews were being gassed in Nazi concentration camps.

“Our people  have been exterminated by the use of gas,” Foxman said. “We cannot stand by without a reaction when we see gas being used to kill others.”

Others talked about the need to send a signal to other rogue states that the use of poison gas or other weapons of mass destruction would not be tolerated. The U.S. has warned Iran against developing nuclear weapons, just as it warned Syria about using chemical weapons.

“The implications are much broader when you have Iran watching this,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

A leader of the Christian right, Gary Bauer, expressed concern that without U.S. action, Syria’s chemical weapons could fall into the hands of al-Qaida or other Islamic terrorist groups now operating in Syria. That’s the argument Obama needs to make in order to galvanize public support for an attack.

“He makes an international law argument,” said Bauer, president of American Values. “The polling shows people aren’t going to buy that. You can make a strong case that the existence of those weapons in the middle of civil war risks another 9/11 down the road.”

See our story about the lobbying pressure Congress is hearing.

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