Jewish groups back Clintons call for U.S. troops in Bosnia

WASHINGTON, D.C. — When President Clinton asks members of Congress to support sending 20,000 U.S. troops to enforce a peace agreement in Bosnia, he will have overwhelming support from the organized Jewish community.

"As Jews we have a special responsibility and cannot be absent from this next chapter," said Hyman Bookbinder, a longtime Jewish communal activist who is a founding member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council's Committee on Conscience.

"If we ever meant the words `never again,' we need to back the president."

Clinton announced a settlement between the warring parties in the former Yugoslavia in an address Tuesday from the White House Rose Garden.

The settlement came 3-1/2 years after war broke out in the Balkans and 21 days after negotiations began in Dayton, Ohio, among leaders from Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia.

"Now that the parties to the war have made a serious commitment to peace, we must help them to make it work," Clinton said.

Throughout the war in Bosnia, many Jewish groups were outspoken about the need for some form of American intervention.

Their call became particularly urgent amid mounting evidence of genocide and ethnic cleansing, which many Jews found reminiscent of the Holocaust.

That effort is now continuing among most — though not all — Jewish organizations.

Sending troops is "a moral imperative," said Mike Klein, communications and policy director for the National Jewish Democratic Council.

"We believe that there will be strong support from the Jewish community for this initiative."

The NJDC plans to encourage congressional Democrats to support sending peacekeepers, he said.

Other Jewish groups endorsed peacekeeping troops, including the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council and the American Jewish Congress.

The only major Jewish organization that has opposed sending troops to Bosnia is the Jewish War Veterans.