WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton objected to criticism of Israel that veers into demonization of Jews and the Jewish state, speaking at an event Tuesday on preventing genocide.

“When criticism of Israeli government policies crosses over into demonization of Israel and Jews, we must push back,” Clinton declared in remarks at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

She also railed against Holocaust denial, and in doing so made an implied reference to Iran, whose leaders have frequently denied the Nazi genocide.

“We must remain vigilant against those deniers and against anti-Semitism, because when heads of state and religious leaders deny the Holocaust from their bully pulpits, we cannot let their lies go unanswered,” she said. “We need to make clear that violence, bigotry will not be tolerated.”

Clinton went on to speak more generally about the need to confront and prevent genocide.

“‘Never again’ remains an unmet, urgent goal,” she said, referring to cases of genocide since the Holocaust in places like Cambodia and the Balkans.

“The United States and our partners must act before the wood is stacked or the match is struck, because when the fire is at full blaze, our options for responding are considerably costlier and more difficult,” she said, referring to new efforts at the State Department and other parts of the administration to work pro-actively in situations where genocide can take place.

But she said that stronger actions is not the same as endorsing force.

“If a government cannot or will not protect its own citizens, then the United States and like-minded partners must act. But let me hasten to say this is not code for military action,” she clarified. “Force must remain a last resort.”

Instead, she point to the use of financial sanctions, humanitarian assistance and law enforcement measures.

In the case of Syria, she said, the US is supporting stronger sanctions as well as organizations collecting evidence of human rights abuses.

“More than a hundred other nations and organizations have made clear that Assad must step aside in order for a transition to begin,” she said. “We’re sending a message to the Syrian regime and making clear that there will be consequences for their actions.”

She also indicated the US is “increasing our efforts to assist the opposition.”

Asked at a press conference later Tuesday what the precise nature of that assistance was, she referred to working with bodies outside the UN Security Council – where Russia and China have vetoed US-backed plans to impose sanctions and take other measures against Syrian leader Bashar Assad – to take action.

Pressed on whether this included non-lethal intelligence and military assistance, Clinton replied, “We are certainly providing communications that we know is going to people within Syria so that they can be better organized to protect themselves against the continuing assault of their own government.”

According to a poll unveiled at Tuesday’s event, 55 percent of the American public believes the US should take military action against Syria, with 24% saying the US shouldn’t. At the same time, Syria ranked low on a list of foreign policy priorities.

The majority (55%) also felt Americans should provide ground forces in Syria, but only as a part of an international force.

In general, 69% of those surveyed said the US should act to stop genocide in other parts of the world, with only 25% opposed. Another question worded slightly differently found that 78% support the US taking military action to stop genocide or mass atrocities with just 18% opposed.

When it comes to potential military action to end a genocide, 53% said the US would be most effective if such force was multilateral, and another 27% thought military action facilitated by a international organizations like the UN would work best.

Only 10% thought the US working unilaterally would be the most effective course. However, 55% believe the international community is not effective at preventing civilians from genocide or mass atrocities.

The telephone survey of 1,000 people was conducted by Penn Schoen Berland between June 30 and July 10 with a +/- 3.1% margin of error.

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