WASHINGTON/NEW YORK – Jewish groups are preparing a blitz on Capitol Hill this
week to salvage a resolution that would authorize the use of force in Syria in
response to a devastating chemical weapons attack outside Damascus on August
The effort, though, may be too little, too late, with over 150 House
members already signaling that they will oppose the measure.
The Jerusalem Post, an American Israel Public Affairs Committee official
acknowledged the difficulty of the task ahead, calling it a “challenge well
“It’s difficult, but it’s doable,” the official
“Anything of this importance is often this difficult. We’re not
blind to the challenge here.”
When asked about the last resolution that
AIPAC pushed for in the House– which included a harsh sanctions package against
Iran, aimed at bringing their oil exports down to zero– the official said his
organization knew the Syria vote would be a heavier lift.
“It’s not just
passing a resolution,” said the official. “It’s showing determination that the
US will not stand for the use of unconventional weapons against a civilian
AIPAC in sending nearly 300 activists and lobbyists to meet
personally with House members on the Hill throughout the week.
believe there’s an overwhelming moral and strategic case,” the AIPAC official
added. “If we cannot act on Iran’s proxy, Syria, employing unconventional
weapons, it’s going to be very difficult to deter Iran from acquiring such
Crisis in Syria - full JPost.com coverage
For the Zionist Organization of America, the question of
whether to bomb Syria was not clear-cut.
“There is no simple answer, no
matter what your position is, whether you’re pro-Israel or pro-Arab,” said
Morton Klein, president of the ZOA. “The ZOA feels if you weaken [Syrian
President Bashar] Assad, then you strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood and
al-Qaida, who are the largest active element in the rebels and are getting
stronger. If you don’t weaken Assad, that helps Iran and Hezbollah, which are a
greater threat to America, to Israel and to the West.”
“We feel that if
American attacks Syria, it’s important that it be a serious strike to degrade
Assad’s arms and weaken Iran and Hezbollah,” Klein continued. “We’re against a
Klein said that the ZOA has not done any direct
lobbying on the Hill for its position, but that he had spoken with several
staffers and a Congressman, who he would not name, and said that their minds are
in a similar place.
“Many on the Hill are not even clear whether Assad
did this or the rebels did,” he said.
Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive
vice chairman of the Council of Presidents of Major American Jewish
Organizations, echoed Klein’s thoughts that this is a “complex and serious
“As American Jewish constituents, this is not about Israel,”
Hoenlein said. “This is a strategic issue that will have broader
Since it is an “international norm” to avoid and condemn
the use of chemical weapons, Hoenlein said, the US could potentially set a
“dangerous precedent” in how they choose to proceed, and could open the door to
Iran simply ignoring US diplomatic threats.
“The failure to uphold the
international norm could be an invitation to the other members of the Axis of
Evil to act in a similar manner,” Hoenlein said.
Hoenlein, like Klein,
said his organization was not doing any lobbying. But the American Jewish
Committee and the World Jewish Congress’s American Section have both chosen to
take an active role via letters and emails, spokeswoman for the WJC Betty
In a statement released on September 3, the WJC said they
“call on the United States Congress to support a resolution that will authorize
President [Barack] Obama to take punitive action in response to the use of
chemical weapons by the Assad regime.... The message must be undeniably clear to
Syria and other countries – the United States will stand by its principles, hold
to its redlines, and hold to account those who possess, seek and use weapons of
AJC’s executive director David Harris and AJC
president Stanley Bergman announced just before Rosh Hashana that they had sent
a letter to all members of the US Senate and House of Representatives, asking
them to support Obama’s plan to strike.
Harris has taken a strong
position pro-attack in op-eds in The Huffington Post and The Jerusalem Post,
writing “If the United States now flinches, and despite our declared ‘redline,’
let’s Syria get away with the use of chemical weapons, then what is the message
sent to the world?”