Resolution Adopted by the CCAR

The Crisis in Kosovo

Resolution adopted by the Board of Trustees of the
Central Conference of American Rabbis, May 1999

Background:

The current Kosovo tragedy has unfolded at least since 1989, when the Serbian National Assembly ratified constitutional changes that essentially deprived Kosovo of the relative autonomy that it had enjoyed, returning Kosovo's judiciary and police to Serbian control. In the ensuing years, Serbia removed Kosovo's ethnic Albanians from positions of power in Kosovo, leading the ethnic Albanians - 90 percent of Kosovo's population - to develop alternative schools and other autonomous institutions. Serbia's military offensive against the ethnic Albanians began in 1998, and led to a substantial gain in the support for and the strength of the Kosovo Liberation Army, a militant body seeking independence from, rather than autonomy within, Serbia.

Serbian aggression against the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo escalated, and American and European efforts to broker a cease-fire and a peaceful resolution of the bloody conflict did not succeed. Accordingly, and after repeated warnings to Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic, NATO decided to intervene with a sustained campaign from the air. The campaign is ongoing.

Whatever the responsibility of the various parties to the conflict - and of the European nations and the United States - for the current crisis, we are now faced with the horrendous fact of mass "ethnic cleansing," with all its attendant brutality. We are witness to an exodus of Biblical proportions - but this time, it is not an exodus from slavery to freedom; it is an exodus into exile.

What is happening in Kosovo - and in Macedonia, Montenegro, and Albania - has unavoidable echoes for us, as Jews.

This time, however, there is intervention on behalf of those who are being persecuted. In the course of that intervention, innocent people have been and will be killed and wounded. That is a terrible cost, and we lament it. But absent such intervention, the world would once again be turning its back on genocidal behavior. Our tradition teaches us to stand against such behavior: "Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor" (Leviticus 19:16).

In 1994, faced with similar moral, political, and strategic choices, the Executive Committee of the UAHC Board of Trustees, adopted a resolution on the crisis in the former Yugoslavia, holding that the concept of pikuach nefesh was at stake during the long months when ethnic cleansing and other genocidal activity was at the heart of our concern in Bosnia. That resolution "calls upon the United States and its allies, in consultation with allied military leaders and the United Nations, to undertake selective air strikes against military targets in Bosnia-Herzegovina when necessary for the protection of Bosnia's civilian population." So, now, again NATO's intervention, which must always remain sensitive to casualties, must be designed to put a prompt end to the Serbian campaign of "ethnic cleansing," to remove all Serbian military forces from Kosovo, to enable the exiled to return to and rebuild their homes, and to ensure that peace reigns within Kosovo's borders.

THEREFORE, the Central Conference of American Rabbis resolves to:

  1. Support the NATO campaign, while deploring our nation's and NATO's failures to respond decisively and in timely fashion to the unfolding crisis in Yugoslavia;
  2. Implore President Clinton, Congress, and our NATO allies immediately to take whatever steps are necessary, to end and reverse the "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo;

  3. Acknowledge and commend the deployment of our military forces for humanitarian purposes in response to the critical needs of the growing number of refugees in Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro;

  4. Commend our congregations for their generous participation in the effort to provide humanitarian assistance to the refugees from Kosovo and urge them to expand such efforts; and

  5. Call for the prosecution by the War Crimes Tribunal of those responsible for the atrocities committed in Kosovo.