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Statement Of Rabbi Amy Klein Director Of Congregational Relations Religious Action Center Of Reform Judaism International Campaign To Ban Landmines Rally

May 16, 1997

One year ago today, President Clinton pledged his support for a comprehensive ban on anti-personnel landmines. A year ago, we celebrated the President's affirmation of support for the international campaign to ban all anti-personnel landmines, and we were filled with hope that American leadership would bring a speedy end to the deaths caused by these deadly weapons. Today, instead of marking our progress in lives saved, we stand here with heavy hearts. Today, we are frustrated, and saddened, by President Clinton's failure to make good on his promise.

The Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 rabbis in over 850 synagogues in the United States and Canada, are deeply concerned by the current stalemate. The words of our prophet Isaiah are constantly a prayer on our lips, that nations shall "beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks." This is not an idle hope. We understand that it is not for us to wait for Divine deliverance, but to act as partners with God to bring about lasting peace and an end to senseless killing.

To this end, we are gravely disappointed by the continued failure on the part of the United States to take a leadership role in the international effort to eliminate these silent, lethal weapons. The international campaign is surging forward, with over 70 countries heading to Canada in December to sign a comprehensive ban on all anti-personnel mines. As concerned religious Americans, we ask: Will America be among the legion of nations next December?

Our responsibility to take our place on the front lines of this effort should be clear. After all, our hands are not clean:

  • From 1985-1996, the United States produced more than ten million anti-personnel mines, adding to a stockpile of an estimated 12-18 million mines;
  • The U.S. army has estimated that 90% of landmines and booby traps used against American soldiers in Vietnam were either U.S.-made or manufactured with U.S. components;
  • Landmines were responsible for 34% of U.S. casualties during the Gulf War; and
  • The first soldiers to die in Bosnia were victims of anti-personnel mines.

26,000 men, women, and children around the world have lost a life or a limb since President Clinton's pledge a year ago. According to the State Department, every 22 minutes a man, woman, or child is killed or maimed by a landmine -- for them, we should heed the words of Isaiah. For them, landmines are the war after the war. For them, we should heed the words of a modern day truth teller, Yehuda Amichai, who, in his "Appendix to the Vision of Peace" writes, "Don't stop after beating the swords into ploughshares, don't stop! Go on beating and make musical instruments out of them. Whoever wants to make war again will have to turn them into ploughshares first."

Next year at this time, may we be harvesting grain -- not sowing the soil with the blood of the innocent. Let us pray today that we cease using the earth as a destroyer of life. Let us sow the soil with seed -- not with mines -- so that "the earth will sprout vegetation: seedbearing plants, fruit trees of every kind..." Let us go forth and plant in the land that it will give sustenance to our children rather than take their lives.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews And 1,800 Reform rabbis in more than 850 congregations throughout North America.




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