Statement of Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
There are no higher values in our tradition that those of peace (shalom) and justice (tzedek). We know that the path to true peace, a true peace that embodies justice and healing, will not be an easy one, but, towards that goal, we have supported the United States' and NATO's actions—both military and diplomatic—to end Slobodan Milosevic's campaign of terror and ethnic cleansing. We pray that those efforts to bring peace to a region that has known so much conflict will soon be successful.
But the pursuit of justice is too urgent to wait. We, therefore, welcome the decision by the United Nation's International Criminal Tribunal to indict Milosevic, Milan Milutinovic, Nikola Sainovic, Vlajko Stojiljkovic, and Dragoljub Ojdanic as war criminals.
Failure to apprehend and prosecute war criminals sends a message that such actions are acceptable, allowing with the result that others who would commit evil deeds to believe that they have nothing to fear.
How well we understand, from our own tragedies as a people, the awesome price paid for indifference and silence. We, above all others, must be alert to suffering and injustice any place in the world and be proactive in deterring the perpetuation of evil. Just as the Jewish community called for the apprehension and prosecution of war criminals responsible for genocidal activity from Nazi Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia, we must hold Milosevic and his henchmen accountable for their crimes, ensuring that the world recognizes the horrors that continue to occur in Kosovo.
We call on the Congress and the President to support the indictments announced today, and to take a leadership role for the United States in bringing about the apprehension and prosecution of other war criminals in the former Yugoslavia. Aggressive apprehension and prosecution of war criminals will demonstrate that the United States does not tolerate barbarism and the defiance of international standards, and will ensure that those who have contributed to genocide are punished for their actions.
The pursuit of justice for Milosevic, the Serbian government, and for their victims, begins today.
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 875 congregations throughout North America.