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50 Rabbis Back President's Tough Stand on Gulf Crisis


About 50 rabbis at a regional convention in Palm Springs this week urged President Bush to continue his tough stance in the Persian Gulf crisis and "take whatever steps necessary . . . to eliminate Iraq's capability to wage nuclear and chemical warfare."

The resolution, adopted unanimously, was the first taken by a unit of the Conservative wing of American Judaism although it was similar to positions espoused by organizations within Reform Judaism.

The statement was issued amid heightened anti-war activity by Catholic and mainline Protestant church leaders. U.S. Muslim groups and some liberal rabbis are also joining peace prayer vigils as the Tuesday United Nations deadline nears for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait.

The Conservative rabbis' statement said that President Bush should "accept nothing short of the complete withdrawal . . . and the restoration of Kuwait to independent status."

They also said that the United States should not do anything "to reward Iraq for its aggression or to link Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait to the resolution of any other aspect of Middle East politics." Many Jewish groups have warned that Israel should not be pulled into any negotiations relating to Iraq and Kuwait.

Citing the possibility that Iraq may be developing weapons of mass destruction, the rabbis urged President Bush to "eliminate" Iraq's nuclear and chemical production facilities.

Speaking to long-term concerns about oil resources from the Middle East, the resolution noted that "in the recent past our country has demonstrated its capacity to muster the will and resources necessary to face a crisis and to overcome a challenge to our greatness."

Beyond whatever happens in the Persian Gulf, the rabbis said the United States, Japan, the Soviet Union and European nations should develop non-fossil fuels on an emergency basis.

Meanwhile, the Religious Community Against War in the Persian Gulf has announced an interfaith prayer service at the Islamic Center of Southern California at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Speaking will be Rabbi Leonard Beerman, retired rabbi of Leo Baeck Temple in West Los Angeles; Hassan Hathout, outreach director of the host center in Los Angeles, and the Rev. George F. Regas, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena.

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