The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish synagogue organization, today applauded Representatives Tom Lantos (D-CA), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Gary Ackerman (D-NY), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) for writing to President Bush concerning Elchanan Tannenbaum, an Israeli MIA who is being held by Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Representatives urged the President to raise this matter immediately with the government of Syria, which is a cosponsor of Hezbollah, the terrorist group that continues to threaten Israel’s northern border. Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah had recently announced that 57-year-old Elchanan Tannenbaum was alive and then followed this announcement by stating that he could no longer confirm that Mr. Tannenbaum was indeed still alive. His family and friends are increasingly alarmed, since he suffers from several potentially life-threatening health problems that require ongoing sophisticated medical care.
According to international law, Syria, as a foremost sponsor of Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations, is responsible for Mr. Tannenbaum as well as for missing Israeli soldiers Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz, Tzvi Feldman, Ron Arad, Adi Avitan, Binyamin Avraham and Omar Souad. The kidnapping and the holding of these MIAs continue to undermine any hope of Middle East peace. Secretary Powell raised this issue with President Assad on his recent trip to Damascus, and it is important that the President immediately continue to engage the Syrian government on this urgent human rights cause. Syria must be pressured to ensure the well-being and safety of Mr. Tannenbaum and the other MIAs and release them from captivity immediately. Syria, which seeks to prevent American sanctions for its role in supporting global terror, must be made to understand in the clearest possible terms that, as the dominant power in Lebanon, it will be held responsible for any harm that may befall Elchanan Tannenbaum or any of the other Israeli MIAs during their captivity.
This is an urgent humanitarian issue and every day that goes by further increases the chances that the condition of Elchanan Tannenbaum and the other missing Israeli soldiers will deteriorate further and only compound the anguish of their families. For the sake of humanity and decency, the Administration must heed the call of Congress to intervene and insist that Syria release these captives now.