Rabbi asks Clinton about the Beijing Olympics

Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs was in the crowd Sunday at Messiah College’s Compassion Forum, and got to ask Hillary Clinton a question:

BROWN: Another question from the audience. Rabbi Steve Gutow, who is director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs is with us. Rabbi?

RABBI STEVE GUTOW, JEWISH COUNCIL FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Senator Clinton?

CLINTON: Yes, Rabbi.

GUTOW: Back to China. China has continued to persecute and subject to oppression the people of Tibet. It continues to be the largest supplier of weapons to Sudan and the largest purchaser of its oil. Let’s just say China is not doing all it can to stop the genocide in Darfur. You have said that America needs to return to being a moral voice of the world.

Is our participation in the Beijing Olympics harmful to that moral voice?

CLINTON: Well, Rabbi, I appreciate your asking this question because I think it’s a question of both political and moral significance. And that’s why last week I called on our president to decide he would not attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympics because that is a public and very obvious ratification of our government’s approval of the Beijing government’s actions.

CLINTON: Unless the Chinese began to take very visible steps to begin to end the suppression of the Tibetans and undermining their culture and religious beliefs, and if we could get more cooperation out of the Chinese government with respect to Sudan.

And, of course, I would welcome even more action on behalf of human rights. But the challenge is, how do we try to influence the Chinese government? And I believe we have missed many opportunities during the Bush administration to do so.

In fact, I think it’s fair to say our policy toward China is incoherent and that has not been in the best interest of our values or our strategic interest. So I would urge the president at least to consider and, therefore, publicly say that he will not be attending the opening ceremonies.

And let’s see whether the Chinese government begins to respond because that for them would be a great loss of face and perhaps we would get more cooperation. We would get the process going that the Dalai Lama has asked for over many years.

There could be a lot of ways that the Chinese government demonstrated it heard our concerns.

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