ATLANTA, Oct. 31 (JTA) President Clinton has used a platform provided by the Anti-Defamation League to urge support for hate crimes legislation and his beleaguered foreign policy agenda.
For the last two years, the president has fought for these issues in bitter bipartisan battles with Congress.
Clinton spoke to the ADL at its national commission meeting Shabbat dinner last Friday in Atlanta.
The president praised the ADL for organizing the first White House conference on hate crimes two years ago and for developing a model hate crimes statute that became law in 40 states.
“We need to stand against manifestations of our inhumanity and we need to do more to reaffirm our common humanity,” he said.
The Hate Crimes Prevention Act would give federal prosecutors new authority to prosecute hate crimes against women, the disabled, and gays and lesbians. It would also make it easier for the federal government to investigate and prosecute hate crimes.
Last week, Clinton vetoed the bill funding the Commerce, Justice and State departments because Republican leaders took the hate crimes provisions out of the legislation. Activists are lobbying for the provisions to be included a revamped version of the spending bill or in a catch-all spending bill that would emerge from negotiations between Congress and the White House.
Clinton admonished critics who say the law would bestow special status on victims belonging to minority groups.
“That’s not true,” he said to the audience of approximately 300 people. “What we are saying is that the hate crimes victimize not only the victim but they victimize society as a whole in a special way because they contradict the very idea of America we are trying to build.”
In addition to securing harmony at home, Clinton said America must take the lead in bringing peace to the world, specifically the Middle East. He said he was frustrated with Congress for proposing a foreign aid bill stripped of the $1.9 billion needed to fund the Wye River accord.
“The bill sent a terrible signal to our friends in the Middle East,” he said. “The strongest possible encouragement to the enemies of peace that there will be no immediate rewards for peace. That’s why I vetoed it. And I’ll veto it again if it doesn’t provide for the funding of our obligations around the world.” The audience erupted in applause.
The call came two days before he was expected to head to Oslo for a summit with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.
“On Sunday night I will leave for Oslo to honor the memory of my friend Yitzhak Rabin,” he said. “And to continue his mission.”
In outlining his foreign aid proposals, Clinton said he is concerned about the anti-Jewish rhetoric emanating from Russia in recent months.
“I have urged the Russian leadership not to allow the current challenges they face to undermine the respect for human rights and individual liberty and opposition to anti-Semitism in Russia,” he said.