Two Thousand Participate in 1998 ADC National Convention Featuring Janet Reno

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Two Thousand Participate in 1998 ADC National Convention Featuring Janet Reno

More than 2,000 Arab Americans from across the U.S. traveled to Arlington, VA to attend the annual convention of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), "Shaping the Future" from June 11-14.

The convention included numerous concurrent films, panels, banquets and social events. The kick-off dinner on Capitol Hill was preceded by a briefing and congressional meetings between ADC members and their senators and representatives in Congress.

On Friday, June 12, Eric Alterman, Pat Buchanan and Danny Schechter spoke at the "Arabs in the Media" morning panel. Eric Alterman is a columnist at The Nation and a commentator on MSNBC. Patrick Buchanan is a syndicated columnist, a co-host of CNN's nightly "Cross-fire," and a regular panelist on NBC's weekly "McLaughlin Group" show. Danny Schechter is the executive producer and co-founder of Globalvision. Although the panelists came from different pans of the political spectrum, all agreed on the Palestinian right to an independent state.

Alterman described his outlook on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as "guarded optimism" because he felt that American and Israeli Jews "are sick and tired of being occupiers." Buchanan said he began to believe in the necessity of a Palestinian state during the intifada, the Palestinian uprising. Describing U.S. media coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Buchanan said, "There are perceptions of a double standard because there is a double standard."

Schechter, author of The More You Watch, the Less You Know, a book that criticized television coverage of the Gulf war, pointed out that animals of Africa have a better chance of being featured on U.S. television than any of the people of Africa or their circumstances. The significance of all three journalists, with such widely varying perspectives, agreeing on the moral imperative of a Palestinian state was not lost on anyone present in the room.

A convention highlight was a keynote luncheon address by Attorney General Janet Reno, who gave a short presentation and then listened to comments about the Department of Justice from the audience. Reno called for a new era of dialogue "to build a lasting relationship with trust and understanding" between Arab Americans and the Justice Department.

She encouraged Arab Americans to join the 92 new Hate Crimes Prevention working groups and report hate crime incidents to the FBI. She also asked Arab Americans to utilize the Department of Transportation's complaint process if they feel unfairly targeted at airports. She said that the civil rights division of the Department of Justice had reviewed the computerized passenger screening which is in the process of being implemented at airports across the country. She declined to discuss specific cases and chose not to comment on the use of "secret evidence" by state and local prosecutors against Arab immigrants and Arab Americans. "ADC will make sure that it speaks out and we will follow your example," Reno said.

Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) spoke after the attorney general about the Whitewater investigation and his stance on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. He emphasized that there are Jewish Americans who believe in "what is right" and said that "the taking of land from Palestinians is not right." He said that he opposed the exportation of weapons and the funding of "dictators." Finally, he called on members of the audience to encourage President Clinton and Congress members to support a "Dear Colleague letter" currently circulating Congress. …