Former U.S. Atty. Gen. Ramsey Clark said Wednesday that the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles is "politicizing human rights" by using his legal representation of Palestinians and a Nazi war crimes suspect as an excuse to cancel an invitation for him to speak at a fund-raising dinner.
Clark, speaking from his New York office, expressed surprise that organizers of the April 6 Century Plaza event had apparently been unaware at the outset that he has taken pro-Palestinian positions for more than a decade.
"I've also been involved in scores of cases for Soviet Jews going back many years," Clark said. "But my belief in human rights is not selective. . . . In 1974, when I was running for the U.S. Senate, I insisted that (PLO leader) Yasser Arafat had a right to speak at the United Nations. I still believe that. I think people have a right to be heard."
Nonetheless, the former attorney general said, he is not bitter at being dropped as the fund-raiser's main speaker, and he will refuse to take any "stop fee."
In dropping Clark after receiving complaints about his views, Morris Sherman, director of the United Jewish Fund, the fund-raising arm of the federation, had said he would be paid his full $2,000 to $2,500 fee in order to head off any possible lawsuit for breach of contract.
But a Clark assistant said Wednesday that the fee had actually been only $1,500, and the contractually agreed upon "stop fee," in case his appearance had to be canceled, was only $500.
Fee Was Reduced
"I wouldn't take any money, so there is no stop fee," Clark said. He said his speaking fee had been reduced below his usual amount in the first place "because when you're speaking for a cause you don't take a regular full fee."
The former attorney general added: "The greatest disservice that can be done to human rights is to politicize them. To say that only those who are for me are for human rights is to destroy the role that the idea of human rights must play in the quest for peace and human dignity."
Dinner chairman Donald Etra said Tuesday that the invitation to Clark had been withdrawn because "many people in the community felt that some of the people he was representing did not represent the feeling of the Jewish community."
Clark is defending the Palestine Liberation Organization in a suit brought by the family of murdered Achille Lauro passenger Leon Klinghoffer and is a defense counsel for Karl Linnas, an Estonian suspected of Nazi war crimes who is fighting deportation to the Soviet Union.