NEW YORK (Aug. 21)
Israel made clear today to a delegation of Black leaders representing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) that “the terrorist PLO” which “is bent on the destruction of Israel” will not be accepted by Israel as a partner in the Middle East peace negotiations.
Yehuda Blum, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, told the Black leaders during a two-and-a-half hour meeting at the Israel Mission that any encouragement to the Palestine Liberation Organization, as given yesterday by the Black leaders, “could only discourage the peace process” currently taking place in the Middle East. Blum referred to a statement made by Joseph E. Lowery, president of the SCLC, after he and an SCLC delegation met with Zehadi Labib Terzi, the PLO observer at the UN, in which Lowery declared support for Palestinian “self-determination.”
In a press conference after today’s meeting, Blum said that he “expressed regret that Lowery made the statement before listening to both sides.” Blum said that he explained to the Black leaders Israel’s willingness to conduct negotiations with Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians in Judaea and Samaria and that the PLO is not a partner for negotiations.
As to the issue that prompted the involvement of the Black leadership in the Middle East question, namely the resignation of Andrew Young as U.S. Ambassador to the UN, the Israeli envoy said that he explained to the Black leaders that Israel is concerned about a shift in U.S. policy and that the issue is not one of a personality or race.
Blum added, in response to a question, that Israel protested other contacts by U.S. diplomats with PLO officials, such as the meetings Ambassador Milton Wolf had in Vienna, but those protests, Blum maintained, “were submerged because of the Young furore.”
During the meeting, Blum said, the Black leaders brought up the question of Israel’s diplomatic and economic ties with South Africa. Blum said he told the leaders that the issue was blown out of proportion, noting that Israeli trade with South Africa amounted to only-two-fifths of one percent of South Africa’s total foreign trade and that many Black African countries trade with South Africa on a much larger scale than Israel.
LOWERY RAISES SOUTH AFRICA AS ISSUE
In a separate press conference following Blum’s press conference. Lowery said that his delegation communicated “the concern of Black Americans about Israel’s relations with South Africa.” When confronted with Blum’s assertion that Israel’s trade with South Africa was only marginal, and that many African countries traded with South Africa, Lowery said that “it is irrelevant what other Black countries do ” with South Africa because while the survival of those African countries is dependent on their trade with South Africa, Israel’s survival is not.
Lowery said that Israel, by trading with South Africa, gave dignity to a nation of apartheid. According to the Black leader, his delegation reiterated its support “of the nationhood of Israel and human rights of all Israelis,” and at the same time, expressed its support” of human rights of all Palestinians.”
Lowery also said that the Black delegation stressed to Blum its belief in non-violence as the means of achieving peace in the Middle East. Blum, in his press conference, said that his response to the Black non-violence message was it is “ridiculous to equate us with the PLO” and that this equation is like equating the criminal and the police.
The Black leaders also raised the issue of Israeli raids in south Lebanon. Blum said he told them that he expressed regret that the PLO was seeking cover and refuge in refugee camps and that, therefore, civilians were inadvertently hurt in the raids.
Asked to assess the results of the meeting, Israeli officials and Black leaders conceded to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that wide differences remained between the two groups. “We missed each other, somehow,” a Black leader told the JTA after the meeting with Blum.