WASHINGTON (Oct. 25)
Editors of the radical Zionist magazine New Outlook, published in Tel Aviv, indicated today that only three of 13 Palestinian Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who had been invited to attend its three-day international symposium here this weekend would do so. The editors blamed alleged obstructions placed on travel documents by the U.S. and Israeli governments.
However, under questioning at a news conference here, they acknowledged that the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel’s Rakah (Communist) Party had roles in the decisions of nearly all of the 13 invitees not to attend the symposium. The editors also indicated uncertainty over the position on visas attributed to the State Department and the Israeli military government authorities on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Simha Flapan, editor-in-chief of New Outlook, said he was told three days ago that the 13 Palestinians would not attend. He said this was “a surprising development.” He said the reason was the refusal by the State Department to issue visas to “Palestinians from abroad” and indications of refusal by the Israeli authorities to provide exit visas. He said he did not know who had applied for visas and who was refused.
David Shaham, editor of the magazine, interjected that they did not have “factual knowledge” that exit visas were refused by the Israeli authorities. He said one Arab left today for Washington with a 26-member Israeli delegation. Several hours later, Flapan told reporters that two other Arabs had been granted U.S. visas and another two were denied them.
Flapan, who said he based his information on a single telephone call from Israel, referred to a report from Jerusalem published here that contained a statement by retired Gen. Mattityahu Peled that Rakah and the “Sons of the Village,” described as a small but militant Israeli Arab group, had been exerting intense pressure on West Bank Arab leaders not to attend the symposium. Peled was the principal speaker at the American Friends Service Committee’s symposium on the Middle East held here in 1977 which supported changes in Israel’s policy toward the PLO.
NO PLO MEMBERS AT CONCLAVE
The State Department declined to say immediately if any applications for visas had been received from Palestinian Arabs on the West Bank. in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon or other places. The Department’s chief spokesman, Hodding Carter said “The answer is going to be you will not find any PLO members attending the New Outlook session.” The Jewish Telegraphic Agency was privately informed by the State Department that no PLO members had applied for a visa because “they knew they would not get it.”
Issam Sartawi, a top PLO official in Beirut, was among those reportedly invited to the symposium. Flapan said he favored exploratory talks between the U.S. and the PLO without preconditions. He also said that nearly 500 persons have registered for the symposium including 50 from Europe, 40 from Israel and 25 Arabs from various countries.
He said that Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, who is in Washington to meet with U.S. officials and will address the UN General Assembly in New York Oct. 29, had not been invited. Those attending the symposium will come as individuals, not in any official capacity, Flapan said. (Kreisky told Die Presse in Vienna yesterday that he will try to convince President Carter to open talks with the PLO.)
Reports from Israel, meanwhile, said the New Outlook symposium suffered a severe setback when the West Bank and Gaza invitees announced they would not attend. They are mainly mayors and the heads of local councils. According to the reports, their announcement followed what was apparently heavy pressure by West Bank extremist leaders, including the mayors of Nablus and Hebron, for them not to go.
Among those invited but who cancelled their participation in the symposium were the poet and feminist Raymonda Tawil and Mayor Rashid Shawa of Gaza. Tawil was among the West Bank Arabs who participated in the New Outlook symposium in Tel Aviv two years ago. The official reason given by the Arabs for not going is that they do not wish to attend a conference that supports the Camp David accords and the autonomy plan.
Thirty-five Israelis, including five Knesset members, will attend the symposium. Two other MKs, Yossi Sarid of the Labor Alignment and Mordechai Wirshuvski of Shai, said they may not go because their purpose in attending was to meet with the Palestinians.