WASHINGTON (Sep. 16)
The Reagan Administration’s decision to close the Washington information office of the Palestine Liberation Organization was enthusiastically applauded Wednesday by Morris Abram, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
The State Department announced late Tuesday that it has ordered the office be closed within 30 days. The order does not effect the PLO’s United Nations observer mission in New York.
“The State Department’s action confirms this Administration’s condemnation of the PLO as a terrorist group and recognizes that as long as its office is permitted to operate in the heart of our nation’s capital, the American commitment to combat terrorism will not be seen as either reliable or credible, either at home or abroad,” Abram said.
The Israel Embassy here also welcomed the action since it applauds “every move that will curtail the action of the PLO,” according to Embassy spokesman Yosef Gal.
Among major Jewish organizations that applauded the move were the B’nai B’rith, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, and the Zionist Organization of America.
The Administration decision was given to Hassan Abdul Rahman, head of the PLO office, through a letter from James Nolan, director of the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions.
Department spokesman Charles Redman stressed Wednesday that the Department acted “to demonstrate our concern with the PLO’s continuing association and participation in terrorism.”
He added that the United States considers “the PLO as an umbrella organization, some elements and members of which practice or advocate international terrorism.”
As an example, he noted that Mohammed Abul Abbas, who is sought by the U.S. as the mastermind of the hijacking in 1985 of the Italian liner Achille Lauro, was reconfirmed as member of the Palestine National Council last April.
Redman gave two other examples on Tuesday: the recent participation by Syrian-backed PLO groups in terrorism and reported contacts between the PLO and Abu Nidal terrorist group.
The action against the PLO here was taken under a law which allows the Secretary of State to close any “entity” considered a foreign mission, Redman stressed.
He said the action was not taken because anyone had violated any laws nor was it a restriction of Constitutional First Amendment freedom of speech rights. “These people have the right to do what ever they want in advocating the PLO” as long as they do not violate the law and are not a foreign mission. This left open the possibility the information office could be opened again by American citizens.
Redman stressed that the U.S. continues to support the “legitimate rights” of the Palestinian people.
PRESSURE FROM LEGISLATORS
The Administration acted under strong pressure from members of Congress which wanted not only the Washington office closed, but also the UN observer mission. This demand was contained in a bill introduced by Sens. Robert Dole (R. Kans.), Charles Grassley (R. Iowa), Frank Lautenberg (D. NJ) and Howard Metzenbaum (D. Ohio) and co-sponsored by 45 other Senators, as well as a similar House bill introduced by Reps. Jack Kemp (R. NY) and Dan Mica (D. Fla.).
The PLO’s New York office was not closed because of its status at the UN.