Jackson in Israel to ‘see and Learn’
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Jackson in Israel to ‘see and Learn’

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The Rev. Jesse Jackson arrived in Israel today and told reporters at Ben Gurion Airport that he had come to “see and learn” and that he hoped Premier Menachem Begin would have second thoughts about his refusal to meet with him. Jackson was scheduled to meet with Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem and with Shimon Peres, chairman of the opposition Labor Party.

Begin has declined to receive the American Black leader who come to the Middle East at the invitation of Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat. Jackson said on his arrival that he had not necessarily come here to meet with Begin but thought it would be good if Begin did see him.

He said there was room for a reciprocal recognition of the PLO and Israel and that it would be in the interest of the U. S. to exert pressure so that one of the two parties would be the first to yield and recognize the other.

Begin’s decision not to meet with Jackson raised a controversy here. Critics, including some of the Premier’s own aides, have warned that the snub could harm Israel’s image. But Eliahu Ben-Elissar, Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office, said on a radio interview today that Begin acted correctly because Jackson has made strong anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic statements in the U. S. Jackson was one of the most vociferous Black Americans in blaming Israel for the resignation of Andrew Young as U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan is believed to have advised Begin strongly against receiving Jackson. Nevertheless, the Foreign Ministry said today that it would assist Jackson “logistically” but no official personality would meet him. The Foreign Ministry is making technical arrangements for Jackson to visit the Christian enclaves in south Lebanon and to meet there with Maj Sood Haddad, commander of the Christian militia.

Jackson will also meet with Israel’s former Ambassador to the UN, Yosef Tekoah, who is president of the Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, and will visit Nablus, the largest Arab town on the West Bank and meet with its mayor.


Peres, who announced his intention to meet Jackson, was quoted today as saying: “We have met in the past with other persons holding similar views to those of Jackson. There is no reason not to do so now, especially in the wake of the deteriorating relations between Blacks and {SPAN}###{/SPAN} ws.” He reportedly said he saw no difference between meeting officially with Jackson and meeting with Rumanian President Nicolae Ceaucescu who has also met with Arafat.

Jackson, who heads “Operation PUSH,” a Chicago-based group active in the campaign for Black rights in the U. S., noted on his arrival that Blacks are a political force and should not be ignored.

Meanwhile, a delegation of Black American leaders, headed by Joseph Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, wound up a visit to the Middle East in Beirut last Friday expressing disappointment that they could not follow up their talks with PLO leaders in Lebanon by a meeting with Israeli leaders. Lowery said his request for a meeting with Begin had been rejected.

The group met for three hours with Arafat and ended the meeting by locking arms with the PLO leader and singing the anthem of the American civil rights movement, “We Shall Overcome. Lowery said Arafat promised to consider the SCLC’s appeal for non-violence.

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