Black Leader Withdraws Invitation to Arafat to Visit the U.S.
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Black Leader Withdraws Invitation to Arafat to Visit the U.S.

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Walter Fauntroy, one of the prime movers among American Black leaders toward inducing the U.S. government to deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization, has announced that he has withdrawn his invitation to PLO chief Yasir Arafat to visit the U.S. and has also cancelled a series of 10 “educational forums” on the Middle East and the Palestinian question scheduled by the Southern Christian leadership Conference (SCLC).

Fountroy, who is chairman of the SCLC Board and the District of Columbia’s delegate to the House of Representatives, and Rev. Joseph Lowery, president of the SCLC, had both met with Arafat in Beirut last month and indicated that they would receive from Arafat a promise that the PLO will cease its terrorist activities. Fauntroy’s announcement yesterday followed a six-point message to the SCLC from Arafat indicating that the PLO would observe a cease-fire in south Lebanon but would engage in renewed hostilities against Israel.

The PLO statement was issued after Rev. Jesse Jackson left Beirut last Friday after an 11 day five-nation Mideast tour which included Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Before leaving Beirut, Jackson, who is the head of Operation PUSH, claimed that the PLO had “seized the initiative” by declaring a cease-fire in south Lebanon. The declaration, however, made no mention of ending terrorist activity against Israel.


Fauntroy said Arafat’s cease-fire declaration was inadequate and that it does not guarantee an end to terrorism in Israel or on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Black leader said on a local radio interview that “I intend to withhold any invitation to Mr. Arafat until there is some clear indication that he is prepared to at least respond to our initial request to a moratorium on violence everywhere, including inside the nation of Israel.”

Fauntroy also said the SCLC would not launch its education forums on the Mideast until “we get a clearer understanding of what their (PLO) intentions are in respect to the moratorium.” Regarding the Lebanon cease-fire, he added, “That for me is not adequate. It has to be a unilateral and across-the-board moratorium including acts of violence inside Israel. ” There was no immediate comment from Lowery.

Last Friday, the State Department expressed skepticism over the Lebanon cease-fire which it termed “shaky” but “holding. ” The cease-fire was in fact, in effect before Arafat’s message to Fauntroy saying the PLO would observe it. Fauntroy’s statement followed an exchange of cables between the SCLC in Atlanta and Arafat. Fauntroy considered Arafat’s first message inadequate and cabled for “clarification. ” The reply from the PLO leader that arrived last Friday indicated to Fauntroy that Israel was not included in the promised cease-fire.

Meanwhile, in Amman, Abdul-Jawad Saleh, a member of the PLO executive committee; said over the weekend that the PLO rejected proposals by Jackson calling for the freezing of its violence against Israel, recognition of Israel and joining the Camp David accords.


In a related development, the White House has confirmed that President Carter sought to have Premier Menachem Begin of Israel reverse his decision not to meet with Jackson during his visit to Israel. But the White House emphasized that Carter never engaged in discussion with Israel’s Ambassador Ephraim Evron about this. At least one news report said Carter’s request had been relayed to Evron. The Israel Embassy declined to comment.

Presidential News Secretary Jody Powell said late last week that the matter of whether Begin should meet with Jackson was discussed at the White House and with persons outside the Administration. He said the discussion was based entirely on the concern of Administration officials whether Begin’s refusal to meet Jackson might damage Israel’s relations with Americans.

Powell emphasized that Jackson’s Mideast trip was in no way related to the Administration and indicated that at least one Congressman expressed concern over the impact of Begin’s decision on Americans and Israel and that Carter agreed it was important to talk with Israelis about this.

The Congressman was not identified but it was indicated that it was a Senator closely identified with Mideast affairs. Jackson, himself, said prior to leaving Beirut that he would report to Carter about his trip and would urge the President to convene a Mideast peace conference that included Palestinians.

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