The omission of a word in an article in Sunday's Washington Post incorrectly implied that Rabbi Joshua Haberman of the Washington Hebrew Congregation was offended by D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy's meetings last month with a representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Haberman said at the time that he was not offended. In the caption to a photograph accompanying that article, Ron Walters, professor of political science at Howard University, was incorrectly identified.
D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy returned from a five-day visit to Lebanon yesterday after adding further controversy to his self-proclaimed Middle East peace role by inviting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to visit the United States.
Fauntroy, chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, the group's president, said that Arafat was asked to speak at the first of 10 community "educational forums" on the Middle East that SCLC is planning to hold throughout the country.
"It would offer an opportunity for the American people to hear both sides of the conflict, to understand it and to influence our government," Lowery said of the possible visit by Arafat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The announcement, made on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, appeared likely to exacerbate tensions between Fauntroy and Jewish leaders in the city, who first became uneasy when Fauntroy and other SCLC representatives met with the PLO'S United Nations observer last month.
The Israeli government and its Jewish supporters in this country are opposed to any contact with the PLO because of its refusal to recognize the right of the state of Israel to exist.
Rabbi Joshua Haberman of the Washington Hebrew Congregation, who had said he was offended by Fauntroy's meetings at the UN, said yesterday that he feels the congressman has gone well beyond his role as the city's non-voting delegate in Congress.
"I would say to Mr. Fauntroy that he had good intentions, but one should not jump where angels fear to tread," Haberman said.
"Talking at the United Nations is all right. But to invite the head of that organization to the United States . . . makes me really wonder as to Mr. Fauntroy's judgment. I expect Mr. Fauntroy to act always in the interest of America and not just be a black leader."
Haberman said he thought the invitation would hurt relations between blacks and Jews and would not accomplish SCLC'S stated goals. "Arafat is not going to take an education," Haberman said. "He is going to fuel the flames that have been festering."
Ever since Fauntroy became involved last month in the SCLC-LED efforts to gain a dialogue among Israel, the PLO and the United States, local Jewish leaders have become uneasy. Some persons who previously contributed generously to his political campaigns, have talked of withdrawing support, according to Fauntroy.
Other critics have complained that Fauntroy's Middle East efforts could hurt the campaign to obtain full congressional voting rights for Washington and further erode a political base that some see already slipping away from Fauntroy.
Yesterday, at the close of the press conference held in the temporary quarters of his church, New Bethel Baptist, Fauntroy staunchly defended his mission.
"I am first and foremost a minister of the gospel, called to preach every day that God is our father and all men are our brothers, right here from this pulpit," Fauntroy said, "I could not be true to my highest calling if, when an opportunity to do so arose, I refused to do so.
"So let anyone who wishes run against me. Let anyone who wishes withdraw his support. It doesn't matter to me.
"If the price of having done that is that people [are upset] who are narrow and who want to protect our self-determination rights in the District of Columbia but refuse to see the right of other people who are also children of God if that is the case, then I am willing to accept it."
Fauntroy and Lowery said the trip to Lebanon was a success because Arafat had agreed to "seriously" consider an SCLC proposal for a moratorium on fighting in the area and a recognition by both sides that the other has a right to a homeland and self-determination.
The SCLC leaders expect a response from Arafat in a week. They also expect to be told soon if Arafat will accept their invitation to be a special guest speaker at the first SCLC education forum, which is likely to be held at the United Nations at a time still undetermined, Lowery said.
Fauntroy said the trip allowed the 10-person delegation to see first hand the horrors of violence in Lebanon, where many of the Palestinian refugees are living. It also permitted them to talk, Fauntroy said, "face to face and faith to faith" with Lebanese government, religious and political officials.
He said that each member of the 10-person party had paid his own expenses, but he declined to say how much the trip had cost. He said he is hoping that SCLC will be able to reimburse them.
The SCLC peace effort began after the resignation under fire of United National Ambassador Andrew Young, who also is a former executive director of SCLC. Young resigned after meeting with a PLO official despite official United States policy to have no diplomatic contact with the PLO.
In seeking to establish a PLO-Israeli dialogue, SCLC, which has been considered a moribund civil rights group since the 1968 killing of Martin Luther King Jr., is trying to accomplish a diplomatic task that has eluded diplomats for years.
Fauntroy said yesterday that, "The only leverage we have is moral leverage. The reason I feel so good about our mission is that moral leverage is beginning to take root."
Fauntroy said the group also plans to hold a worldwide day of prayer for peace in the Middle East and to meet with members of Congress, President Carter, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim.
Asked if their efforts might be considered one-sided, Lowery responded, "We'll also bring the president of Israel, if he'll come."