The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson was arrested along with two of his children yesterday outside the South African embassy, where he kicked off the 17th week of continuing antiapartheid demonstrations there by calling for "selective patronage" or boycotts of corporations that do business with and in South Africa.

"They must choose either to do business in the U.S. and other civilized countries or in South Africa," said Jackson, who charged that U.S. firms and the U.S. government are propping up South Africa's system of white-minority rule. "We must not permit them to do business both in South Africa and in the U.S."

Jackson, unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination last summer, specifically singled out the Westinghouse Electric Corp. as a boycott target.

He accused the firm of supplying the South African government with electronic components for tanks, planes and other military equipment used against black South Africans fighting for independence.

Noting that Westinghouse is now seeking a contract in Chicago to build a "people mover" at O'Hare Airport, Jackson said he will appeal to Chicago and Illinois officials to deny the contract because of the firm's South African ties.

A spokesman for Westinghouse expressed surprise at Jackson's accusation. He said the firm's presence in South Africa is small and that Westinghouse subscribes to the Sullivan Principles committing American employers in South Africa to desegregation and equal opportunity.

Jackson and his sons, Jesse Jr., 20, and Jonathan, 19, were arrested shortly after 4:30 p.m. and charged with demonstrating within 500 feet of the embassy, a misdemeanor that the U.S. attorney has refused to prosecute. They were taken into custody after they tried to see the South African ambassador and, failing that, stood on the embassy steps in the rain, linking arms and singing "We Shall Overcome."

Jackson is a member of the Free South Africa Movement steering committee that launched the embassy protests Nov. 21, and protest organizers said he and his sons would spend the night in jail to dramatize what Jackson called their "noncooperation with evil."

Jackson's wife, Jacqueline, and his daughter, Santita, a student at Howard University, have been arrested in earlier antiapartheid demonstrations in Chicago and at the embassy, respectively.

With the arrests of Jackson and his sons, police said arrests of protesters at the embassy now total 1,422. Nationwide protests in 23 cities have pushed the overall arrest total past 2,000.

Jackson's arrest appeared to put an end to his attempts to secure a visa to travel to South Africa. The Pretoria government did grant him permission to make an eight-day visit in January, but Jackson said yesterday he let that visa expire after deciding it had been granted to divert attention from apartheid protests in the United States.

Attempts to get a new visa to travel to South Africa at the invitation of Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu have been unsuccessful, Jackson said.