The Washington visit of Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin drew praise and protest here yesterday from two groups of demonstrators.
About 300 people, organized by the Palestine Solidarity Committee, gathered in the morning at Dupont Circle and marched down Connecticut Avenue and across town to rally at the Capitol against Begin's visit and Israeli's recent military action in Southern Lebanon.
A few blocks away, about 600 demonstrators, organized by the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, gathered in Lafayette Park and on the sidewalk in front of the White House to welcome Begin and to show support for his Middle East policy.
The two groups never came closer than within two blocks of each other, and U.S. Park Police maintained a force in Lafayette Park to help ensure that no confrontations would take place, according to a Park Police spokesman.
The pro-Israeli group picketed in a circle on the sidewalk in front of the White House, chanting slogans against the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and carrying signs denouncing the proposed sale of U.S. arms to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The group as a whole chanted against the Palestinian organization itself, but a contingent of children was encouraged by one adult to chant for the death of PLO leader, Yasser Arafat.
"Who do we want? - Arafat; How do we want him? - Dead," the youngsters shouted.
"He hates the Jews; he wants to destroy all the Jews," David Israel, 12, of Silver Spring, said of Arafat.
Arafat's name was written in blue chalk on the sidewalk and the crowd was encouraged by one demonstration monitor to "keep walking, step on Arafat."
Bert Silber, chairman of the council's Israel committee, said his group's main purpose was to greet Begin "but there's nobody here who feels very kindly about him (Arafat)."
At the pro-Arab demonstration a few blocks away, it was Arafat who was being lauded and Begin who was being criticized.
"Down, down, down with Begin," they chanted. The signs carried by the protestors, young and old, depicted Begin as "a menace to world peace" and "the Hitler of the Middle East."
"I was born in Palestine myself, and I can see no right for someone like Begin to go to Palestine (territories)," said one Palestinian woman. She complained that Begin "was born in Poland, and he should go back where he came from."
The woman refused to reveal her name - "you don't need names" - and said the recent Palestinian raid into Israel "was nothing compared to what he (Begin) did when he was an Israeli freedom fighter."
Attracting crowds and blocking traffic, the Arab group carried Palestinian flags and waved signs protesting U.S. aid to Israel.
The pro-Arab demonstrators had wanted to rally in Lafayette Park but were diverted to Capitol Hill because the pro-Israeli group already had a police permit to rally in the park, according to a Park Police spokesman.
Both groups carried signs asking for peace in the Middle East.
Each group, however, viewed the conditions for peace differently.
The pro-Arab demonstrators asked the United States to "stop payrolling Israel slaughter of innocents," according to one sign. "No peace without full human and national rights for Palestine," read another.
The pro-Israeli group chanted "Hell no, PLO" and carried signs against any U.S. compromise with Arab countries on the Middle East question. "Arab oil is more precious than Israeli blood?" read one.