A delegation of American blacks visited war-damaged villages in southern Lebanon today and sharply criticized Israel for using "American equipment against our Palestinian neighbors."
The members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, including Walter Fauntroy, the District of Columbia's delegate in Congress, examined shell craters and walked through the embattled coastal town of Damour south of Beirut, one of several targets of Israeli bombing raids.
Fauntroy picked up a jagged chunk of shrapnel from a 1,000-pound U.S.-MADE bomb and told a reporter from United Press International, "I intend to show this shrapnel on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives."
Throughout their tour today, the delegation heard criticism of what the Lebanese see as unjustified attacks by Israel. After leaving Lebanon, the Americans plan to visit Israel, which defends its raids as necessary to curb attacks by Palestinian guerrillas.
"Israel should not use American equipment against our Palestinian neighbors," said the Rev. Joseph Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Looking around him at the pock-marked walls and fallen houses in Damour, scene of several Israeli air raids this year, he commented, "It seems as though I am standing in the ruins of World War I or World War II."
"The picture here seems to indicate that we are paying our tax money for the destruction of another nation. It must be clear to everyone that the death and suffering cannot be separated from the bombing, and the bombing cannot be separated from American taxes," said C. T. Vivian of Atlanta, assistant and executive director of SCLC.
Back in Beirut after the trip, Fauntroy siad he would like the American people to know that "American weapons are being used in the bombing of Palestinian camps and the homes of innocent Lebanses, and it troubles me."
Fauntroy added that he hoped the United States would reemphasize "to our Israeli allies that we are unequivocally committed to the existence of Israel within secure borders, but we do not want weapons we supply for defensive purposes to be used to destroy Palestinian and Lebanese homes."
Earlier in the day, the U.S. group visited Lebanese Prime Minister Selim Hoss who told them about the "savage" Israeli raids on southern Lebanon. He said the Israelis were taking Palestinian presence here as a pretext for their many incursions.
"If there is such a presence, Israel itself was the cause of their displacement ," he added.
Sonic booms of two Israeli planes could be heard this afternoon in Beirut, and military sources confirmed that two jets flew over the region, drawing antiaircraft groundfire, the sounds of which have become familiar to people here.