Joseph Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was misquoted yesterday through an error in transmission. Lowery, defending his group's visits with Palestinian figures, said: "We consider our work commissioned and divinely mandated -- to call for nonviolence and just peace, and we shall continue."
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat told a delegation of American black civil rights leaders here tonight that his guerrillas would not stop their attacks within Israel.
The 10-member team from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference arrived in Lebanon yesterday on what they call a peace mission at the invitation of Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
At tonight's meeting in west Beirut, the Palestinian leader said, "We are not terrorists but we will not stop our struggle and confrontation inside the occupied territories."
The American delegation, lead by SCLC president Joseph Lawery and chairman Walter Fauntroy, who is also the D.C. delegate to Congress, have appealed repeatedly to the Palestinians and the Israelis to stop fighting and talk peace.
Arafat, quoted by the Palestine news agency WAFA, said Israel was pursuing a scorched earth policy in southern Lebanon with American weapons aimed at forcing Lebanon to join Middle East peace talks.
"What kind of peace is this?" he said. "A peace in which the U.S. has given 600 tanks and armored vehicles to Israel.
"How can you believe they want peace?" he asked.
Lowery told Arafat that the time had come "for you to recognize Israel."
"They have to recognize my people's cause, and not just as refugees," Arafat replied, referring to U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 that treats the Palestinian issue purely as a refugee problem.
At one point Arafat, with a pistol in his holster, locked arms with Lowery and the other black leaders and together they loudly sang the civil rights hymn "We Shall Overcome," swaying and rocking around the table.
"We are on God's side, we are on God's side today. Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome," they sang.
Earlier special correspondent Nora Boustany filed this report on the SCLC Group's activities in Beirut:
The leaders of the delegation expressed surprise that Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin had refused to see them in Jerusalem because of their plans to meet with Arafat.
Del. Fauntroy said, "I am somewhat surprised."
"The American people will find it hard -- as I do -- to understand why anyone can be opposed to our appealing to the PLO to stop killing Israeli men, women and children and to our urging to the PLO to recognize the right of Israel to exist," Fauntroy said. The delegation is meeting with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Arafat later this evening.
Lowery said, "If the leadership of Israel does not choose to hear about our peace initiative, and if it does not choose to hear our proposals for a moratorium on violence, then that responsibility is theirs."
"We consider our work commissioned and divinely mandated -- to call for violence and just peace, and we shall continue," he added.
The delegation has met with Lebanese President Elias Sarkis, Prime Minister Selim Hoss and Foreign Minister Fuad Boutros since its arrival Monday.
Today it met with Christian Phalangist leader Pierre Gemayel.
As the group left the Phalangist headquarters, an outburst of machine gunfire sent them scrambling to their cars, witnesses said, although the shooting was in downtown East Beirut.
Today Fauntroy described a PLO bombing yesterday that killed two persons in Jerusalem and injured dozens of others as "deplorable."