The Rev. Jesse Jackson conferred with Palestine liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat today and said the dialogue could establish a "beachhead" for the U.S. government to open talks with the PLO.
After a two-hour meeting with the Palestinian guerrilla chief, the black civil rights leader said continued discussions with Arafat later tonight "could well establish a beachhead for our government to see whether there is a possibility for it to assume its responsibility, which is in fact to open up talks (with the PLO) and reconcile America's several interests in the Middle East."
Jackson earlier toured the coastal town of Damour and the Palestinian refugee camps of Al Bus and Rashidiyeh to view the results of Israeli air raids and shelling by Israeli-backed Christian militiamen in south Lebanon. Jackson also was taken to see the destruction of civilian houses -- attributed to Israeli 175mm and 155mm shells -- in the Christian quarter of the predominantly Moslem port city of Tyre south of the Lebanese capital.
Wearing dark blue sweat pants, an orange T-shirt and sneakers, Jackson paused to look at damage to a church in central Tyre that was hit last August, by Israeli and Israeli-backed Christian militia shelling.
Jackson said, "There can be no peace on one side of the Jordan, but there must be justice on both sides of the Jordan River," asserting that Israel cannot live in peace as long as the Palestinians suffer from a historic injustice.
Jackson said after his meeting with Arafat that they grapplied with some critical issues dealing with Palestinian reassessment of their policies and their quest for self-determination.
He described it as a "very effective, free and serious interchange."
He said that the United States no longer should use two yardsticks to measure justice, pointing out that the United States must free itself of its policy of not talking to the PLO that "does not give it the freedom to reconcile conflicting interests and conflicting concerns."
Jackson said one of the great failures in the U.S. Middle East policy lies with the media. He said they are responsible for the "undeclared war occuring in Lebanon and on the people of the area, who are victimized as much by distorted and deleted news as by anything else."
"We must not only have a free government but a fair government, not only a free press but a fair press," he said.
Commenting on the impact the black vote might have in the 1980 U.S. elections, Jackson said that in presidential elections since 1960, with the exception of 1972, the black vote had been the "pivotal vote."
He said it was premature for the approximately 10 million registered black voters to withdraw their support from President Carter. He said it was better for them to wait, since Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) did not differ much from Carter on the critical issues.
"Black Americans are the beneficiaries of competition, and the genius of democracy is the competition for the people," Jackson said.