In a striking contrast to the Rev. Jesse Jackson's visit here last month, a seven-member delegation of prominent U.S. black leaders met today with Prime Minister Menachem Begin and then tacitly endorsed Israel's settlement policy in the occupied West Bank of the Jordan River.
Led by black activist Bayard Rustin and William Pollard, civil rights chief of the AFL-CIO, the group equated the Palestine Liberation Organization with the Ku Klux Klan and terrorist organizations such as the Red Brigades and the Baader-Meinhof gang.
"The strength of our movement is in nonviolence, and we will not allow Jesse Jackson or Rev. Lowery to ruin this," Rustin said shortly after a 30 minute talk with Begin.
He was referring to separate meetings in Beirut recently that PLO chief Yasser Arafat had with Jackson, head of the Chicago-based Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) and the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
When asked about the black delegation's position on the seizure of Arab land for Jewish civilian settlement in the West Bank, Pollard replied, "We don't represent the government of the United States. We are here as friends of this country, and we have to accept his [Begin's] answer."
The official U.S. position since the 1967 war has been that the settlements are illegal and are an impediment to peace in the Middle East.
Pollard added that Begin argued forcefully that the settlements are necessary to Israel's survival and "we did not challenge him." He said the black delegates told Begin they wondered wheter the psychological impact of new settlement activity might endanger the peace process, and that the prime minister said it would not.
"We accepted his explanation in that regard," Pollard said.
Begin and Israeli President Yitzhak Navon met with the Pollard-Rustin group. Jackson was snubbed by the prime minister and every member of the Likud government.
Pollard, the official spokesman of the delegation, was reluctant to directly criticize Jackson's visit here, saying that "balcks in America are no different than Israelis -- there are all shades of opinion . . . We do not represent all blacks in America."
Rustin, however, was less reticent, saying he estimated that only 8 percent of American blacks favor the PLO over Israel, and 85 percent of politically active blacks support Israel's security needs.
In contrast, Jackson last month said America's black community was quickly turning against Israel and toward the cause of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, and that blacks might apply political and economic pressure on the U.S. government to give more attention to West Bank Arabs.
In a tour of Jerusalem yesterday, Rustin and Pollard dropped out of a walk through the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, saying they were shocked and depressed at the exhibits.
Jackson, following a similar tour through the Holocaaust museum, also expressed shock, but he angered some Israelis by noting that the Jewish people have not been alone in suffering from racism, and that the trauma of World War II should be put behind today's needs for human equality.
Begin today said that the black liberation movement has a common stand with Zionism and that "Jews" and blacks cooperate with one another and this cooperation will continue."
"Our aim is to live together with our Arab neighbors in peace and dignity, and that is why we couldn't accept certain suggestions to deal with the PLO," Begin said, in reference to Jackson's urgins that Israel negotiate with Arafat.