1970: “A negative image of Yasser Arafat”

Photographer Jeff Blankfort remembers Sheila having private criticisms about the leadership of the P.L.O. that she was reluctant to share:

Re the Palestinian question, on my first trip to the Middle East in 1970 with the two founders of Liberation News Service, Sheila Ryan and George Cavelleto, we generally had a negative image of Yasser Arafat, but felt, at the time, that it was not our business to be deciding who should lead the Palestinian people, particularly when most Americans knew little about the Palestinians in the first place.

He later felt that Sheila’s Palestine Solidarity Committee was too closely aligned with the P.L.O.

When I returned, I focused on support for the Palestinian people’s rights as opposed to support for the PLO, but was ready to and did work with representatives of all the Palestinian groups in the Bay Area.

When Steve Zeltzer and I founded the Labor Committee on the Middle East, in response to the failure of the Palestine Solidarity Committee to relate to that important issue, and its unwillingness to criticize the Histadrut (the Israeli Labor Federation) among a number of its failings, and became, despite our relatively small numbers, the most active group campaigning for Palestinian rights, we still maintained our distance from Arafat.

— From a posting to the change-links mailing list by Jeff Blankfort, Nov 28, 2000, archived at Yahoo Groups.

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