The Times editorial ("Not in the U.S. Interest," Dec. 11) critical of efforts to seek a shutdown of the Palestine Liberation Organization's offices in Washington and at the United Nations in New York misses the point in characterizing this endeavor as "a flagrant violation of First Amendment guarantees to free speech."
The State Department's bill mandating the closure does not interfere with Americans who wish to support the PLO. There is a fundamental difference between Americans distributing literature supporting the PLO and the PLO itself operating and financing an office on American soil. A terrorist organization from abroad has no inherent right to operate an office here.
You also suggest that the decision to close the PLO offices is a largely meaningless gesture because "there is nothing to stop the office from being reconstituted as a strictly American entity." Not so. True, the PLO American supporters have always had the right to run pro-PLO offices here, but such offices, unlike those closed down, will not be able to receive funds or direction from the PLO. And that makes a difference.
Rather than launching a gratuitous attack on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for its role in seeking a shutdown of the PLO offices, The Times ought to be applauding Secretary of State George Shultz, members of Congress, and American Israel Public Affairs Committee whose collective action produced this heartening step.
BETSY R. ROSENTHAL
Western States Counsel