The right-wing blogosphere is having a field day with this one. The Daily Call started it all with a Sept. 13 piece on comments offered by the Palestinian Authority’s ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat at a breakfast briefing hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. The Call entitled its write-up “Palestinian ambassador reiterates call for a Jew-free Palestinian state.” Here’s the offending quote:
“Well, I personally still believe that as a first step we need to be totally separated, and we can contemplate these issues in the future,” he said when asked by The Daily Caller if he could imagine a Jew being elected mayor of the Palestinian city of Ramallah in a future independent Palestinian state. “But after the experience of 44 years of military occupation and all the conflict and friction, I think it will be in the best interests of the two peoples to be separated first.”
The Jerusalem Post cited the Daily Call the next day, dubbing its own write-up “Palestinian envoy to US wants Jew-free state.” The day after that, the Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (himself, ironically, a vocal advocate of “transfer” of the Palestinians from their homeland) saying, “The Palestinian Authority has adopted the German idea of Judenrein”—the Nazi policy of a “Jew-free” nation. Since then, Free Republic and its vile ilk have been recycling the whole thing ad nauseum.
Interestingly, the Christian Science Monitor‘s own coverage of the breakfast briefing did not include the quote. On the 15th, an in-depth deconstruction of the affair was provided by Foreign Policy magazine’s The Cable blog—which confirmed via a recording that the verbatim was as Daily Caller reported, but also actually got in touch with Areikat for a follow-up on the affair. Here’s what he said:
“It’s not a misquotation or out of context, it’s a total fabrication,” Areikat said in an interview today. “I never mentioned the word ‘Jews,’ I never said that Palestine has to be free of Jews.”
Areikat said that he stands by his call for “separation,” but that he intended to refer to the separation of the Israel and Palestinian peoples, not the members of the two religions. Areikat also said that the idea of “separation” is an Israeli idea and that Israeli officials including Defense Minister Ehud Barak have endorsed it.
“Israeli people includes Christians, Jews, Muslims, Druze… When I say the Israeli people, I mean everybody. This is not a religious conflict, this is not against Jews. We want to be a secular state,” Areikat said.
Areikat also portrayed Daily Caller reporter Jamie Weinstein as doggedly trying to corner him:
“This was a total set-up,” Areikat said, adding that Weinstein followed him to his car after the breakfast meeting. “He followed me to my car and asked me if I would allow homosexuals to live in Palestine. I didn’t know he was trying to implicate me. It was all premeditated.”
The Cable states that it was actually the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack who asked Areikat the question about homosexuals. (Areikat responded that “this is an issue that’s beyond my [authority],” McCormack reported.) The Cable also notes:
This is the second time in as many years that Areikat has been mired in controversy related to the future status of Jews in a Palestinian state. In an October 2010 interview with Tablet Magazine, he said, “We need to separate. We have to separate…. I’m not saying to transfer every Jew, I’m saying transfer Jews who, after an agreement with Israel, fall under the jurisdiction of a Palestinian state.”
OK, now let’s take a look at the Tablet interview, where Areikat actually was more forthright:
When you imagine a future Palestinian state, do you imagine it being a place where Jews, if they wish to become Palestinian citizens, could own property, vote in elections, and practice their religion freely?
I remember in the mid-’90s, the late [PLO official] Faisal Husseini said repeatedly “OK, if Israelis choose to stay in a future Palestinian state, they are more than welcome to do that. But under one condition: They have to respect and obey Palestinian laws, they cannot be living as Israelis. They have to respect Palestinian laws and abide by them.” When Faisal Husseini died, basically no Palestinian leader has publicly supported the notion that they can stay.
What we are saying is the following: We need to separate. We have to separate. We are in a forced marriage. We need to divorce. After we divorce, and everybody takes a period of time to recoup, rebound, whatever you want to call it, we may consider dating again.
So, you think it would be necessary to first transfer and remove every Jew—
Absolutely. No, I’m not saying to transfer every Jew, I’m saying transfer Jews who, after an agreement with Israel, fall under the jurisdiction of a Palestinian state.
Any Jew who is inside the borders of Palestine will have to leave?
Absolutely. I think this is a very necessary step, before we can allow the two states to somehow develop their separate national identities, and then maybe open up the doors for all kinds of cultural, social, political, economic exchanges, that freedom of movement of both citizens of Israelis and Palestinians from one area to another. You know you have to think of the day after.
But he was also unequivocal on recognizing Israel’s right to exist:
One hundred years of struggle over that piece of land that was called Palestine produced a lot of misconceptions and misperceptions. We witnessed the rise of national movements that were struggling to create homelands for their own people, and neither one wanted to acknowledge the presence of the other. I think of the early Zionist slogans of a land without a people for a people without a land, all the books and the papers and the statements that were made by the early Zionists and the Israelis after the creation of the state of Israel, the denial of the existence of the Palestinian people, and then later the denial by the Palestinians of the existence of the state of Israel, that they have to go back to where they came from. I remember former Prime Minister Golda Meir saying that there is no such thing as a Palestinian people in the early ’70s. I remember Palestinians saying that the only Jews in the land of Palestine are going to be Palestinian Jews. I think the bloody conflict brought leaders on both sides to their senses. We have seen at least, from the Palestinian side, since 1988, a clear acceptance of the existence of the State of Israel.
Has Areikat rethought his views?
There was a similar kerfuffle last year over comments attributed to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who supposedly said: “I will never allow a single Israeli to live among us on Palestinian land.” But the quote originated in a July 30, 2010 report on Israel National News, pseudo-news service of the newspaper Arutz Sheva, organ of the far-right of the settler movement (which we have caught in egregious distortions before). Arutz Sheva of course titled their write-up “Abbas: PA state to be Judenrein.”
Whatever Areikat and Abbas may or may not have said, the Nazi analogies are idiotic and obscene, ignoring the obvious reality that the massive colonization of Palestinian lands by Jews is the context for such sentiment. Back in 2005, after the Gaza evacuation, Israeli historian Benny Morris wrote that the fate of the West Bank would be a more “painful” question because of the Jewish people’s ancient roots in Judea and Samaria. We responded:
[R]ather than make implicit excuses for Israeli land-theft on the West Bank, we should view the de-suburbanification of Gaza as a model for the remaining Occupied Territories. As “painful” a reality as it no doubt is, the Southern California-style gated communities now perched on the West Bank’s hilltops will have to be converted back into Palestinian orchards and grazing lands if there is ever to be a just peace. (Unless, of course, Morris advocates a wholesale population transfer, and is willing to turn Tel Aviv and Haifa over to the Palestinians in return for Ramallah and Bethlehem, thus re-establishing the ancient juxtaposition of Philistia and Judea. Didn’t think so.)
Israel’s apologists are the first to get all bent out of shape at crude Zionism = Nazism analogies. You’d think they’d be a little less promiscuous with their own rhetoric. We say Godwin’s Law should be rigorously invoked to laugh all Nazi references off the stage in the Israeli-Palestinian question.
See our last post on the question of Palestine.