Wednesday, September 14, 2011

PLO ambassador says Palestinian state should be free of Jews

There's been a lot of depressing and discouraging news lately in the US - awful flooding just south of where I live in Ithaca (the flooding of Binghamton, Owego, and Candor by the Susquehanna River as a result of the torrential rains brought by hurricane Lee, leaving devastation behind), the horrible state of the American economy, the fear that the European economy is about to take a dive which will bring us down with it, Obama's decreasing popularity and the grim possibility of a Republican president being elected in 2012, not to mention the depressing news coming out of the Middle East - the storming of the Israeli embassy by a mob in Cairo, Turkey's prime minister Erdogan doing his best to stir up further hostility to Israel by threatening to escort any future flotilla to Gaza with Turkish warships, his expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Turkey, and now this disgusting statement: PLO ambassador says Palestinian state should be free of Jews.
The Palestine Liberation Organization's ambassador to the United States said Tuesday that any future Palestinian state it seeks with help from the United Nations and the United States should be free of Jews.

"After the experience of the last 44 years of military occupation and all the conflict and friction, I think it would be in the best interest of the two people to be separated," Maen Areikat, the PLO ambassador, said during a meeting with reporters sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. He was responding to a question about the rights of minorities in a Palestine of the future.

Such a state would be the first to officially prohibit Jews or any other faith since Nazi Germany, which sought a country that was judenrein, or cleansed of Jews, said Elliott Abrams, a former U.S. National Security Council official.

Israel has 1.3 million Muslims who are Israeli citizens. Jews have lived in "Judea and Samaria," the biblical name for the West Bank, for thousands of years. Areikat said the PLO seeks a secular state, but that Palestinians need separation to work on their own national identity.

The Palestinian demand is unacceptable and "a despicable form of anti-Semitism," Abrams said. A small Jewish presence in a future Palestine, up to 1% of the population, would not hurt the Palestinian identity, he said. "No civilized country would act this way," Abrams said.

Israel has often complained of anti-Semitic views in Palestinian discourse. Palestinian media frequently publishes and broadcasts anti-Semitic sermons by Islamic religious leaders, while the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV shows programming for preschoolers that extolls hatred of Jews and suicide bombings, according to a 2009 State Department human rights report.

The PLO seeks a U.N. vote on Palestinian statehood when the U.N. General Assembly meets in New York City next week. Areikat said Palestinian negotiators have been stymied in peace talks with the Israelis because of the two sides' unequal status before international legal institutions such as the U.N. and the International Criminal Court, where Israel is a full member and the Palestinians are not. The Palestinians hope the increased pressure will push the Jewish state to agree to their demands.

"We are trying to preserve the concept of a two-state solution," Areikat said. "And to make the Israelis understand there will be consequences for their actions."

The Obama administration has promised to veto the statehood bid if it reaches the U.N. Security Council. "This shortcut is not going to create a Palestinian state," U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said. "We continue to urge them and convince them that would be self-defeating."
I have supported the two-state solution since the late 1980s, when I first understood that in fact, there was a partner for peace on the Palestinian side. I heard Faisal Husseini (former PLO leader in Jerusalem, son of a distinguished Palestinian nationalist family) speak in 1988 and say that it was time for both peoples, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to give up on their dream of possessing all of Palestine, and dispossessing the other.

I oppose racism both in the United States and in Israel, in my own small way - in Israel I believe that non-Jewish citizens should be treated equally before the law in all ways (which they are not), and I consider it a betrayal of the principles of the Israeli declaration of independence that Arab citizens are not treated equally. I feel the same way in the United States about our shameful history of slavery, Jim Crow, and continued discrimination against people of color.

What, then, should my response be when the PLO ambassador to the UN says that the future Palestinian state should be empty of Jews, even of Jews who agree to live peacefully under Palestinian rule? This is racism, pure and simple. I understand that a Palestinian state would not want to contain people who are actively fighting against it, which would be true of some of the settlers who live in areas that would come under Palestinian sovereignty - but that is far different from categorically stating that no Jews could live in a state of Palestine. Imagine the worldwide protest if Israeli prime minister Netanyahu had just announced that no non-Jews would henceforth be allowed to live in the state of Israel.

The ambassador's statement also highlights the utter hypocrisy of official Palestinian statements that they will not recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Israel is supposed to recognize a Palestine where no Jews can live, yet to refrain from declaring its own national identity?


  1. "I oppose racism both in the United States and in Israel, in my own small way - in Israel I believe that non-Jewish citizens should be treated equally before the law in all ways (which they are not), and I consider it a betrayal of the principles of the Israeli declaration of independence that Arab citizens are not treated equally. I feel the same way in the United States about our shameful history of slavery, Jim Crow, and continued discrimination against people of color."

    That's strong language and, I think, wrong headed. Israel's policies are prompted by the country's circumstances. Jim Crow was part of a racist ideology. There is no similarity and to suggest otherwise is, to me, remarkable in its inability to make the most elementary factual distinctions.

    Also, what is said to you, a non-Arab, non-Muslim ought not have meant a thing to you, taken alone. Now, I favored and, were it actually possible, would still favor two states. But, I believe in facts and evidence. Were Israel to cede land, given the mob mentality which now is coming to the fore in much of Arab regions, they would be signing their own death certificate. That, not whether the Israelis ought be more equality oriented towards those who hate them, ought be your main concern. This is not a turn the cheek situation.

    N. Friedman

  2. Not all of Israel's policies are prompted by its circumstances. I'm not talking about policies towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. I'm talking about discrimination against Israeli Arabs, both by the state (less money given to Arab towns than to Jewish ones, for example) and by private individuals (for example, in hiring or housing). The first is state policy, the second is individuals or companies.

    In that sense there is some analogy with Jim Crow, although the situation of Israeli Arabs is much better than that of African Americans in the Jim Crow south - there are no equivalents to "white only" areas, etc. The state has historically given much less support to Arab towns and villages, less support to municipalities, to schools, even to such things as the paving of roads, municipal water, electricity, etc. This has been true under both right and left wing governments, and attempts to improve the situation have come from both right and left wing governments. Most Israeli Arabs also cannot get jobs that require security clearances, since they haven't served in the army (which they are exempt from serving in). It's a complicated situation, but the Israeli government is not free of responsibility for it.

    I was trying to contrast what I think is the *better* attitude towards Israeli Arabs, even by right-wing governments, in Israel, than the entirely negative attitude towards Jews expressed by the PLO Ambassador (presumably on behalf of the PA). I was trying to *praise* Israel in comparison with an official Palestinian statement.

  3. Rebecca,

    I recognize what you were trying to do. However, the comparison is, even with your explanation, absurd. Again, Israel is at war - and has always been at war - for its survival. Such war impacts on how the country's leaders deal with those among the country's population with roots and sympathies connected with those who oppose the country's existence. Not to recognize that and, instead, to think that Israel, within the Green line, is a country at peace where peace time analysis ought rationally apply, is, to me, bizarre.

    I also realize your views are heartfelt and that you want peace. So do I. However, I believe in looking at the world as it is, not only as I would like it to be. In the world that is, there are no magic bullets. There is no formula at all here that leads to peace. Maybe, in the aftermath of the Six Day War, when Israel had the upper hand, the Israelis might have created their own peace, by establishing a state for the areas Arabs. Maybe. But, to act like the situation faced by Israel is from strength, where there is peace at home and the problem is the "occupation" is, I think, naive.

    I strongly recommend you read Benny Morris's most recent article, at , which, if he is correct, your points are irrelevant.

    Of course, lastly, I agree with you that the Judenrein views expressed by the PLO rep is vile. But, his view is, in fact, typical. And, if the polling is to be believed, it is the dominant view. So, your retrospective view that the Palestinians have walked away from more peaceful intentions is contradicted by the reality that the views you heard, if they were not mere deception, were the views of a distinct minority and not typical.

  4. Maen Areikat might want to get together with Avigdor Lieberman and issue a joint plan.

    Am I misunderstanding that they have more or less similar views?