PLO Ambassador Maen Areikat came under intense criticism yesterday for comments he supposedly made in a meeting with reporters indicating that a future Palestinian state should not have any Jews in it.
What appears to have people exercised, though, is not anything Areikat said recently, but comments he made in a Tablet magazine interview a year ago, in which he said Jews who "fall under the jurisdiction of a Palestinian state" would have to be transferred.
AREIKAT: 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.
Despite the fact that Areikat described these as his personal views (and despite, or maybe because of, the fact that they resemble the views of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman), they’re still pretty troubling. Obviously, the goal of U.S. policy should be a Palestinian state where people of all faiths can live and freely practice.
In a follow-up interview with the Huffington Post’s Josh Hersh, Areikat distanced himself from the remarks. "Under no circumstances was I saying that no Jews can be in Palestine," Areikat told Hersh. "What a statement that would be for me to make! I never said that, and I never meant to say such a thing. This is not a religious conflict, and we want to establish a secular state."
The Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Al Habash told Maan News, "The Palestinian state will a be a civilized state in which all faiths will live. The attempt of media outlets to play games with statements hostile to Jews has a purely political goal. The PA and its ambassador in Washington have a clear position on the issue and do not need to play games with words."
As for the usual neocon outlets pushing the talking point that the Palestinian Authority envisions a "Judenrein" Palestine, it’s worth noting that, not only do any of these characters ever have anything critical to say about Israel’s policies of expropriation of Palestinian property and eviction of Palestinian families in places like Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, and elsewhere in the West Bank, they stood foursquare behind those policies when the Obama administration criticized them. Apparently, kicking people out of their homes and seizing their property is only bad when the Palestinians might do it in the future, not when Israelis are actually doing it right now.