WASHINGTON – 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.
|By H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY
After 44 years of Palestinian-Israeli conflict, "it would be in the best interest of the two people to be separated," PLO Ambassador Maen Areikat says.
"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."