During his speech at the United Nations today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "the Jewish state of Israel will always protect the rights of all its minorities, including more than 1 million Arab citizens of Israel."
"I wish I could say the same thing about a future Palestinian state," Netanyahu continued, but, he noted, a Palestinian official recently said that a "Palestinian state won't allow any Jews in it. That it'll be Jew-free. Judenrein. That's ethnic cleansing. There are laws today in Ramallah that make the selling of land to Jews punishable by death. That's racism. And you know which laws this evokes."
Netanyahu was referring to comments made by Maen Areikat, the Palestinian Liberation Organization's chief representative to the United States. Areikat later denied, in interviews with Foreign Policy, Politico, and the Huffington Post, that he ever said any such thing. After Netanyahu referred to Areikat's comments today, Laura Rozen of Yahoo News wrote on Twitter that Netanyahu was "quoting USA Today false story on what [PLO ambassador Maen] Areikat did (not) say. Shameful." But the story wasn't false, as Areikat's own words show.
Let's take a look at Areikat's comments on this matter in chronological order. Here's what he said in a 2010 interview with Tablet magazine:
[TABLET]: 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?
[AREIKAT]: 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.
[TABLET]: So, you think it would be necessary to first transfer and remove every Jew—
[AREIKAT]: 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.
[TABLET]: Any Jew who is inside the borders of Palestine will have to leave?
[AREIKAT]: 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.
Here's what Areikat said during a September 14, 2011 breakfast meeting in Washington, D.C. in response to questions by the Daily Caller's Jamie Weinstein:
WEINSTEIN: What kind of state do you perceive the independent Palestinians to be? For instance, do you imagine that in an independent Palestinian state, a Jew could be elected mayor of Ramallah?
AREIKAT: I haven't seen the draft resolution but I can assure you the resolution will be calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. And it will definitely include also that it will live side by side in peace and security with Israel...
WEINSTIN: To my point, do you foresee in an independent Palestinian state, for instance, a member of the Jewish minority there, if they existed, being elected mayor of Ramallah?
AREIKAT: Well, you know, I personally still believe as a first step we need to be totally separated and we can contemplate these issues in the future. But after the experience of the last 44 years of military occupation and all the conflict of friction, I think it would be in the best interests of the two peoples to be separated first.
After the meeting concluded, as Areikat was heading to his car, Weinstein approached him seeking clarification:
WEINSTEIN: Could I get a quick clarification Mr. Ambassador? When I asked a question about whether a Jew could be elected mayor of Ramallah, you said there would be a period of separation. Does that mean that for a period there would be no Jews in the West Bank and Gaza?
AREIKAT: We have to be separated. We have to work on developing our own national identitities and then after that we have to cooperate together, we have to live together.
Weinstein asked again: "Would Jews be allowed in a Palestinian state?"
Areikat replied: "Listen, again, we have nothing against Jews. This is a political conflict. Once the political issues are resolved, every Palestinian should be welcomed in Israel. Every Israeli should be welcomed in Palestine. But under the current circumstances — an occupation power occupying a people against their will — this is something we are trying to end."
Other Palestinian officials have since repudiated Areikat's comments. "The future Palestinian state will be open to all its citizens, regardless of their religion," said Mahmoud Habbash, the Palestinian Authority's minister of religious affairs, according to USA Today. "We want a civil state, which in it live all the faiths, Muslim, Christian and Jews also if they agree, (and) accept to be Palestinian citizens."
But let's not pretend that that PLO's ambassador hasn't called for a Jew-free Palestinian state, when he clearly has done so on more than one occasion.
Correction: This post originally identified Laura Rozen as a writer at Politico.