Did Maen Areikat Call for a Jew-Free Palestinian State?

Did the chief Palestinian representative to the United States say a future Palestinian state should be empty of Jews?

According to USA Today, Maen Areikat, sometimes described as the Palestinian ambassador to the US, did indeed call for the separation of Jews from non-Jews — or maybe did not.

In a September 14 story, USA Today reporter Oren Dorell noted that

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.

But a clarification appended to the article asserts:

In the headline and story, Palestinian Ambassador Maen Areikat says he was referring to Israelis, not Jews, when he stated that “it would be in the best interest of the two people to be separated first.”

And a story by the same reporter published the following day relays a denial by Areikat:

Areikat later told other online media outlets that he never meant that Jews would not be allowed in a future state. “I never said that, and I never meant to say such a thing,” he told The Huffington Post. Areikat declined to comment further to USA Today.

Yahoo News reporter Laura Rozen took to Twitter to call the USA Today report a “false story,” and said it was “shameful” for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mention, in his speech before the UN General Assembly, Areikat’s assertion.
USA Today‘s clarification and follow up piece apparently were results of pressure placed on the newspaper by Areikat. Politico reports that the Palestinian representative “slammed” USA Today for supposedly lying about what he said.

“What happened there was a total fabrication,” Areikat told POLITICO. “Unfortunately, I believe it was malicious…It was a set-up to try to say something on my behalf I didn’t even say I did not mention the word Jews in my answer. I did not allude to that at all…We have never said this is a religious conflict. It’s not in anybody’s interest to make.It was clear they wanted to frame a question in a way to come up with that conclusion.…..What you read in USA Today is their own conclusion and not what I said. It was [so] inflammatory that I’m pursuing the matter with USA Today. I am seeking a meeting with their editor to see if we could manage to somehow reverse the story.

Areikat might not have mentioned the word “Jews,” but his controversial remarks came in direct response to a query about the status of a “Jewish minority” in a future state of Palestine.
Here is the actual audio of that segment of the interview:

The questioner asks in his follow up, “To my point, do you foresee an independent Palestinian state for instance, having a minority of — a Jewish minority, if they exist there, being elected mayor of Ramallah?

In response, Areikat says,

I personally still believe that 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 and friction I think it would be in the best interests of the two peoples to be separated at first.

In other words, there was no malicious fabrication on the part of USA Today, whose story correctly captured the essence of the question and answer. At worst, it could be argued that the headline to the Sept. 14 piece, “PLO ambassador says Palestinian state should be free of Jews,” could have been more specific. (“PLO ambassador says Palestinian state should indefinitely be free of Jews.”)

Politico also pointed out that Areikat, in an interview published in Tablet magazine last year, said any Jew within the borders of Palestine should “absolutely” be required to leave.

David Samuels: Any Jew who is inside the borders of Palestine will have to leave?

Maen 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.

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