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Can the PLO Walk Back Its Judenrein Pledge?

The left-wing Think Progress blog has an item today purporting to debunk the outrage expressed here and elsewhere in the civilized world about the comments of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s ambassador to the United States, in which he stated Jews would not be welcome in an independent Palestinian state. According to Matt Duss, the dustup over Maen Areikat’s remarks is just a neocon canard and shows the hypocrisy of pro-Israel writers rather than betraying the Nazi-like predilections of Palestinian nationalism.

But Duss’ apologia for the PLO rings false for several reasons.

First of all, even though he claims these were just Areikat’s personal views, if he is a diplomat abroad his remarks are rightly interpreted as representing those who sent him.

Second, the notion evicting all Jews from a Palestinian state is a prelude to better understanding and peace is a joke, because it would set a precedent that would only feed the spirit of irredentism already a dominant force in Arab politics. Throwing the Jews out from the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem would simply whet the appetite of the Muslim world for more attacks on what was left of Israel. After all, the conflict didn’t begin in 1967, but is about the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter how small its territory.

Third, Areikat’s views are not, as could be said of the opinions of radical right Israeli settlers or even the more mainstream hard line views of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the opinions of a minority faction. Calls for the eviction of Jews not just from the West Bank but also from pre-1967 Israel are heard on a steady basis from the official Palestinian Authority media. Support for a “right of return” of the descendants of refugees into Israel is uniform among Palestinians. So, too, is the notion any Jewish presence in the country is not merely an obstacle to peace but an insult to Arab honor. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas personally promised last month to erase every Jewish community in the West Bank as well as Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. That’s why Areikat’s belated attempt to walk back his comments is blatantly insincere.

Of course it’s true (as many left-wingers, though not Duss, often point out), Israel itself has always presumed Jews would not stay in any territory evacuated in the event of a peace treaty. But that’s not because Israelis think its okay for the West Bank to be Jew-free, but because they know any Jew left behind would last as long as the greenhouses left behind in Gaza when Israel abandoned that area to the Palestinians in 2005.

Lastly, for Duss to compare a promise to evict all Jews from a Palestinian state to property disputes in Jerusalem (in which some Arabs lost court cases in which Jews held the title to the land or houses in question) is an absurdity. Whether or not you believe Palestinians who have squatted on other people’s property in Jerusalem ought not to be forced to move, to compare Israel’s record on this with a Judenrein Palestine makes no sense. Duss seems to forget Israeli Arabs have full citizenship rights, serve in the Knesset and have redress to independent courts.

What the Palestinians want is one more Arab state in which Jews are not welcome alongside an Israel where Arabs are free to live. Anyone who believes that racist and blatantly anti-Semitic concept is a reasonable solution needs to check their own moral compass before they start criticizing friends of Israel.

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