It is probably not true that Mahmoud Abbas or any other Palestinian leader said that a Palestinian state would be Judenrein -free of Jews. The origins of this fable may be lost in the mists of time. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad specifically said in 2009 that Jews would be welcome in a Palestinian state. That should have killed the story, except for two circumstances.
As a matter of practical fact, Fayyad welcome or not, there might be as many Jews in a Palestinian state as there are today in most Arab states. That is, not many at all. Lebanon, Iraq, Syria Yemen and Egypt have tiny Jewish populations or none at all. Syria has fewer Jews than Poland or Germany. Poland and Germany were declared ‘Judenrein’ many years ago by the experts, if I am not mistaken. Many Arab and Muslim states are de facto apartheid states. There are some Jews in Iran, but Iran is not an Arab state. Apartheid in South Africa was based primarily on three limitations: Non-whites could not vote, they could not marry whites, and they had to live in separate areas. In most countries of the Middle East, voting is meaningless.Bahai and Kurds and Jews can vote in Iran, but as the last elections in Iran demonstrated, the vote is meaningless Jews and other minorities live in separate quarters in every country and the Palestinian territories are no exception. A Muslim cannot convert to any other religion on pain of death, making intermarriage unequal and somewhat impractical.
Between 1948 and 1967, there were no Jewish communities in the illegally annexed Jordanian West Bank, no Jewish neighborhoods in illegally annexed and illegally settled Jordanian part of Jerusalem, and none in the Egyptian “”administered” Gaza strip. Jordan too was Judenrein. Until today, if I am not mistaken, no Jew can buy land in Jordan. One man of Jewish parentage lived in a famous house adjacent to the Dome of the Rock Mosque and overlooking the Wailing Wall. He had converted to Islam. Quite strangely, nobody protested. The penalty for land sales to Jews in the Palestinian Authority is death. If Jews get to live in a Palestinian state, they might find it difficult to buy land.
The Palestinian draft constitution establishes that Palestine will be an Arab state and that laws will be based on Sha’aria - Muslim law. There might be Jews in a Palestinian state, but there is no doubt that Palestine will be an apartheid state, even if is run by the moderate Palestinian Authority. If it is run by the Hamas, Jews and Christians, if any are left alive, will be second class citizens, dhimmi. All the indications are that Palestine will not be Judenrein. Palestine will be an apartheid state though. That’s pretty ironic considering the Israel Apartheid week held at some universities. Israel has a large Arab and Muslim population as well as other national and religious minorities. Many of them are loyal citizens of Israel and some serve in the army (see: Hisham abu Varia, an Arab Muslim IDF officer). What week in your local university will be Palestine Apartheid week?? Maybe it is time to plan one?
Matters were complicated on July 28, 2010, when ‘moderate Mahmoud Abbas gave a press conference to Arab media in Cairo. Abbas was talking about whether he would allow a NATO or international force in the Palestinian state. There are a few versions of what he said (See here and here).
There is some dispute about what he was quoted as saying, or really said, about NATO troops. The substance of what he said about who would be allowed in a Palestinian state in all versions is clear. WAFA is the official PLO news agency. According to a MEMRI translation, on July 30 WAFA reported that Abbas said: …I will not have any Israeli – even a Muslim [Israeli] – on our soil. I will not have any Israeli on my soil…” A WAFA communique dated July 28 currently at the WAFA Web site has a very similar quote:
I will not accept an Israeli, even if a Muslim, in our land, I will not accept the existence of one Israeli on the ground,
The text might have been altered since July 28, but that seems to be the quote.
Elder of Ziyyon prepared a poster based on a somewhat different version of the quote, and Fresno Zionism copied the poster and added the dialog of an imaginary interview.
The dialog is worth quoting:
FZ: Mr. Abbas, why won’t you allow Israelis to live in ‘Palestine’?
MA: Obviously because Palestine is the nation-state of the Palestinian People. That means that only Palestinians can live there.
FZ: So is Israel the nation-state of the Jewish People?
MA: No, there is no Jewish people, only a Jewish religion.
FZ: But if there were a state belonging to the Jewish People, then Palestinians couldn’t live there?
MA: There can’t be, because there isn’t a Jewish people.
FZ: But Israel today considers itself a Jewish state. And yet it allows Arabs to live there, and even vote…
MA: It’s not my job to say what Israel is. But those Arabs that you mention are Palestinians, and of course they can live there. It’s their land.
The poster has the wrong quote, so I have made my own, that you can use or adapt in your Palestine Apartheid Week.
The above dialogue is fictitious. Nobody knows what, if anything, Abbas intended by his strange words. Using the same Socratic approach, I have conducted another imaginary dialogue with Abbas:
ZI: Your Excellency Mr. Abbas, is it correct that you said that no Israelis, not even Muslim Israelis, could live in a Palestinian State??
Abbas: That is correct.
ZI: There might be some problems with that plan. For example, if no Israelis live in Palestine, how can there be an Israeli embassy in Palestine?
Abbas: Embassies are always extraterritorial. The Israeli diplomats will not live in Palestine.
ZI: But they will not all live in the embassy.
Abbas: Well then, we will make an exception for diplomats,
Abbas: They are not Israelis. They are Palestinians. Under article 12 of our draft constitution, they are all Palestinians.
ZI: Israeli Arabs are not Israeli? Does that mean they should not have any rights in Israel?
Abbas: I didn’t say that. Of course Palestinians should have equal rights in Israel. But they are welcome in Palestine.
ZI: Are you sure that you welcome all Israeli Arabs? Even the journalist Kaled abu Toameh, who writes,
The leaders of the Palestinian Authority do not want the international community to hear anything about massive abuse of human rights and intimidation of journalists that its security forces are practicing almost on a daily basis in the West Bank.
And how about Hisham abu Varia, an Arab Muslim IDF officer, will he be welcome, because he is a Palestinian?
Abbas: Of course.
ZI: Let me see if I understand. No Israeli Jews at all could live in Palestine, including those who support the Palestinian cause, such as Ilan Pappe, Gideon Levi or Amira Hass, but even Arabs and Muslims who are are not necessarily sympathetic, such as abu Toameh and abu Varia ??
Abbas: That is correct, Palestine will be a democracy. Regardless of views. We will admit anyone who is qualified.
ZI: In fact, your rule will exclude only Jews, it seems.
ZI: Disciples of Rabbi Kahaneh from Brooklyn would be welcome then??
Abbas: If they obey Palestinian law, they are welcome.
ZI: And in the new state of Palestine, will Jews be able to buy land??
Abbas: Anyone selling land to a Jew would be subject to the law.
ZI: The punishment for selling land to Jews will be death, will it not, same as now??
Abbas: Of course.
ZI: In the entire Arab world, is there any army that has a single Jew in it??
Abbas: I don’t think so.
ZI: Could a Jew serve in the Palestinian army, just as Arabs serve in the Israeli army??
Abbas: What an absurd idea!!
ZI: You object to Jewish settlement in the old city of Jerusalem.
Abbas: But that is because they are Israelis, settlers.
Abbas: Probably there were a few even in Arab east Jerusalem.
ZI: But there were no Jewish communities under Jordanian rule, were there??
Abbas: I don’t think so.
ZI: Will you allow Jewish communities in the Palestinian state??
Abbas: Of course.
ZI: So Jews from New York could settle in Hebron or Jerusalem.
Abbas: No! We will never allow settlements.
ZI: How can people live in Palestine, but at the same time they canot sette ther, what do you mean??
Abbas: Well they could not form communities or buy land.
ZI: So Jews, if they are not Israelis, could live in the state of Palestine, but they could not serve in the army or buy land?? And they could not form communities?
Abbas: That is correct. Communities might lead to settlements. Settlements might lead to occupation.
ZI: I read in the Guardian and the Washington Post that Israel is an apartheid state because it does not let Arabs live in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem, does not allow Arabs to serve in the army, and does allow Arabs to buy land.
Abbas: Of course. It is terrible. Israel is an apartheid racist state.
ZI: But none of these charges is true. Arabs can buy land and live anywhere they want in Israel, and they can serve in the IDF. Yet you put, and will put, these same restrictions on Jews in the state of Palestine. Palestine, not Israel, will have these rules. What conclusion should we draw?