PLO Ambassador to Washington Maen Areikat drew unwanted attention by suggesting earlier this week that a new Palestinian state would be Jew-free.
Asked about the rights of minorities in a future Palestinian state, Areikat told reporters Tuesday that Palestinians and Jews should be "totally separated" in a new Palestinian state. After decades of conflict and friction, "I think it would be in the best interest of the two peoples to be separated," he told reporters in the Nation's Capitol.
At a House hearing Wednesday, former presidential advisor Elliott Abrams called Areikat's remarks "a despicable form of anti-Semitism" and told lawmakers that the PLO office should be closed if the group continues trying to circumvent negotiations with Israel by getting the United Nations to declare Palestinian statehood.
Areikat later denied calling for a Palestinian state without Jews and said his remarks had been taken out of context. But Tuesday's comments were not the first time he had stirred controversy with comments about Israelis and Jews.
In August 2010, Areikat protested Yale University's decision to include three Israelis at a conference entitled "Global Anti-Semitism: A Crisis of Modernity" because he does not like their work. Areikat wrote to Yale President Richard Levin expressing "deep dismay" over the speakers and topics discussed at the conference.
He complained that it featured seminars led by "right wing extremists" and suspect individuals including "retired Israeli army officer Jonathan Fighel" and Anne Herzberg of NGO Monitor, an organization that tracks nongovernmental groups seeking to delegitimize Israel and other democratic states.
But Areikat saved his harshest criticism for Yale's decision to permit "an Israeli settler named Itamar Marcus" to speak. Marcus, he said, "has spent much of his life attempting to 'prove' that Palestinians are unwilling or unable to make peace, thereby justifying Israel's continued military occupation of Palestinian lands."
What apparently upset Areikat was Marcus' work as director of Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli research organization that documents anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement in the Palestinian Authority media like this, this, and this.
Areikat apparently believes that people like Marcus who document anti-Semitism are dangerous because their findings encourage anti-Semitism against Arabs.
"It's shocking that a respected institution like Yale would give a platform to these right-wing extremists and their odious views," he wrote, "and it is deeply ironic that a conference on antisemitism that is ostensibly intended to combat hatred and discrimination against Semites would demonize Arabs – who are Semites themselves."