Thursday, July 29, 2010

Last month, Mahmoud Abbas spoke to leaders of American Jewish organizations. According to reports, at the meeting he said, "I would never deny [the] Jewish right to the land of Israel."

The reaction to this speech was surprisingly muted in the Arabic press. However, an all-star roster of Palestinian Arab intellectuals have come out squarely against Abbas' statement, pretty much admitting that they do not believe that Jews have any right to live in Israel.

Al Quds al Arabi reports:

Dozens of Palestinian activists and intellectuals signed a message to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, saying that they considered a statement attributed to him as 'a serious compromise of the collective rights of Palestinian people'.

The letter said "During a meeting of your collection with representatives of AIPAC on June 9, you said, as reported in the media, that you 'can not deny that the Jewish right to the land of Israel', a statement that you have not yet disavowed. We consider this announcement, which adopts the central principle of Zionism, a wasting of serious collective rights of the Palestinian people. It is a waiver of the right of the Palestinian citizens of Israel to live on an equal footing in their home, which stood against a backdrop of the apartheid system imposed on them for decades, and it is also a concession the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes."

The letter said 'the institution or the Palestinian leadership has never at any time before this accepted' the exclusive Jewish right to Palestine; it is contrary to the internationally recognized rights of the Palestinian people, and our right is with us as a people, which you do not have the authority to treat as you want.'

I never quite understood how these academics, allegedly so concerned over equal rights, consider Israel's definition of itself as a Jewish state as more racist and exclusionary than the self-definition of every Arab nation as either an Arab or Muslim state (most often, both.)

The signatories include Birzeit University history professor Saleh Abd al-Jawad, University of California professor George Bisharat, Omar Barghouti, who is a founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel - and yet currently attends Tel Aviv University, and Columbia University professor Joseph Massad.

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