Areikat was interviewed for Tablet magazine by David Samuels and the whole thing is a must read.
Here are some of the highlights from the exchange:
[Q] OK. Now that we are sitting across the table here in New York 10 years later, under completely different circumstances, let me ask you this: Was there ever a Jewish temple in Jerusalem?
[A] I’m not a historian.
[Q] I have the reference right here from the Encyclopedia Britannica. Is it wrong?
[A] I’m not a historian. What are you trying to get to? That Jews were present then?
[Q] Were they?
[A] President Abbas in his meeting with the leaders of the American Jewish community in June said that yes, the Jews were in the Middle East, and that one-third of the Quran talks about Jews.
[Q] Are the people who say they’re Israeli Jews today related to the people who were Jews in the time of the Quran?
[A] It’s for historians to establish the link. I believe many Jews who lived at one point in that land continue to live in that land, and their descendants stayed in that land.
[Q] So, today’s Palestinians are the real Jews?
[A] Everywhere in the world, Jews follow the nationality and citizenship of the country where they live. In the United States, you have American Jews, who live in the United States. You have French Jews. And this was the original argument between us and the Jews. Why can’t you be Palestinian Jews?
This is really the standard Palestinian denial of the Jewish connection to the land, and it isn't so surprising. Earlier in the interview he vaguely acknowledges Jewish peoplehood, but his response here seems to imply that it's more logical for Jews to take other nationalities.
[Q] In our community, we’re taught that the toleration of Jews in most Muslim empires was greater than it was in Christian Europe. But we also hear that, for example, the other day the head of the Palestine National Council, Salim Zanoun, said that the Palestinian people can never recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
[A] I said it yesterday!
[Q] Why did you say that?
[A] Israel is a political establishment that claims to represent Jews all over the world. I very much doubt that Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu represent every Jew in the world. I know there are Jews who don’t agree with Netanyahu.
This argument is just plain stupid, and yet variations of it are used all the time by Israel haters. He's saying that because not all Jews agree with the politics of the current Israeli government, it therefore can't be a Jewish state. The other, and more common, variation of this argument says that because not all Jews live in Israel it can't be considered a Jewish state.
First, Israel doesn't claim to represent the political views of all Jews. It does, however, claim to serve as the place in which Jews can exercise their right to national self-determination. Most Jews agree with this.
Additionally, the fact that a large portion of the Jewish people doesn't reside in Israel says nothing of the legitimacy of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. There are many countries with large diaspora populations. It's like saying that every Mexican, Armenian, Irishman, or Italian that chooses to reside in the U.S or other countries instead of in their home nation somehow supports the idea that those countries can't be seen as the home of their people.
A little later he continues with this:
[A] We are still negotiating an end to this conflict. Let’s say that tomorrow the Palestinian leadership comes out and says, “OK, we’re ready to recognize the Jewishness of the state.” What implications would that have, immediately, on the Palestinians? You know that in our view the refugee problem is the crux of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Today we have 6.5 million registered refugees out of 10 or 10.5 million Palestinians. One out of six refugees in the world is Palestinian. By accepting Israel’s claim now, that they are a Jewish state, we are telling the Israelis: Forget about the refugees, forget about their plight, no right of return, no U.N. General Assembly resolution 194; we are giving up the refugee issue, we are taking it off the table before we even started negotiating.
Listen to the nonsense this man is spewing. Let's break his argument down to the simplest form possible.
Recognizing Israel's Jewishness = No Right of Return
Therefore logic dictates that we conclude the following:
Implementing the Right of Return = No Jewish Israel
Which leads us to the following:
Israel = A Jewish state
No Jewish state = No Israel
Why are the Palestinians allowed to make this ridiculous argument? Why are they allowed to claim that they have recognized Israel but refused to recognize its Jewish character? The logic is clear to everyone, and yet the Palestinians are allowed to spew this propaganda about Israel's Jewishness not being important. That is POINT of the whole freaking conflict!!!
There is so much more in the interview, but I feel like this post is too long already. Go read the whole thing right now.