Erekat: Boycott Settlements, not Israel

Chief PLO negotiator addresses World Union of Jewish Students in J'lem, says "The history of Jewish-Arab relations can change.”

Saeb Erekat 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Saeb Erekat 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat on Thursday told a delegation of international Jewish students that the world should boycott products of the settlements, and not Israel.
Speaking at the annual congress of the World Union of Jewish Students in Jerusalem, Erekat delivered a positive message of peace to an audience of Jewish student leaders from around the world.
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Prior to the address students expressed mixed feelings about his presence at the conference, with some opting to boycott the session.
Joshua Benjamin, a South African delegate at the congress said he was cautious of Erekat’s motives. “As pro Israel Jews we can sometimes be too dismissive of the Palestinian claim, but we are also legitimately wary of the two faced nature of some Palestinian politicians,” he said.
Most students however were eager to hear firsthand the official Palestinian line on contentious subjects such as borders, Jerusalem, boycotts and prospects for peace. During the Q&A session that followed, they challenged Erekat with tough questions relating to the current status of Israelis and Palestinians in the region, and many expressed their concern for the future of the Jewish state.
“I am not here to make propaganda, I do peace because I believe it is do-able,” said Erekat, explaining that the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is not a religious one. “My world is divided between those who are pro-peace and those who are not,” he said “I don’t think G-d is anti-peace.”
Erekat emphasized that the only chance for peace is the two state solution. “We’ve come a long way in the negotiations,” he said, “75% of Palestinians support a two state solution and we want to make peace with all of Israel. It is not just about putting everyone to their sides, we are destined to live together.
Adamant that America is not going to be the one to make peace for Israelis and Palestinians, Erekat said “the US administration can facilitate and help but only we can do this.”
“Mr Netanyahu I want to hear you utter the words “Two States on 1967 borders. Say it,” he demanded, adding that Israel should be the first country to extend such recognition. The history of Jewish-Arab relations can change,” he said.
 “We have no army, no air force, and no economy – who said life is about fairness and justice,” he asked, “we offer Israelis recognition based on the 1967 borders and are confronted with illegal settlements, the only option is two states and we want the Israeli government to recognize a Palestinian state.”
Erekat insisted that the Palestinian people recognize the social and religious fabric of Israeli society. “Israel is the state of Israel” he said, “We are not going to ask Israel to be another country, but don’t ask me to be a Zionist. I am not.”
When probed on his thoughts on the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, Erekat said “we are only boycotting products from the settlements,” adding that the official Palestinian position is that the world should boycott Israeli products and not Israel.
Another student asked for his views on captive soldier Gilad Shalit, to which he responded, “we have nothing to do with Gilad Shalit – we have no influence – Hamas threw us out of Gaza” he said, adding that he fully supports an agreement that will see the release of Gilad Shalit and the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
Concluding on a more personal note, Erekat told the students that he doesn’t want his son to be a suicide bomber. “It is not healthy to bring kids up on hatred, it corrupts and it destroys,” he said. “I want him to be like you. I give him hope because our children deserve a better life.”
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post following his address, Erekat said he would give the exact same address to a group of Arab students. “These are my positions, I can’t claim to represent anything else.”