Running for Congress in California’s 50th district against Duncan Hunter Jr., Ammar Campa-Najjar has been described as a working-class progressive, a “Latino Arab-American,” and a “Palestinian-Mexican.”
Though he has been described and describes himself many things, “transparent” is not one of them. So it came as a shock when it was revealed that Campa-Najjar’s grandfather was Abu Yousef al-Najjar—the “leader and operational head” of Black September, a notorious Palestinian terrorist cell. Black September carried out the abduction, torture, and murder of 11 Israelis and one West German police officer at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Yousef joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1951, and later helped organize the Fatah, formerly known as the Palestinian Liberation Movement, as a deputy to Yasser Arafat. He also coordinated Fatah’s military arm, Al-’Asifah, served on the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and was a member of the Palestinian National Congress. Not exactly a small fish.
In 2014, a video surfaced of Yousef posthumously being awarded the Grand Star of Honor Medal by President Mahmoud Abbas for his martyrdom as a member of the Fatah, of which Black September was a clandestine component. Yousef was honored along with Kamal Nasser and Kamal Odwan, a leader in the PLO killed in a 1973 counterterrorism operation. Yousef, like Odwan, was a key player in the Munich massacre.
“The leader of the Palestinian State,” says the unidentified speaker in the video, “honors the martyr Mohammed Yousif Al Najar (Abu Yousif). He is honored for his efforts and willingness to sacrifice for the cause of the Palestinian state.”
Campa-Najjar tried to hide this connection, and disturbingly he then downplayed the atrocity that was the Munich massacre, saying:
For the sake of the victims, I hoped this tragedy wouldn’t be politicized. But if these old wounds must be re-opened, then I pray God gives purpose to their unspeakable pain. I pray that purpose is to see peace prioritized by my generation of Palestinians, Israelis and the whole of humanity.
In and of itself, Campa-Najjar’s family connection to Yousef al-Najjar is not damning. He didn’t ask to be born into this lineage and, in any event, the events in Munich happened well before Campa-Najjar was born. He never knew his grandfather.
But given this statement, voters in the staunchly supportive Navy town of San Diego have a right to wonder if Campa-Najjar carries any sympathy for the atrocity his grandfather committed or for the cause in the name of which it was proclaimed to have been carried out. It’s not unfair to ask the question and his “answer” (such as it is) is not satisfactory.
“Tragedy” implies that no one is to blame. It sounds so much more benign than “murder,” “atrocity,” or “massacre.” The murders in Munich, an atrocity facilitated by Campa-Najjar’s grandfather, are accurately described as a massacre. Palestinian terrorists castrated Yossef Romano, one of the Israeli victims, in front of his teammates before executing him.
Saying that innocent civilians should never be killed is not the same as specifically denouncing the Munich massacre. Does Campa-Najjar harbor sympathy for the cause his grandfather “served”? He should answer that question clearly and forthrightly.
Between the infamous grandfather and the ambitious grandson, however, there is a pronounced gap: Who is Campa-Najjar’s father?
The young Democrat seemed keen on evading this question and received aid from Californian’s old-line establishment media in dodging that question. The San Diego Union-Tribune, for example, took the unusual step of endorsing Campa-Najjar before the primaries, while labeling talk of his family history as “attacks” rooted in racism, and quoted his supporters saying that it is “ridiculous” to inquire about his family ties.
Anyone who took the trouble to locate Campa-Najjar’s father would understand why his son left him out of the story. The only clue was Campa-Najjar’s claim that his father returned to Gaza in the 1990s to “help Yasser Arafat lead a secular unity government,” ostensibly to promote “peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.” Arafat? That man presents as doing many things but none of them involve “seeking peace with Israel.”
An Envoy to Norway
In February 2013, Norwegian state-owned TV, Norsk rikskringkasting (NRK), ran a special report on anti-Semitic “hate incitement and terror glorification” by the Palestinian Authority.
The report was based on the findings of Palestine Media Watch (PMW), a Middle Eastern research institute, whose operational focus is to monitor the messages that leaders from the Palestinian Authority, Fatah, and Hamas, promulgate. Based on PMW’s research presented to the Norwegian Parliament, reporters illustrated the connection between the PA’s promotion of hatred and terror glorification and Norwegian funding of the PA to the tune of roughtly 300 million kroner per year, or $52,628,700:
[Palestinian] children grow up learning that Jews are “Satan with a tail”… Adults hear that Jews are evil and not to be trusted. It is perhaps not surprising that the [Palestinian] hatred is growing. The messenger is a [PA] government that receives large amounts [of money] from Norway.
The Palestinian ambassador who went on the record to dismiss the findings as an Israeli conspiracy of “rumors and exaggerations” was Yasser al-Najjar, son of Abu Yousef al-Najjar, and the father of Campa-Najjar. “We are present and we have experience,” said Campa-Najjar’s father in response to PMW and the Norwegian government’s findings, “praise Allah, in dealing with the counter-information spread by Israel.”
Yasser al-Najjar spun the report as proof not of Palestinians using aid money to promote anti-Semitism, but of an “incitement campaign” by Israel, the goal of which was to “stop Norwegian aid to the Palestinian people and the PA.”
Norway upgraded Palestinian diplomatic representation to the “Palestinian Mission” in 2011, and al-Najjar represented both the PLO and the Palestinian Authority. In the United States, a career ambassador is the civilian equivalent of a four-star general.
According to his LinkedIn profile, al-Najjar served in this capacity until April 2018. Did Barack Obama know this when he brought Ammar Campa-Najjar into the White House?
Al-Najjar says that he was in the room when Israeli commandos raided his father’s abode in retaliation for his role in the Munich massacre. He claims that his mother, Campa-Najjar’s grandmother, was killed when she lept in front of gunfire.
In 2016, Campa-Najjar wrote in the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Washington Post that his father “saw both his parents gunned down right in front of him when he was only 11 years old,” but failed to mention why his grandfather was killed in either column. The story of his grandfather’s involvement in the Munich massacre did not break until 2018, much to the Democratic candidate’s chagrin. It would seem, then, that Campa-Najjar was playing for sympathy while hiding relevant facts.
Following the death of his parents, Yasser al-Najjar was adopted by the king of Morocco and lived in Egypt until 1981, when he moved to San Diego.
The United States and Israel are close allies and their intelligence agencies often work in tandem. U.S. government officials and voters alike had good cause to wonder how the son of a high-profile terrorist managed to enter the United States.
Campa-Najjar has mentioned living in Gaza during his childhood, but has never explained why the family moved there from sunny San Diego. He has also claimed that his father “took off” when he was six, but a profile on Heavy.com complicates this claim: “When Campa-Najjar was nine years old, the family moved to Gaza. They spent three years living there.” The Huffington Post reports that “Campa-Najjar’s family left San Diego for Gaza when he was 9 years old,” while the Los Angeles Times reports that “when Campa-Najjar was 5, his father returned to Gaza, leaving his wife and two sons in San Diego County. Three years later, she and the boys moved to Gaza.” Still, Campa-Najjar’s own op-ed in the Washington Post confuses the claim he made with NPR: “In 1993, my father asked the family to relocate to the Middle East for a few years . . .” Did Yasser al-Najjar leave on his own? Did he take the family with him or send for them later?
What is certain is that Campa-Najjar’s father returned to Gaza and the family went with him. An NPR profile of his father from 2003 provides more illumination.
Campa-Najjar’s father told NPR that when the Palestinian Authority was created and Yasser Arafat returned to Gaza, he moved his family, including the young Campa-Najjar, known then as Ammar Yasser Najjar, to Gaza to follow Arafat. As an aside, court documents show that Campa-Najjar legally changed his name from “Ammar Yasser Najjar” to the more Latino sounding, “Ammar Joseph Campa-Najjar,” on June 12, 2018. Some have speculated that this was a move to pander to Latino voters, and to obscure his family ties to the Palestinian Authority.
According to NPR, Campa-Najjar’s father returned to Gaza because “he wanted to fulfill his father’s dream of returning to Palestine.”
The regime that Campa-Najjar’s father left the United States to serve was indicted by Amnesty International for “serious human rights abuses,” including “unlawful killings and “extrajudicial executions,” and exploited the Oslo Accords to obtain weapons, training, and consolidate political power in its war against Israel.
“I can hate the Israelis or Ehud Barak forever, you know,” al-Najjar told NPR, “and I’m entitled to—I never supported Israel and will never do it, either.” So much for “promoting peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.”
According to a Washington Post column that includes a brief profile of al-Najjar, he “is proud of his father (Campa-Najjar’s grandfather) and refuses to accept that killing [Israeli] athletes was more repugnant than the violence of Israeli occupation over the years.” Campa-Najjar’s father isn’t exactly remorseful about the Munich massacre, either.
Speaking of his father the martyr, al-Najjar went on: “We will never measure up to him and people like him. But the nature of the struggle has changed dramatically. Today it’s a worse struggle: coexistence.”
Forward to 2018, and now al-Najjar’s son, also appears in Post columns.
“Only in America can the son of a Hispanic woman from the barrio and an Arab man,” wrote Campa-Najjar in an op-ed, “from an occupied territory have the freedom to reimagine his life and pursue his dreams.” What Campa-Najjar omits is that his father left the United States to “pursue his dreams” in Gaza as a servant of the late Arafat, like Abu Yousef al-Najjar before him, in a brutal regime. Why would Campa-Najjar mislead and evade about the years he spent in Gaza with his father?
Al-Najjar, like Campa-Najjar, claims to seek peace with Israel, but Al-Najjar’s reaction to a 2009 incident is revealing.
Three years prior to the Norwegian report, al-Najjar was implicated in what appeared to be an attempt by Hamas to frame him as sympathetic to Israel. Hamas and Fatah are mortal enemies, both vying for the hearts and minds of Palestinians.
In a letter published on a pro-Hamas Arab-language site, an “ambassador al-Najjar” is presented writing sympathetically in support of Israel and the Jewish people. “Regardless of the validity of this document,” responded one pro-Hamas reader, “it is no surprise that Abbas’s ambassadors are not worthy of representing the Palestinian people.”
For this stunt, the real al-Najjar received a slew of death threats. He went on categorically to deny having authored the pro-Israel letter. Translated versions of the article are available here and here. Curiously, the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet makes no mention of Yousef’s involvement in the Munich massacre, referring to him as an “activist,” and to Israeli counterrorism operators as “an Israeli death squadron” that killed al-Najjar’s parents.
“If people believe the letter, then I can understand that they react with anger,” said Campa-Najjar’s father. “You can imagine someone who lost their children in the war, and then they will hear that one of their own is a traitor. Obviously they get angry. But it’s also not true. I never supported Israel and will never do it, either.”
Once again this raises the question: If according to al-Najjar goodwill to Israel is tantamount to treason, how then can Campa-Najjar claim his father promoted peace between Israel and Palestine?
Campa-Najjar and the Obama Administration
Of course, besides being the progeny of high-profile Palestinians, Campa-Najjar’s other claim to fame is that of having worked as an Obama administration Labor Department official. Indeed, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Campa-Najjar’s “political history is rooted in Barack Obama’s presidency.”
In 2012, one year after his father’s diplomatic mission in Norway was upgraded, Campa-Najjar served as deputy regional field director for Obama’s reelection campaign. Incidentally, Obama drew criticism that year for his apparent reluctance to endorse a moment of silence at the London Olympics on the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre.
The begrudged show of support came one month after Obama announced that he was unfreezing a $192 million aid package to the Palestinian Authority, which Congress had previously blocked after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sought U.N. recognition of Palestine.
As the Norwegians discovered, but Campa-Najjar’s father denied, aid money to Palestine ends up funding anti-Semitic propaganda or worse, subsidizing the families of terrorists.
Starting in the 1960s, the PLO has delivered payments to the families of those who have lost a member “in the fight against Israel.” This is not just payments to hapless victims in the struggle between Israel and the PLO, these payments also go to terrorists. The program effectively incentivizes terrorism by paying off the families of those killed while attacking Israelis, and families of prisoners jailed for attacking Israelis. The Palestinian Authority took over the program in 1998.
Base monthly pay to families of every Palestinian killed by Israel is $350, with an additional $100 if the person was married, and an additional $50 per child. To families of Palestinians jailed in Israel, $350 for those jailed for five years or less, $1,312 for sentences between five and 10 years, and $2,624 for those jailed 30 years or longer—with an additional $131 per month if the person is married, and $52 for each child per month.
Aid money from the United States has been found to be tied up in this payment system. Apart from releasing $194 million in Palestinian aid in 2012, Obama quietly—and over Republican protests—delivered a generous $221 million to the Palestinian Authority in the last hours of his presidency. Trump has since appropriately frozen aid to the Palestinians. Will Campa-Najjar push to thaw American taxpayer money for this purpose?
When President Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Palestinians predictably reacted with violence. Some of the Palestinians wounded in those clashes with Israelis probably found themselves at Martyr Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital, named in honor of Campa-Najjar’s grandfather.
The dust from those clashes may have settled, but many questions linger.
If the Obama Administration knew about Campa-Najjar’s background, was he taken on because of his father’s political clout in Gaza? Forget running for Congress. If today the son of a Russian ambassador to Norway, for example, was working in the White House—in any capacity—that would be the subject of a frontpage story about foreign influence in American politics.
It’s bad enough that his grandfather orchestrated the Munich massacre, but Campa-Najjar’s father feels no remorse for that atrocity, has continued to demonize Jews, and happens to have served as a high-ranking PLO-PA official. What is Campa-Najjar’s opinion of his father these days?
As far as his campaign website is concerned, Campa-Najjar may as well be the product of immaculate conception. He has left his father squarely out of the picture. Yet, here he is praising his father on social media in this Father’s Day picture in 2015.
Why is Campa-Najjar being so evasive and misleading about the relationship with his father? Did then-Ambassador al-Najjar come and go as he pleased into the United States? Or did Campa-Najjar make periodic trips to Gaza? And if the latter, for what purpose?
This is information that should have been disclosed earlier on in his congressional bid. But the Najjar clan evidently wants to keep all of this hidden—and the media are content to oblige them. Thus does democracy “die in darkness,” as the Washington Post likes to say, even as they turn off the lights. Could any Republican survive this kind of cover-up?
It is true that Campa-Najjar has rather feebly distanced himself from his grandfather, but what of his father? Campa-Najjar’s father sees his grandfather, the mastermind of the Munich massacre, as a hero and shares his anti-Semitic views. Campa-Najjar has yet to publicly denounce Yasser al-Najjar. Will he now?
Considering his familiarity with extremism, is Campa-Najjar’s instinct to denounce President Trump’s travel moratorium (for which, we should remember, Obama laid the groundwork) as “immoral” (it isn’t) and “unconstitutional” (it’s not) related to his upbringing? Do his family ties factor into his positions on issues related to the Middle East? Has his father influenced that outlook? If so, is this not a conflict of interest born of foreign influence? And don’t voters have a right to know?
Will Campa-Najjar attempt to act as a sort of Palestinian ambassador in Congress? Will he argue for the PA funding that Trump has, for good reason, denied?
Campa-Najjar calls for “country over party,” but considering the emphasis that he places on himself as a diverse “Palestinian-Mexican” and “Latino Arab,” can Americans expect him to place country over identity politics?
Why have news outlets such as NPR and the Washington Post been mute about Campa-Najjar’s relations with a hostile foreign government? They know who his father is, who his grandfather was, yet say nothing. Actually, Politico and the New York Times, too, have come to the defense of Campa-Najjar—both publications have characterized his opponent Rep. Duncan Hunter’s attacks as baseless, Islamophobic, “racist,” and “desperate.” Let’s consider this for a moment.
The Times, for example, suggests that Rep. Hunter is wrong to fear that Campa-Najjar is a potential “terrorist sympathizer and national security risk.” But based on what we know—that his father, the former Palestinian ambassador to Norway, unapologetically celebrates grandfather Najjar and is hostile to Israel, an American ally—how can the Times suggest there is no legitimacy to Hunter’s concerns?
If one is congenial toward an organization that uses terrorism to advance an agenda, is that not sympathizing with terrorists? If one has concealed (going so far as changing one’s name) a connection to a high-profile foreign dignitary, does that not warrant concern for a potential national security risk? If the media does not like these “attacks” on one of their approved candidates, they have no one to blame but themselves for not asking the questions in the first place.
Note, I’m not making any accusations—I’m simply asking the questions that the media and Campa-Najjar’s allies seem perfectly content to brush aside. Is this not peculiar in an era during which Americans are implored to check under their beds at sunset for foreign meddling? Voters might expect a candidate for Congress to disclose this sort of information, as well as not having to worry about establishment media looking the other way.
Before Campa-Najjar’s grandfather was killed, he was interviewed by L’Orient-Le Jour, a prominent Beirut newspaper. “We plant the seeds, and the others will reap the harvest,” Yousef al Najjar said. He lamented that his generation of Palestinians wouldn’t be the one to defeat the Israelis, but remained hopeful that the future promised their destruction. “Most probably we’ll all die, killed because we are confronting a fierce enemy. But the youth will replace us.”
Campa-Najjar, too, has said that he intends to “sow the seeds” of “progress” in the “soil of hope.” Revolutionary poesy runs in the family.
It is yet unknown what sort of “seed” the grandson of Yousef is. What we do know for certain is that Campa-Najjar attacks his opponent for a breach of the public trust, even as he hides critical details about himself, including intimate connections to hostile foreign governments, from American voters.
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Photo Credit: Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call