The grandson of the Palestinian terrorist who helped mastermind the Munich massacre of Israeli athletes has publicly distanced himself from his family’s violent past as he gears up for the final months of campaigning for his bid for Congress in California.
Ammar Campa-Najjar announced his candidacy in in California’s District 50 last year in the hopes of unseating the longtime Republican representative in the 2018 midterm elections. But the legacy of his grandfather, whom he never met, could be the greatest challenge to his political career.
The 28-year-old San Diego native is the grandson of Muhammad Yousef al-Najjar, a senior member of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September that murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
In an interview with Israel’s Haaretz daily this week, Campa-Najjar rejected his grandfather’s actions as “horrific,” saying there was “never justification for killing innocent civilians.”
“As an American citizen living in the 21st century, I will never be able to understand or condone the actions and motivations of my grandfather,” he told the paper.
Najjar was assassinated in Beruit by an Israeli commando force in 1973 in retaliation for the attack.
But for Campa-Najjar, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is far removed, and he says that like dealing with his family’s “heartbreaking” heritage, both sides will eventually have to make to make tough decisions.
“Like many American families, my heritage bears a heartbreaking history,” he said. “To achieve peace, Palestinians and Israelis will have to make the same personal choice I’ve had to make: leave the dark past behind so that the future shines brighter in the eyes of our children.”
After the article was published, Campa-Najjar told local news outlets that for the sake of the Israeli families of the murdered athletes, he hoped his personal story would not be manipulated for political purposes.
“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,” he told the San Diego Tribune in a statement. “I pray that purpose is to see peace prioritized by my generation of Palestinians, Israelis, and the whole of humanity.”
“Palestinians and Israelis have lost too much over the years of bloodshed, that’s why I am committed to helping broker a lasting peace in my lifetime,” he added.
In his statement, Campa-Najjar characterized the Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement as something that “neither side wants, but everyone needs.”
“Ultimately, Israel will have to acknowledge its wrongdoings as the sovereign state and accept the Palestinian’s rights to self-determination, independence, and equality,” he said. “Palestinians will have to renounce violence and fanaticism, acknowledge their Jewish neighbors and accept new realities.”
In the profile of Campa-Najjar, Haaretz noted the Democratic candidate has been praised for his approach to Israel by Jewish leaders from the San Diego area.
Rabbi Devorah Marcus told the paper that Campa-Najjar had a “generous spirit and an open heart,” while Rabbi Nadav Caine praised him for rejecting pressure to avenge his grandfather’s death, instead choosing to “restor[e] family honor by forging paths of peace.”