Who is Ammar Campa-Najjar’s Father?

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Turkish president Suleyman Demirel (L) next to former US President Bill Clinton, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, Chelsea Clinton and  Hillary Clinton during the funeral for King Hassan II of Morocco. (Photo: Mustafa Abadan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Turkish president Suleyman Demirel (L) next to former US President Bill Clinton, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, Chelsea Clinton and  Hillary Clinton during the funeral for King Hassan II of Morocco. (Photo: Mustafa Abadan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The biggest question surrounding California’s 50th district candidate is: Who is Ammar Campa-Najjar’s father? Recently, Clarion Project ran an investigative piece on San Diego’s Arab-Mexican congressional candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar, who has been accused by his opponent Duncan Hunter of having terrorist ties. However, our piece raised more questions than it answered, namely about Campa-Najjar’s father: Yasser Mohammad Yousef al-Najjar (Yasser al-Najjar).

While no child is responsible for the actions of their parent, there is a question of how much a child is influenced by a parent. Former president Barack Obama in a run up to his presidential election campaign published his book Dreams of My Father. Other candidates and public figures have done the same (or at least had candid dialogues) in an effort to be transparent about their history.

Ammar Campa-Najjar, who worked for the Obama administration and whose candidacy is supported by Obama, is a mystery. There is almost no mention of his father other than perhaps he walked out of their lives when Ammar Campa-Najjar was 12-years-old. Since then, it seems contact with his father may have been limited and his parents estranged from one another.

Searching through Arab media, Yasser al-Najjar himself is still largely a mystery considering his son might soon be the first Mexican-Arab congressman in the United States. We know from our earlier report that Yasser al-Najjar choose to return to Palestinian territory sometime after 1994 when Yasser Arafat established the Palestinian Authority. 

A November 2005 article for Al Watan Voice announced Yasser al-Najjar‘s appointment as the Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to Norway. There he gives “peace talks” in Oslo and coordinates financial aid.

In February 2009, Palestinian-American journalist Osama Fawzi (a blatant anti-Semite) published an open letter in the Arab Times criticizing Yasser al-Najjar for corruption over a laundry list of items, including:

  • Living in the lap of luxury and asking the Norwegian government to pay for it. Yasser al-Najjar asked Norwegian authorities to pay the rent on his house in Norway at a sum of somewhere between $4,600 to $6000 a month. Meanwhile, the rent for the embassy was about half that at $2,300 per month and the total embassy budget was capped at about $10,000 per month.
  • Begging the Norwegian government for more money, claiming that authorities in Palestine are very poor and can’t afford to pay for the schooling of his American children. Fawzi claimed Yasser al-Najjar told Norwegian authorities he didn’t want his children to lose their future and cited this as a humanitarian issue. He claimed that his children’s tuition was $3,000 a month and he couldn’t afford to pay it since he hadn’t been paid his salary for eight months, during which time he’d been living off money he saved in an American bank. In exchange, Yasser al-Najjar offered Norwegian authorities greater cooperation and flexibility.

    In response, the Norwegian foreign ministry said Yasser al-Najjar’s children had the option of attending a government school for children of diplomats free of charge. However, they added, there was nothing in the law that allowed them to do more. Further, they mentioned having covered the issue of housing/living expenses before as a humanitarian need, and if he had problems in daily living expenses, they could arrange some payment [possibly through a third party organization].
  • A possible arrangement about the formation of an agreement between Norwegian immigration authorities and the Palestinian embassy to identify Palestinians coming in as being from either Gaza or the West Bank. Fawzi claimed Yassar al-Najjar controlled which Palestinians could come into Norway as asylum seekers, and criticized him for refusing dozens of requests from deserving Palestinians running away from Gaza, while accepting hundreds of requests from Palestinians coming from Dubai, America, Germany and Saudi Arabia.
  • The expenses of all of Yasser al-Najjar’s children in American schools were paid for monthly by one of the Norwegian organizations. If this claim of Fawzi is true, it certainly challenges Ammar Campa-Najjar’s narrative of a struggling, working-class upbringing.
  • Begging Mahmoud Abbas (abu Mazen), president of the Palestinian Authority after Arafat for immediate emergency funds to pay past expenses totaling approximately $30,000. Fawzi describes the plea as desperate with the threat of destitution unless funds are immediately made available.
  • Appointing his wife to be the general manager of the foreign ministry within the embassy. Her role was accompanied by a generous salary of almost $4,500 per month, even though she didn’t didn’t actually do any work or show up at the embassy, Fawzi claims.
  • Bringing a large amount of  family members to Norway, none of home were from the Palestinian territories in Israel. Fawzi says that there were more than 30 family members in Norway, adding that when a person came to the embassy, they were confused as to it was the official embassy of the Palestinian Authority or Yasser al-Najjar’s family home. All of the family members came from the UAE except for two, who came from Germany (after Germany refused their immigration requests).
  • Intervening in internal Norwegian affairs, including destroying Norwegian Palestinian immigrant communities by dividing them into groups. He then used his influence to drive a Fatah political agenda into each group using an embassy henchman named Nabil Talib. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry ended up boycotting Yassar al-Najjar by cutting off formal ties with him and instead sending lowly clerks to interact with him as needed.

Fawzi claims this accusation is supported by an annual embassy report in Oslo, which details 142 incidents of attacks on the embassy for people grieved over the behavior of Palestinian diplomats there.

Fawzi himself had a deep hatred for Israel and great reverence for Yasser Al-Najjar’s father, who was one of the Palestinian terrorists who murdered 11 Israeli athletes and a German police officer at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Elsewhere, an April 2009 article in Al Quds al-Arabi had Yassar al-Najjar denying positive relations with Israeli diplomats, saying that he has “no relations with Israeli ambassadors and that he doesn’t need these relations either.” It’s a statement that goes against Yassar al-Najjar’s previous statements in support of co-existence and peace with Israel.

The question voters in the 50th district should be asking is: What role does Campa-Najjar’s father still play in his life, and how much has he inspired his own views?



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Ran Meir

Ran Meir is Clarion Project's Arab affairs analyst and a Shillman Fellow. He can be reached at [email protected]

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