Newt Gingrich, a candidate for the Republican presidential nominee, recently sat down with The Jewish Channel and said that the Palestinian people were “invented.”
Gringrich is far from alone in this belief. After all, the Philistines disappeared after biblical times and the modern region of Palestine was not known until the 20th century. But that a leading presidential candidate would say it has been condemned by many—to say the least. Gringrich stood by the comment at the GOP presidential debate last night. Via JTA:
“Is what I said factually correct? Yes. Is it historically true? Yes,” Gingrich said during a GOP debate Saturday night in Iowa. “We are in a situation where every day rockets are fired into Israel while the United States—the current administration—tries to pressure the Israelis into a peace process.”
“Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth,” he continued. “These people are terrorists, they teach terrorism in their schools.”
Gingrich added that “it’s fundamentally the time for somebody to have the guts to say enough lying about the Middle East.”
Regardless of whether you agree with Gingrich or not, what does his statement mean? Shmuel Rosner, my new colleague as a blogger for The Jewish Journal, has the best analysis I have seen:
Interestingly, Gingrich doesn’t rewrite history. He gets his facts right, without realizing, or explaining, that such facts don’t much matter. If the “Palestinian People” were created two thousand years ago or twenty minutes ago doesn’t matter, as long as one is convinced that they are here to stay. And as far as I can tell, they are here to stay, and Israelis are here to stay as well (as the residents of a Jewish State) and all else is just a distraction from this reality.
If Gingrich becomes President, he will have to acknowledge such a reality, no matter what he personally thinks about the “invention” of these people or others. Jordan is a colonialist invention; Iraq is not much different; Israel was established by European immigrants (with valid historical claim for the land, no doubt); there was also no such thing as Europe – a unified Europe – but now there is (for the time being); Syria has a historical claim on Lebanon that is not recognized by anyone; We can go on and on with such examples, all of them factually valid and practically useless.
Read the rest here, where Rosner goes on to ponder what good might come of Gingrich’s undiplomatic comments.
I’m not as optimistic that this moment could teach Palestinians that supporting Hamas is not earning them any friends in the West. We’ve been beating that drum for years.