Frontrunner-of-the-month GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich caused a stir at Saturday night’s Iowa debate when he affirmed his previous characterization of “an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and were historically part of the Arab community.”
For once, Gingrich is correct.
The label “Palestine” was used historically to refer to the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River (and beyond); the term had no political import. During the first half of the 20th century, “Palestinian” referred largely to Jews living in Palestine. The Palestine Post, for example, was printed in Hebrew and English, and in 1950 was renamed The Jerusalem Post.
The British, who controlled Palestine after WWI, divided it in two in 1923, giving 75% of the land—the area that is now Jordan—to Palestinian Arabs, and the remaining 25% to Palestinian Jews. But that wasn’t good enough to satisfy regional Arabic despots.
In 1947, the United Nations proposed a partition plan to create side-by-side Jewish and Arab states out of the 25% that was left of the original Palestine, west of the Jordan River. The Arab regimes surrounding Palestine rejected the deal; this resulted in the 1947-1948 Civil War and the creation of the Jewish state.
During the subsequent 1948 Arab-Israeli War, started against Israel one day after it declared statehood, Arab governments encouraged hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs to flee their homes in order to facilitate the onslaught of the invading armies of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen against Israelis. These regimes promised to return to Palestinian Arabs the property they had left once Israel was defeated; however, Israel won, and refugees were forced to relocate outside of Palestine.
As Gingrich noted, plenty of Muslim countries could have given Palestinian Arab refugees a state, but none did. The countries to which refugees scattered—chiefly Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan—suppressed any burgeoning sense of Palestinian identity to a far greater degree than Israel ever did.
Strangely, Palestinian Arab refugees did not protest after the Arab-Israeli war when Egypt and Jordan grabbed the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Jerusalem—the same territories that the United Nations had set aside to serve as their home state. To this day, Palestinian Arabs insist on being granted, not the territory set aside for them in 1923 in present-day Jordan, not the territory taken over in 1948 by Egypt and Jordan, but one tiny sliver of land in the Middle East that has served as a refuge for Jewish Holocaust survivors and a base for Jews to call their home state.
The “Palestinian people” was a fiction created post-WWII to facilitate the insertion of a fifth column inside Israel to demand endless, untenable land concessions and eventually encroach upon the entire Jewish state.
In an interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw in 1977, former Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Zuheir Mohsen admitted, “The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism.”
How much clearer can it get? How much more nakedly could the founders of the Palestinian strategy reveal their modus operandi?
That the Palestinian people are invented is not in question. The only question is whether they should be awarded their own state. Anyone who cares about the security of Israel, the only free nation in the region, should answer with a resounding no.
Back to Saturday’s debate: Moderator George Stephanopoulos asked Gingrich if he thought his comments were dangerous. Gingrich replied, “Is what I said factually correct? Yes. Is it historically true? Yes… [E]very day, rockets are fired into Israel… Hamas does not admit the right of Israel to exist, and says publicly, ‘Not a single Jew will remain.’ The Palestinian Authority ambassador to India said last month… ‘Israel has no right to exist.’”
He continued: “The Palestinian claim to a right of return is based on a historically false story. Somebody ought to have the courage to go all the way back to… the context in which Israel came into existence… ‘Palestinian’ did not become a common term until after 1977. This is a propaganda war in which our side refuses to engage.”
In response to Gingrich’s defense, hapless Mitt Romney floundered all over the place, claiming that, although he mostly agreed with Gingrich, it was a “mistake” to call the Palestinians an invented people (though they are), Gingrich had made it “more difficult for [Israelis] to sit down with the Palestinians” (though it’s already impossible), and Gingrich had decided to “throw incendiary words into a place which is a boiling pot” (though the situation is already hopeless).
Despite his ideological missteps, character flaws, and general unsuitability to be our nominee, I’m happy to give credit where credit is due, and in this case it goes squarely to Gingrich. As he summed up, “It is helpful to have a president of the United States with the courage to tell the truth, [like] Ronald Reagan, who went around his entire national security apparatus to call the Soviet Union an evil empire and who overruled his entire State Department in order to say, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’ Reagan believed the power of truth restated the world and reframed the world… I will tell the truth, even if it’s at the risk of causing some confusion… with the timid.”
If Gingrich doesn’t get the nomination—and he doesn’t especially deserve to—he may at least serve the same function that other unlikely nominees have served on various issues from Santorum (Iran) to Cain (taxes) to Bachmann (ObamaCare) to Perry (Social Security): namely, to push Mitt Romney to the right. Based on his comments on the Palestinians, Gingrich may even serve as a model for pressuring our nominee to speak the truth.
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- Hey, stop this dangerous candidate! He’s told the truth! – Daily Mail (dailymail.co.uk)
- Arab League condemns Gingrich’s remarks on Palestinians – BBC News (bbc.co.uk)
- Gingrich draws flak for remarks on Palestinians (thehindu.com)
- Newt Gingrich: “Invented Palestinian People” (roshpinaproject.com)
- Gingrich Stands By Controversial Comment About Palestinians (huffingtonpost.com)