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December 12, 2011

Gingrich's Comments on Palestinians Strike a Nerve


Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's comment in a Dec. 9 interview with The Jewish Channel that the Palestinians are an "invented" people has stirred outrage among elements of the media known for their sympathy for the Palestinian cause.

The portion of the interview that attracted the most attention was Gingrich's assertion,

Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire... And I think that we have invented the Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and are historically part of the Arab community, and they had the chance to go many places.

An Associated Press (AP) story carried widely labeled Gingrich's assertion "an incendiary comment that infuriated one side in the Mideast peace process."

While affirming the historical accuracy of the statement that no Palestinian state existed prior to the establishment of Israel, the AP piece contends "It was known as the British Mandate for Palestine, and Muslims, Christians and Jews living there were all referred to as Palestinians."

In fact, AP's statement is not accurate (more on this in a follow-up post).

Media sympathetic to the Palestinians has mostly responded to Gingrich's statements by trying to marginalize him, as the AP piece does, by asserting that his remarks "put him at odds not only with the international community but with all but an extremist fringe in Israel."

Typically these stories showcase comments by an "official" Jewish figure. The AP story quoted Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, who "sharply criticized Gingrich's comments as cynical attempts to curry support with Jewish voters and unhelpful to the peace process."

According to Levin, "Gingrich offered no solutions – just a can of gasoline and a match."

AP threw in Israeli writer Tom Segev, a critic of Israeli policy, who stated, "There is no intelligent person today who argues about the existence of the Palestinian people."

Segev also offered, "I don't think the Palestinians are less of a nation than the Americans."

The New York Times turned to former United States ambassador to Israel, Martin S. Indyk, a critic of the Israeli government, who said "that if Mr. Gingrich believed that Palestinians did not have a right to an independent state 'as implied in his language, then he’s not pro-Israel at all.'"

The New York Times blog went to David Harris, chief executive of the National Jewish Democratic Council, who posited,

What he’s saying is far to the right of the democratically elected Likud leadership of the State of Israel, not to mention established U.S. policy for decades... This is as clear a demonstration as one needs that he’s not ready for prime time.

Al Jazeera took it a step further. A spokesman for the American Task Force on Palestine, Hussein Ibish is quoted as stating,

"There was no Israel and no such thing as an "Israeli people" before 1948."

Ibish's line of argument is interesting considering that he is complaining about Gingrich denying Palestinian peoplehood. But this is a feature of the criticism of Israel. Critics of Israel, including Palestinians, accused Gingrich of racism, yet they argue that Jews do not deserve a sovereign state on the basis that they are not an ethnic-national group, but merely members of a religion.

The piece also contends that, "Most historians mark the start of Palestinian Arab nationalist sentiment in 1834, when Arab residents of the Palestinian region revolted against Ottoman rule."

The most vitriolic responses of all came from commenters responding to a report in The Financial Times of London. Gingrich's comments set off a surge of accusations in the paper's talkback over the supposed influence of the Jewish Lobby and alleging pseudo-scientific theories about the non-Middle Eastern ancestry of Jews. Gingrich was disparaged as "a pathetic excuse for a human being." If these commenters accurately represent the paper's readers, the FT caters to a passionately judeophobic crowd.

The Guardian cast Gingrich as irresponsible. It's lede stated,

Palestinian officials say Republican frontrunner's claim children are taught to kill in textbooks is based on Israeli propaganda.

The article quotes Zalman Shoval, Israel's former ambassador to Washington as saying

"Whether [Palestinians] existed before or not is neither here nor there. Palestinian Arabs for the last 50 or 60 years have defined themselves as a separate national unity. Their aspiration to a national unity and self-governance is the fact we should be dealing with."

A search of The Huffington Post Web site, a leading internet site of the pro-Palestinian left, generated 14 items dealing with Gingrich's comment. Commenters to these articles hurled insults and epithets at Gingrich.

Gingrich for his part defended his comments during Saturday night's Republican presidential debate from Iowa, which was sponsored by ABC News.

A CBS report quotes Gingrich:

"Is what I said factually correct? Yes. Is it historically true? Yes," he answered. "Are we 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. These people are terrorists. They teach terrorism in their schools. They have textbooks that say, if there are 13 Jews and nine Jews are killed, how many Jews are left? We pay for those textbooks through our aid money.
"Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth. These people are terrorists," he said. "It's fundamentally time for somebody to have the guts to stand up and say, `Enough lying about the Middle East.'"
“You have Abbas who says in the United Nations, ‘We do not necessarily concede Israel’s right to exist,’�? Mr. Gingrich said. “You’ve had four P.L.A. ambassadors around the world say flatly, ‘Israel does not have a right to exist.’�?

A full transcript of Gingrich's comments are available here. It is likely that in the days ahead more rancour will follow.

Posted by SS at December 12, 2011 01:02 PM


It is amazing how someone who actually has the guts to not pander to the Palestinians and speak the truth is condemned. The question is: Is Gingrich exhibiting good statesmanship and will he be able to provide the leadership that the Obama administration so obviously lacks?

Posted by: Jewess at December 13, 2011 05:22 AM

Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932. Syria was established in April, 1946. Lebanon gained independence in 1943. Jordan was recognized in September, 1922. Israel was recognized in May, 1948. There is NO recognized State of Palestine!

Posted by: Dr. Barry at December 13, 2011 12:39 PM

This article supports Gingrich's conclsions. In particular, it analyzes the fraudulent claim of existence of a "palestinian people" since 1834.

Posted by: Elliott A Green at December 13, 2011 04:06 PM

James Taranto did an item on this issue in his Wall Street Journal "Best of the Web Today" column (, including a quote from Yasser Arafat that sounds a lot like Speaker Gingrich's assessment. Arafat said in 1974: "Palestine is only a small drop in the great Arab ocean. Our nation is the Arab nation extending from the Atlantic Sea to the Red Sea and beyond".

Posted by: Michael Segal at December 14, 2011 07:34 PM

That former Israeli minister must have been a Labor party hack. The claim that pfakistinians defined themselves as a separate people for at least 60 years is demonstrably false. In 1947 the arabs opposed partition for two states west of jordan river claiming there was no pali people they were always part of south Syria politically ethnically and socially. Fast forward to 1977 and PLO minister tells the dutch newspaper Trouw that
palis were invented strategically for the genocide of Israel and to seize all land inside Israel I guess that arab terrorist didnt know what he was talking about either.

As for the claim that the palis are as legitimate a goverment/state as the USA for shame. To compare the terrorist kleptocracy of the palis to us is libel of the lowest order.

As for the claim that no state of israel existed prior to 1948 that pfaki should read the Bible the Quran Roman historians from the first century and take a visit to a few museums which have many artifacts from this nonexistent state.

Posted by: eaglewingz08 at December 15, 2011 11:16 AM

Dr. Barry erroneously stated that "Jordan was recognized in September, 1922". In fact, the semi-autonomous Emirate of Transjordan remained subject to the British Mandate for Palestine until The Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan gained its independence on May 25, 1946.

Posted by: Roger at December 15, 2011 11:34 PM

I'm glad Newt said it. It may be the only thing he has ever said that I agree with. The Holy Land belongs to Jews and Christians. Muslims have their own holy land in Arabia. It's too bad the Arab Palestinians didn't take action over the past 60 years to make a place for themselves through peace with Jews and Christians.

Posted by: Kathleen Wagar at December 16, 2011 08:29 PM

Newt is stating an obvious truth. Tell the truth about the Palestinian Arabs and the whole world jumps up and down to condemn the truth teller. Just ask why no Palestinian Arab state was created after 1948 out of the same lands that they demand today for their new Arab country. The answer from the pro Arab world will be a tap dance! All facts are irrelevant to the pro Arab supporters unless they lead to the destruction of the State of Israel.

Posted by: Ron kall at December 18, 2011 03:44 PM

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