A Further Perspective

Newt’s Bold Words on the Palestinians

Truer words have never been spoken -- so why did his spokesman back away from them?

By 12.12.11

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The Palestinians have hit a rough patch lately. Their unilateral-statehood bid at the UN has collapsed. The United States firmly opposed it, and even European powers on the Security Council were lukewarm. Both the U.S. Congress and Israel -- albeit temporarily -- have held up funding to the Palestinian Authority in protest of its antics.

The Europeans, traditionally the Palestinians' most avid backers, are now so immersed in their own economic problems that the psychological and ideological élan of Palestinian empowerment may have weakened. Meanwhile, violent upheaval has beset Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and other Arab countries -- none of it impelled in any way by the Palestinian issue. To continue claiming that this issue is the crux of the region's severe troubles -- even that it's the reason Iran is building nukes -- has been exposed as starkly delusional. The fact that the Obama administration -- as indicated by recent statements by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta -- still clings to the fantasy is one of the reasons defeating it in the 2012 elections is an imperative.

Speaking of which, Republican candidate Newt Gingrich has now made waves by calling the Palestinians an "invented" people. He said as well that "it's delusional to call it a peace process" and that both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas "represent an enormous desire to destroy Israel." And, further:

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 9 Jews are killed, how many Jews are left?" We pay for those textbooks through our aid money. Time for somebody to say enough lying about the Middle East.

Gingrich's spokesman R.C. Hammond, however, said that "Gingrich supports a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, which will necessarily include agreement between Israel and the Palestinians over the borders of a Palestinian state."

It seemed a strange brew to speak of a negotiated peace leading to statehood for an "invented," "terrorist" people out to destroy Israel. Is there any way to disentangle this?

One way could be not to put too much emphasis on the "invented" notion. As Gingrich explained: "Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire." The "Palestinian people," he said, "are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community."

All of which is true enough; while it is also true that there are Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza, in cynically sustained "refugee camps" in Syria and Lebanon, and in Jordan -- some in "camps," some outside of them -- who are called Palestinians because it's the most politically and demographically accurate term for them. Something that has been invented -- even cynically invented -- can exist.

More to the point is whether Gingrich's words on the Palestinians' goals and nature are accurate. As for Hamas, an "enormous desire to destroy Israel" is undeniable. Its charter says that "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it," and much else in the same vein. In recent days Israelis have endured yet another rocket barrage from Hamas-run Gaza.

And as for the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, this latest video showing Israel as a loathsome, existentially abhorred scorpion is only one of a constant stream of such anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, often Nazi-style incitement flowing from the allegedly moderate entity. Its leader, Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, in his UN speech last September associated what he called the "Holy Land" with the Prophet Muhammad and Jesus while obliterating any Jewish connection. A poll last July of both West Bank and Gaza Palestinians found 73 percent favoring a genocidal anti-Jewish hadith.

Teaching terrorism in schools? It's well documented, too. 

Gingrich's stark realism about the Palestinians, then, doesn't jibe with his spokesman's disclaimer. Gingrich has also pledged to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; as James Taranto points out, other presidential candidates (namely Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) have done the same without following through.

Still, even if one can't know to what extent a President Gingrich would toe the line of candidate Gingrich, his tough language on the Palestinians is unprecedented for a presidential aspirant. At a time when the perverse Palestinian hold over the Western mind may finally be weakening, that's all to the good.

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About the Author

P. David Hornik is a writer and translator in Beersheva, Israel, blogging at PDavidHornik.typepad.com.