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Newt Gingrich is drawing fire for arguing that Palestinians are an “invented” people. In an interview with The Jewish Channel, Gingrich said, “Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community.”
Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erakat described Gingrich’s comment as “the most racist statement I’ve ever seen.” So not only do the Palestinians want a state but now they want to be a race unto themselves, too?
Two of Mitt Romney’s surrogates also criticized Gingrich’s comments although not for their accuracy. Mary Kramer, a former Iowa State Senator who later served as Ambassador to Barbados said, “I’m not sure that statement gets us any closer to accomplishing an agenda.” Meanwhile, Iowa State Representative Renee Schulte, a co-chair of Romney’s Iowa campagin, said, “Governor Romney is much more discplined in his approach and much more thoughtful about the things he says.” Perhaps Schulte was referring to the time when Romney said the U.S. could learn about diplomacy from Hezbollah. But I digress.
The truth of the matter is that Newt Gingrich is hardly the first person to make such an assertion. In fact, shortly after she took office in 1969, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir put it far more bluntly:
There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was either southern Syria before the First World War, and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.
For his part, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has demanded that Gingrich “review history.” I agree. Let’s do that. Consider what Zahir Muhsein, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, told a Dutch newspaper back in May 1977:
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.
For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.
Gingrich’s campaign has since reaffirmed his support of the creation of a Palestinian state through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. But his campaign stands by what he said in the interview and so does Golda Meir and the PLO.
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