The current surging Republican candidate for president, Newt Gingrich, generated a firestorm of criticism today when he asserted in an interview that the Palestinians are “invented.” In answering a question about Zionism, he said:
“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire.”
This is factually true. Yet it has caused the Palestinians and their supporters around the world to bash Gingrich. In particular—not surprisingly—Palestinian “negotiators” Saeb Erekat and Hanan Ashrawi decried the former Speaker’s remarks.
Ashrawi trotted-out the usual diatribe against anyone calling Palestinian history into question: “This is certainly an invitation to further conflict rather than any contribution to peace.”
The Israel/Palestinian issue has become one of the chief flashpoints for the entire global community (hard to explain apart from biblical prophecies indicating just such a scenario, but that’s a separate subject). Each “side” has its own narrative, but Israel’s tends to be buttressed by facts.
The Palestinians tend to rely on emotional stories (“the IDF marched my family at gunpoint from their homes”), obfuscation, and outright denial of historical reality, among other things. Their long media campaign against Israel is enhanced by the fact that huge numbers of people hate Jews.
What Gingrich said is true. Why then the extreme reaction from the Palestinians and their supporters?
Because anyone who departs from the Palestinian narrative must be demonized and marginalized.
When I heard about the flap over Gingrich’s remarks, I thought about the many times that the Palestinians have gotten a pass over outrageous claims against the Jews and their history.
In the frenzied final months of Bill Clinton’s time in the Oval Office, the gifted communicator raced the clock to bring a final peace solution to the Arabs and Israelis. Incredibly—even Clinton was incredulous—PLO chieftain Yasser Arafat claimed the two Jewish temples of antiquity never stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Erekat echoed this outrageous claim, as this excerpt from a recent article in The American Interest shows:
“Most Israelis were first exposed to the Palestinian denial of history in July 2000. According to U.S. negotiator Dennis Ross, when Jerusalem was discussed during the second Camp David summit, Palestinian Authority leader Yasir Arafat asserted that ‘the Temple never existed in Jerusalem, but rather in Nablus.’ Another senior Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, asserted, the ‘Jerusalem Temple is a Jewish invention.’ President Bill Clinton was astonished: ‘Not only do all of the world’s Jews believe that the Temple was located on the Temple Mount, but most Christians believe it, too.’”
The Arab story of a distinct Palestinian Arab people springs from an agenda to marginalize Israel. And they get away with it. It was after Camp David of 2000 that the Palestinians began the attempt to literally wipe away Jewish history, starting with the Temple Mount. Truckloads of dirt and artifact-filled debris were hauled away from the Mount and unceremoniously dumped. Two mosques were constructed underneath.
I’ve been there and seen the desecration of perhaps the world’s most famous archaeological site. Newly cut paving stones, replacing the ancient ones there in biblical times, lead to underground mosques. Yet the Palestinians are allowed to get away with it; no one raises questions. However, Newt Gingrich (who knows history) makes a simple, factual statement, and he’s roundly denounced!
In the ‘90s, the official website for the Palestinian Authority cobbled together what I can only describe as a painfully thin “Palestinian history,” with the intention of convincing the world that there was once a nation of Palestine, with an indigenous population separate from the surrounding pan-Arab nation. Among the evidences displayed were pieces of Palestinian “currency,” and a few “Palestinian” dresses.
Upon close examination, the currency for “Palestine” was issued during the British Mandate, and contained characters in English, Arabic, and…Hebrew.
Oops. The currency was simply money created by the British for the region. It wasn’t currency backed by any sort of Palestinian authority, simply because there had never been one.
As for the dresses, they looked just like those sewn in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan…well, you get the picture.
After these discrepancies were pointed out, the PA took them off the website.
Newt Gingrich merely stated the fact that there has never been a distinct nation of Palestine. If there had been one, may we see the evidence?
In her 1994 autobiography, Hanan Ashrawi, a shrewd propagandist, goes to great lengths to maintain the view opposite the one Gingrich presented. In an account of an IDF raid on Birzeit University in Ramallah, Ashrawi used her gift for narrative to describe seeing through the smoke of teargas “phantoms” emerging “from the mist,” these being Palestinian students. They had decided—in the middle of an allegedly brutal attack—to break out in a “primeval dance of survival,” described by Ashrawi as “the dabke, our ancient dance/ritual.”
The dabke is certainly an ancient dance, but one practiced by the pan-Arab nation. It is not distinctly “Palestinian.”
In a 1977 interview with the Dutch newspaper, Trouw, Zohair Mohsin said:
“It is only for tactical reasons that we carefully stress our Palestinian identity, for it is in the national interest of the Arabs to encourage a separate Palestinian identity to counter Zionism: the founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the ongoing battle against Israel.”
There is a diabolical dimension to this tension between Israel and the Arabs, because in the end, someone is in large measure not telling the truth.
Erekat and Ashrawi are held in high esteem by many, yet they support the Palestinian Authority, which can deny history and get away with it.
Gingrich states an historical fact and is demonized.