Why Newt Gingrich Is Right on Palestine
What do Golda Meir, lifelong socialist and prime minister of Israel, and Newt Gingrich, lifelong conservative and current presidential candidate, have in common? The courage to tell the truth about ”Palestine.”
Gingrich stirred up a hornet’s nest last week when he remarked that “The Palestinians are an invented people.” Golda made the same point when she told the London Sunday Times on June 15, 1969 that “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people.”
What could have possessed the Prime Minister of Israel and the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives to say such a thing?
Simple: an appreciation of history. Gingrich has a Ph.D. in the subject. Golda lived it.
Golda left her home in Milwaukee in 1921 and moved to a country that had been known since biblical times as the Land of Israel. The Roman occupation forces, in 135 CE, had begun calling it “Palaestina” in the hope of snuffing out its Jewish connection. But that was never more than the equivalent of a nickname. Nobody ever created a state called “Palestine.” Even the Muslims, who conquered the region 500 years later, never considered it “Palestine.” They called it southern Syria.
The idea that there was a native “Palestinian” people in the land when Golda and other Jewish pioneers arrived in the early 1900s was laughable. The country wasn’t empty, but to say that the local Arab population was sparse is putting it mildly. Mark Twain and other visitors in the late 1800s described traveling for miles and miles through the center of the country without seeing a single person. In 1850, the area’s largest city, Jerusalem, had a population of 25,000, the majority of whom were Jews. The Arabs who lived in Palestine did not speak “Palestinian”; they spoke Arabic. Their religion, culture, and history were not “Palestinian”; they were identical to that of the surrounding Arab countries–because that’s where many of them came from.
Perhaps Newt has been reading Golda’s autobiography. “The Arab population of Palestine had doubled since the start of Jewish settlements there,” she wrote of the 1920s, when Jewish development was creating a thriving local economy. “[A]ttracted by the new opportunities, hordes of Arabs were emigrating to Palestine from Syria and other neighboring countries all through those years.” (p.149)
An Israeli magazine recently profiled a Jerusalem Arab chef, Sufian Mustafa, who is bent on demonstrating that there is a uniquely “Palestinian” cuisine. But after much blustering about his ”exclusively Palestinian” creations (“real Palestinians would never cook with such a bland ingredient as cream,” he insisted) Mustafa grudgingly acknowledged that “the Palestinian kitchen is definitely a continuation of the Greater Syrian kitchen, and bears a lot of resemblance to Lebanese, Syrian, and Jordanian cuisine.” I wonder why!
In the parlance of the 1920s-1930s-1940s, the term “Palestine” referred to the Jews, not the Arabs. The Jerusalem Post newspaper was named the Palestine Post. The United Jewish Appeal was called the United Palestine Appeal. Arab spokesmen vehemently denied that Palestine deserved to be a separate country. Philip Hitti, historian and spokesman for the Arab cause, testified to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry (a U.S.-British commission trying to resolve the Arab-Jewish conflict) in 1946: “Sir, there is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not.”
After Israel’s establishment (1948), the Arabs and their supporters began casting about for new lines of argument. In the mid-1960s one finds the first appearance of claims by Arab advocates that there was a separate, distinct “Palestinian” people with deep roots in the land. (The UN first used the term in 1970.) How can this claim be established? Simple: by inventing–yes, inventing–a history that predates the arrival of the Jews. According to Palestinian Authority spokesmen and school textbooks, the Palestinian Arabs are descendants of the Canaanites, Jebusites, Hittites and other pre-Israel tribes.
True to form, Palestinian spokesman Nabil Adu Rodeineh was all over the news yesterday, denouncing Newt Gingrich on the grounds that “the Palestinians have been in the country for thousands of years.”
Archaeologists and historians know very well that the tribes of ancient Canaan died out many centuries before Muhammad and the Muslims (precursors of today’s Palestinian Arabs) arrived in the area. There is no connection between the Canaanites and the Arabs. But when was the last time an archaeologist or historian was given time on a national television broadcast to explain that Palestinian nationalism is an invention? The answer is never–until Newt Gingrich, the first presidential candidate since Woodrow Wilson with a Ph.D. in history, came along.
Benyamin Korn is former executive editor of the Miami Jewish Tribune and the Philadelphia JewishExponent. Posted by Ted Belman @ 10:41 pm |31 Comments »
And this very informative comment by Arron Small:
Aaron Small says:
Well a unique source is that of the Australian/British Armies from World War I. They encountered some arabs, a lot of nomadic bedu, and Jewish villages. They experienced exceptionally good support from the Jewish villages, had a very difficult relationship with the Bedu (feeling that the majority were in the pay of the Turks) and nothing but bad blood, theft and murder from the Arabs (culminating in the Surafend Affair – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surafend_affair) after the murder of a New Zealand Sergeant by an arab after the end of the war.
There is no mention of some separate “Palestine” identity or “Palestinian” people in any of the literature from that period, it is merely seen as an outpost of the Turkish Empire, peopled by Jews, Bedu and Syrian/Levantine (Lebanese) Arabs. It is quite interesting just how prominent the Jewish villages are and how regularly they are mentioned. It is conceivably, based upon this first-hand evidence, possible to argue that if there was a distinctly “Palestinian” character from that period (discounting the Bedu who were given Jordan), then there is an even money chance they were Jewish.
Aside from that, and what our arab brethren would prefer to forget, is that the arabs chose to support the Turkish Empire (to the extent the shiftless sods supported anyone) in the Great War. That is the fundamental underpinning of the Balfour documents, in return for their support of the British, the Bedu received Transjordan and the Jews, for their support, would receive the rest. It is all very well to suggest that is ancient history and of no account, but the world is built on such things. What arabs there were in “Palestine” at that time, were ignored because they had chosen to back the wrong horse in the war to end all wars. As such they were ignored and what proprietary interests they may have held were nullified, as a result of that choice (they were far from the only people to lose more than they could afford in that period as a result of backing the wrong side). To suggest that they remained entitled to anything in the post war British mandate is to ignore the promises made by Balfour during the war and to withhold payment for support received (that this is precisely what happened up until the end of the mandate, does not overturn the original promise or the entitlement flowing therefrom – so let the British work out where to resettle the “Palestinian Arabs” they dispossessed).
But Newt Gingrich is by far the best Presidential Candidate that I can see at the present time. Articulate, educated, a fervent nationalist who is a strong supporter of Israel (it’s a long time since someone ticked all those boxes). He’s also had an extended period in a powerful office, if there were any major skeletons or strange habits (or if his immediate family did), they’d be out already (even longer since those ones were ticked as well), at least by a potential front-runner. His recent statements on Pakistan (a nascent danger to Israel, the only nuclear weapon equipped muslim state and one that is in the process of ostracising itself from the western world and is evidently going to play to the muslim ratbag crowd in the future) are insightful and show an apparent disregard of, independence of and contempt for, the strong pro-muslim, pro-Pakistan lobby. The world could do a LOT worse (leaving the incumbent in power for instance)