“We have invented the Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs…..” Newt Gingrich on The Jewish Channel (Cable TV), December 12, 2011
“The Palestinian people does not exist,…only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of the Palestinian people.” Zahir Muhsein, Member of the PLO Executive Committee, 1977
The former House Speaker apparently agrees with Mr. Muhsein that Arabs living in the former Palestine Mandate territory do not constitute a separate people, but are merely a segment of the Arab people in one geographical area. He also agrees that the term “Palestinians” was invented to create an Arab state in place of the Jewish State of Israel.
The basic historical facts are not in dispute. The first time “Palestini” occurs in world literature is in the work of the Greek historian Herodotus, who wrote in the 5th century BCE. The land which is now Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Gaza was named “Syria Palestina” by Roman Emperor Hadrian about 165 CE after he crushed the Bar Kochba Revolt in Judaea. The Arab newspaper Filasteen referred to its readers as “Palestinians” around 1911, and the first Syrian-Palestinian Congress met in 1921. Residents of the Palestine Mandate (both Jewish and Arab) were referred to as Palestinians in Article 7 of the League of Nations Mandate. (Wikipedia)
The British severed the eastern part of Palestine in 1922 to form the Kingdom of Transjordan, now Jordan. In November 1947, the UN voted to partition western Palestine into a Jewish state (Israel) and an Arab state. During the ensuing war the West Bank of the Jordan River was seized by Jordan, and Gaza by Egypt, so Palestine disappeared from the maps of the world altogether. But Arabs continued to refer to all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean as Palestine, and several terrorist organizations were formed to “liberate Palestine” from the Zionists (Jews). In the course of the 1967 Six Day War Israel conquered both Gaza and the West Bank, bringing nearly 4 million Arabs under Israeli rule. Israel offered to withdraw from these territories in exchange for peace and recognition, but until 1977 no Arab nation agreed. The peace treaty with Egypt made that year left the Palestine question open to subsequent negotiation.
The Arab League had 19 years (1948 to 1967) to establish a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, but did not do so. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), formed by Yassir Arafat in 1964, explicitly denied any designs on the lands held by Egypt and Jordan; the goal was to replace Israel with an Arab state. In 1993 Arafat and PLO agreed to recognize Israel and accept Gaza and the West Bank as the “new Palestine,” but he made it clear to his fellow Arab leaders (but not to Israel or the US) that this was merely a first step toward the ultimate goal of one Arab state in the entire land. Israel assisted in setting up the Palestine Authority (PA) in Gaza and the West Bank, and offered in 2000 to establish a State of Palestine there. Arafat rejected this offer, and his successor Mahmoud Abbas rejected a similar offer in 2008. Meanwhile Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza, which was quickly taken over by the fanatical Islamist Hamas regime, which rejects any peace with Israel.
By building a fence around Gaza and the West Bank, Israel has essentially severed both lands from “Israel proper,” even though several hundred thousand Jews live in the West Bank among over two million Arabs, who call themselves “Palestinians” (even if Gingrich won’t). The US Government, under both Presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama, have sought to establish an Arab state in the two territories, much as the UN proposed back in 1947. Israel also supports the concept, but with several security caveats. Yet Israel and the PA are very far apart on issues such the future of Jerusalem, the West Bank settlements and possible rights of Palestinian Arabs to settle in Israel.
I contend that the PA dares not accept any deal to which Israel could possibly agree, so no State of Palestine will be established in the foreseeable future. Obama foolishly promised the Palestinians a state of their own in 2009, and now he cannot deliver one. Meanwhile, his carping crticism of Israel over expanding the settlements has alienated Jewish voters, who supported him overwhelmingly in 2008.
Although Newt Gingrich has repudiated the position of Republican President George W Bush, his rejection of Palestinian nationhood is politcally smart. This stance will appeal to both Jews and evangelical Christians, and the latter are important in Republican primaries and caucuses, especially in the early states of Iowa and South Carolina. If Gingrich is nominated, he will pull crucial Jewish votes away from Obama in New York and Florida.
In the unlikely event that Newt Gingrich becomes President,. at some point he will have to explain to the Palestinians and their allies in the Arab world why he does not believe they exist.