Here are a few quotations from a recent interview with presidential candidate Newt Gingrich:
I believe that if somebody is firing rockets at you, they are probably not engaged in the peace process. I believe if somebody goes around and says you don’t have a right to exist, they’re probably not prepared to negotiate for peace. I think if someone says they wanna wipe you out, you should believe them.
I think we’re much more likely to see an Arab winter, than we are to see an Arab Spring. The fact is that when people point out that of the 1,200,000 Christians who were in Iraq when we arrived, 700,000 have fled the country. That doesn’t strike me as a success. When you know that Coptic Christians who have been in Egypt for 2,100 years are now being persecuted and having their churches burned, that doesn’t strike me as a success. I think the Israeli Defense Minister said the other day that he’s very concerned about the Muslim Brotherhood’s success in this recent election.
Remember, I think 15% of the seats went to people who are more extreme than the Muslim Brotherhood…
So, I think there’s a lot to be concerned about, and whether or not the Arab world is going to evolve now in a very negative, probably very destructive, way.
…you have Abbas who says in the United Nations, “We do not necessarily concede Israel’s right to exist.” You’ve had four PLA ambassadors around the world say flatly, “Israel does not have a right to exist.” In late November in India, the PLA ambassador said “Anybody who thinks there is a big gap between Hamas and Fatah is kidding themselves.” You know, and so you have to start with this question “Who are you making peace with?”
I believe that the Jewish people have the right to have a state, and I believe that the commitments that were made at a time…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. And they had a chance to go many places. And for a variety of political reasons we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940’s, and I think it’s tragic.
Well, I think it’s delusional to call [the Oslo process] a peace process. I mean, we have an armed truce with a Palestinian Authority that’s relatively weak. And on its flank is a Hamas authority which may become relatively weak, because it can’t deliver anything. But both of which represent an enormous desire to destroy Israel. And I think unless you start with…and frankly, given their school system and the hatred they teach in their schools, often with money that comes from us through the United Nations, I mean I think there’s a lot to think about in terms of how fundamentally you want to change the terms of debate in the region.
Say what you will about Gingrich as a viable candidate, but you cannot say that he doesn’t understand the Middle East and particularly the Israeli-Arab conflict.
The quote about the “invented Palestinian people” has stirred up the expected hornet’s nest. For example, Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad called his remark “cheap and disgraceful”:
Responding to the statements of Gingrich, Dr. Fayyad stated that “the Palestinian people inhibited [sic] the land since the dawn of history, and intend to remain in it until the end times”, and added that “people like Gingrich must consult history as it seems that all what he knows about the region is the history of the Ottoman era”. — IMEMC
Perhaps Gingrich’s tone was insulting, but historically he was not incorrect. Ridiculous Palestinian claims that they are descended from ancient Canaanites notwithstanding, most of the ancestors of the present-day ‘Palestinians’ arrived in the region along with or after the expedition of the Ottoman governor of Egypt Muhammad Ali into Syria in the early 1830′s. Rebellions and famines in Syria brought waves of Arabs into Palestine in the 19th and 20th centuries. And of course British and Zionist development brought even more Arab immigrants.
While Palestinian Arabs were mostly united in their opposition to Jewish immigration (although there were exceptions), specifically Palestinian nationalism probably did not exist before the first decades of the 20th century; interestingly, at first most nationalists were Christians rather than Muslims. Arab inhabitants of Palestine often insisted that the area was actually ‘southern Syria’, and identified as ‘Arabs’ and not Palestinians.
This changed with the founding of the PLO in 1964. Arab residents of the former Palestine Mandate became the ‘Palestinian people’. And in truth, the regional wars and terrorism, their indoctrination by every means possible into a culture based on one main principle, hatred of Jews and Israel, their incarceration by the Arab nations and the UN in ‘refugee camps’ where they are bred like farm animals in order to incarnate a weapon of mass destruction for use against the Jewish people — all this has finally made them a people. What kind of people is another question.
Nevertheless, it is Fayyad who is ignorant of history, not Gingrich.