Gingrich Comment That Palestinians Are ‘Invented People’ Enters Primary Debate – OpEd


By Annie Robbins

Things are heating up. Gingrich’s incendiary comment perpetuating the myth Palestinians are an ‘invented people’ has made it’s way into the GOP primary debate and it appears this outrageous inflammatory lie could forge a path into mainstream American discourse.

Last night after the televised debate in Iowa, David Weigel reporting in Slate referenced this myth as a “knowledge-bomb.”

“The Israelis are getting rocketed every day,” snorted Gingrich. “We’re not making life more difficult. The Obama administration is making life more difficult.” Plus, he was right on the facts. “Palestinian did not become a common term until after 1977.” That’s the sort of knowledge-bomb that Republicans dream of dropping on Obama—they feel like this is right, but here’s a candidate who can say so.

Rest assured some neocons and their supporters will continue to clench onto this argument like a dog with a cherished bone.  This morning William A. Jacobson, Associate Clinical Professor at Cornell Law School writes on his blog:

Palestinian national identity as it currently is recognized was a reaction to the creation of Israel and most prominently the 1967 war when Israel captured territory controlled by Egypt and Jordan. Newt Gingrich is under fire for stating this truth.


The importance of Gingrich’s comment was that it skewered a false historical narrative which dominates the international debate and is used for the demonization of Israel and its chief supporter, the United States.

Newt was absolutely correct to say enough already with the falsehood. If it upset the Palestinians, well too bad. It’s about time a prominent political figure in the United States didn’t just voice support for Israel but did so in a historically accurate manner which addressed the false Palestinian narrative of perpetual victimization.

Let’s take a look at at where the framing of the fight between Gingrich and Romney breaks down (PDF)

SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH: 22:07:42:00 But can– can I just say one last thing? Because I didn’t speak for the people of Israel. I spoke as a historian who’s looked at the world stage for a very long time. I’ve known Bibi since 1984. I feel quite confident an amazing number of Israelis found it nice to have an American tell the truth about the war they are in the middle of and the casualties they’re taking and the people who surround them who say, “You do not have the right to exist, and we want to destroy you.”
GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY: 22:08:04:00 I– I’ve known– I’ve– (APPLAUSE) I’ve also known Bibi Netanyahu for a long time. We worked together at– at Boston Consulting Group. And the last thing Bibi Netanyahu needs to have is not just a person who’s an historian, but somebody who is also running for president of the United States, stand up and say things that create extraordinary tumult in– in his neighborhood.
DIANE SAWYER: 22:08:29:00 Congresswoman–
GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY: 22:08:29:00 And I’m president of the United States, I will exercise sobriety, care, stability. And make sure that in a setting like this, anything I say that can affect a place with– with rockets going in, with people dying, I don’t do anything that would harm that– that process. 22:08:47:00 And therefore, before I made a statement of that nature, I’d get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say, “Would it help if I said this? What would you like me to do? Let’s work together, because we’re partners.” I’m not a bomb thrower, rhetorically or literally.

It appears ‘the debate’, is not even being framed by these two candidates as an argument over whether this ‘invented people’ myth is fact or fiction! Ron Paul dealt with it, neither Gingrich or Romney even go there.  All of a sudden it now becomes about whether it should remain unspoken or not (as if this myth/lie has already been determined as a truth for these candidates.)

And here’s Romney again doubling down with his insane foreign policy positioning of abdicating American foreign policy towards Israel . . . to Israel.  Does he really see that as a winning concept for most Americans. My head is spinning.

We’re in for a fight over Palestinian identity. Are the Democrats going to role over for the lobby on this one? That remains to be seen, but this is a fight we will win.

(Hat tip Alex Kane)

Annie Robbins is Writer-at-Large for Mondoweiss. She is a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area.


Mondoweiss is a news website devoted to covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, chiefly from a progressive Jewish perspective. Mondoweiss is maintained by Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz. Weiss lives in New York state and Horowitz lives in New York City.

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