By Arab News
By Linda Heard
Have you ever looked at someone in a high position only to wonder how on earth they got their job let alone managed to hold onto for so long? The Republican Party’s front-running presidential candidate is a glaring example of such a person. Newt Gingrich is a seasoned politician and former speaker of the US House of Representatives. He has authored 23 books and was named “Man of the Year’ by Time Magazine. He is also no stranger to scandal.
He was reprimanded by the House for ethics violations and ironically was having an affair with one of his staffers even as he was investigating President Bill Clinton for deception over his involvement with Monica Lewinsky. However, judging by his popularity within the US, Gingrich clearly has the luck of the Irish, his reputation unscathed.
Whatever good he may have achieved within US domestic politics pales in comparison to his recent rant during a candidate debate when he slandered the Palestinians en mass. Masquerading as someone who has “the courage to tell the truth”, he has dubbed the Palestinians as an “invented people who are, in fact, Arabs.” “Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire,” he asserted.
In fact, Palestine was referred to by Herodotus in the 5th Century BCE as “Palaestina, a land stretching from Pheonicia to Egypt while during the 2nd century CE, the word “Palestine” appeared on coins and in rabbinical writings. The Palestinians have far more claim to be a cohesive, indigenous people than most Americans. Gingrich himself is part German, English, Scottish and Irish.
To add insult to injury, Gingrich went on to characterize Palestinians as “terrorists.” “These people are terrorists,” he said. “They teach terrorism in their schools…we pay for those textbooks through our aid money.” He neglected to mention that one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter or that Israeli textbooks paint Arabs as “losers, thugs and thieves and argue for war as a means of protecting the Jewish state.”
Gingrich’s statements would be outrageous coming from the mouth of Joe Ordinary let alone a man who aspires to become the leader of the world’s wealthiest and most militarily powerful nation that takes on the role of the world’s policeman. He has attacked the very identity of millions of Palestinians on the West Bank, in Gaza, and throughout the Diaspora and has stuck a terrorist label on every single Palestinian man, woman and child. And in reward for his racist comments, he received warm applause from the audience.
Just imagine the reaction should a would-be president or prime minister anywhere in the Western world make the claim that Jews are an invented people and all Jews are terrorists! I’ll bet my home that such a lunatic would be kicked out of his party and, in some countries, might even be taken to court on the charges of anti-Semitism, defamation of character, and/or racial incitement. Indeed, Gingrich sounds more like a spokesman for British National Party (BNP) or Germany’s Neo-Nazi Party than the wannabe leader of the so-called free world. Actually, when the anti-Semitic slur is already being thrown at US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman for daring to justly criticize Israel’s policies, no imagination is needed.
Panetta simply told Israel to get back to the peace table and mend fences with Egypt, Jordan and Turkey. Clinton said she was concerned about the state of democracy in Israel in light of new laws that would gag the media and strip foreign funding from NGOs that help Palestinians as well as the segregation of females on some buses. All Gutman did was to suggest that a distinction should be made between traditional anti-Semitism “which should be condemned” and “Muslims’ hatred for Jews, stemming from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”
If there’s anything incorrect in Gutman’s message it’s that Muslims do not hate Jews whom they recognize as one of the respected “Peoples of the Book”; their anger is directed at Zionists who drove an indigenous population from their homes and have lorded over an occupied people for over 60 years using the point of a gun.
Gingrich is either so ignorant that he’s unfit for the top job or way too reckless. In one fell swoop he’s managed to alienate the entire Arab world, which, in case he hasn’t noticed, is the guardian of much of the planet’s oil reserves and controls strategic waterways linking Europe to Asia. Moreover, his remark is sheer stupidity when anti-Americanism in North Africa and the Middle East is rife.
If Republicans tilt their cap at Gingrich and he succeeds in ousting President Obama, the US will have no role in any peace process as a Gingrich White House will have lost what little credibility remains of its former “honest broker” status. Gingrich has either bought-into the propagandist Israeli narrative hook, line and sinker, or he’s deviously out to grab the Jewish and Christian Zionist vote.
Whether he’s been hopelessly indoctrinated by one side, is ignorant of historical facts or is craftily playing to Israel’s American friends, he is clearly unfit for purpose. In the event, he means what he says, he would do well to read “Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion” by Jewish author Richard Forer, who was staunchly pro-Israel and fiercely anti-Arab for most of his life until he was persuaded by a friend to undertake independent historical research. After reading a book that opened his eyes, he devoured library books on the Middle East and traveled to the West Bank to see the plight of Palestinians for himself. He always told the Palestinians he met that he was Jewish and says they didn’t bat an eyelid; on the contrary, they were warm and welcoming. It was first-hand knowledge that caused Forer to U-turn and step into Palestinian shoes.
Ignorance is one of humankind’s greatest evils but that kind of evil takes on a greater power when wielded by a person with the world’s most sophisticated nuclear-armed military at his disposal. Now that Newt Gingrich has showed his true colors, I only hope Republican America will be educated enough and wise enough to give his incendiary opinions short shrift before the Doomsday Clock is pushed forward once again.