By William A. Cook
‘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…’ — (Newt Gingrich, Fox News. December 10, 2011)
Many “Newts” produce toxins, the rough skinned Taricha, for example, produces enough to kill an adult human, and while all “Newts” go through a metamorphosis from tadpole to lizard, few expected that metamorphosis to reach human form in the person of the front running Republican candidate for President, Newt Gingrich. This Newt avoided the Vietnam War draft while studying for his degrees, then accepted a position as an historian and geographer at West Georgia College, a position he lost when his colleagues denied him tenure. A resourceful man, Newt ran for a congressional seat numerous times before capturing the 6th Georgia district seat in 1979, when the incumbent retired. He resigned his position in 1998 following disciplinary action by his colleagues for 84 ethics violations, having served as House Speaker from 1995 to 1999. Today he’s back, metamorphosed into a presidential candidate willing to spread lies about a people who have lived for 63 years under the brutal occupation of the Israeli military.
Consider his statement to the people of Israel on Jewish Television this past week quoted above. “Remember there was no Palestine as a state.” Omitted was the second part of that statement if the first was to have relevance: “Remember there was no Jewish state.” What existed was a Mandate Government under the control of the United Kingdom that governed this area beginning in 1922 through the authority of the League of Nations following the demise of the Ottoman Empire and later under the continued authority of the United Nations. During the Mandate period, from 1922 to May 15, 1948, the British government attempted to meet its obligations as enunciated in the Balfour Declaration to help in the “establishment of a national home for the Jewish people.” The Command Paper 1922, from the Avalon Project at Yale Law School, underlines this intent: “His Majesty’s Government therefore now declare(s) unequivocally that it is no part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish State.” It must be noted here that the Command Paper specifically marks the existence of a Palestine area to which the Jews were immigrating.
“I think we have an invented Palestinian people,” Gingrich continues, forgetting to mention that Dr. Shlomo Sand in his recent book The Invention of the Jewish People, according to Leon Hadar in his review, concludes by,
“Countering official Zionist historiography, Sand questions whether the Jewish People ever existed as a national group with a common origin in the Land of Israel/Palestine. He concludes that the Jews should be seen as a religious community comprising a mishmash of individuals and groups that had converted to the ancient monotheistic religion but do not have any historical right to establish an independent Jewish state in the Holy Land. In short, the Jewish People, according to Sand, are not really a “people” in the sense of having a common ethnic origin and national heritage. They certainly do not have a political claim over the territory that today constitutes Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem.”
In an even more recent book, just published by Pluto Books, Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh in an historical review of the ancient lands of Palestine noted that “The kingdom of Judah lasted 341 years (927-586 BCE) while Israel lasted even a shorter 205 years (927 – 722 BCE).” In short, between the two recent studies, Gingrich could have found the truth; but truth is not what Gingrich needed for his interview: he needed a fabrication that would endear him to his audience both in Israel and in the United States as he groveled for monetary support for his campaign at the expense of the Palestinian people.
Consider the reality of the past two thousand years, when this area “between the Jordan and the Mediterranean,” which “has had a history of 6000 years of civilization,” known for a large portion of its history, as the Southern part of the Land of Canaan, has been called, for all these 2000 years, Palestine. As Qumsiyeh reviews this period he concludes, “These people (known to the world as Palestinians) absorbed the religions and various philosophies and changed their allegiances to survive in an ever amorphous world. This world, sometimes violent, sometimes symbiotic was always there.”
“Known to the world as Palestinians”; known to Newt Gingrich as “invented.” So how is it, this historian and geographer, could determine that the people of Palestine did not exist, that they could have removed themselves to “other” Arab lands and left all of Palestine to the Jews? In an unfortunate comment meant to deflect criticism about his reinvention of history, Gingrich made this comment: “Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth. These people are terrorists,” he said. “It’s fundamentally time for somebody to have the guts to stand up and say, ‘Enough lying about the Middle East.” In four words, he turns all Palestinians into “terrorists.” And he justifies this slanderous and invidious judgment by assuming the chauvinistic persona of the brave man who condemns those who lie about the Middle East even as he omits the decision of the Mandate Government to hand over the resolution of the immigrant problem in Palestine to the UN, a decision that resulted in the Partition Plan (1947) dividing that land into two areas, one for Jews the other for the Palestinians who lived there, who had a 71% to 29% majority in the whole of Palestine. Since the Resolution created, numbered 181, divided the land into two, recognizing two peoples contending for the area of Palestine, it recognized as well Palestinians inhabiting the land with heritage going back two thousand years to the Roman era. At the same time, as immigration for Jews materialized through the 1940s, the contrast between indigenous inhabitants and newly arrived immigrants from foreign lands makes ludicrous Gingrich’s comments.
Even more ludicrous and perhaps more frightening, is this man’s willingness to undermine US policy since WWII, a policy that recognized the Palestinian people and their rightful claim to their own state. His convoluted logic would have the United States President negotiate peace with a people he has determined to be terrorists, all of them. He claims that what has been going on is a “delusional peace process”; true enough, but not because the Palestinians haven’t been willing to arrive at peace, but because Israel has had no intentions of recognizing a Palestinian state as the Likud Party Platform declares openly even now, “no state of Palestine west of the Jordan River.” But this fact, neither Gingrich nor the American press nor the Israeli government will acknowledge; it is rather the unwillingness of the Palestine Authority and Hamas to recognize Israel and cease their violence against Israel that prevents peace. But once again, had Gingrich taken the time to read yet another book on the subject, released in the summer of 2010, The Plight of the Palestinians, published by Palgrave MacMillan, he could have read about Israeli intransigence in negotiating peace, “The Problem with Israel,” by Dr. Jeff Halper, an article that recounts 19 different proposals rejected by Israel.
In that same volume, Gingrich could read about the Zionist stated reality that they had no plans to abide by the UN Partition Plan, but rather eradicate all Arabs from the land of Palestine, and that in Jewish documents from the Mandate period. “The challenge of Zionism was to create a Jewish state in a land already inhabited by natives who mostly practiced Islam and Christianity. Early Zionist understood the challenge and contrary to their public pronouncements about “a land without a people for a people without a land” came to see that the natives posed an obstacle to their visions” (Qumsiyeh).
There are 32 chapters in that book that detail Israel’s ongoing genocide against the Palestinian people, all written in the first decade of this century, a veritable catalog of ethnic cleansing to complement Dr. Ilan Pappe’s volume on the same subject, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.
Let me close this recounting of Gingrich’s vitriolic commentary by remembering the Palestinians who suffered at the hands of real terrorists during the Nakba, an historical event he must immerse himself in if he is to understand how toxic his offhand commentary is to those who lived through these years awaiting justice. Here are the words of the Zionist’s general:
“Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because Geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either … There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.” (Moshe Dayan, Address to the Technion, Haifa, as quoted in Haaretz, 4-4-1969)
“Thus began in November of 1947 what is euphemistically called the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the combined forces of the Jewish armies, the Haganah, the Stern, and the Irgun as they drove more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs from their homes leaving them destitute, homeless and abandoned without a country in what is now the largest refugee Diaspora in the world.
More truthfully, the plight of the Palestinians that began so ruthlessly in 1947, and is now called the Nakba, was an intentional, calculated campaign to force the Palestinian Arabs out of Palestine, a systematic genocide of a people as defined by the United Nations in its adoption of Genocide Convention, Article II” (The Plight of the Palestinians). Now that Gingrich knows what to read, will he?
– William A. Cook is a Professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California. His works include Psalms for the 21st Century, Mellon Poetry Press, Tracking Deception: Bush Mid-East Policy, The Rape of Palestine, The Chronicles of Nefaria, and most recently in 2010, The Plight of the Palestinians. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: [email protected] or visit: www.drwilliamacook.com.