Tonight Newt Gingrich spoke some truth about the middle east that very few people–even including Jews–have had the courage to say or write in recent decades.
He may have done so imperfectly, using words that are not politically correct or ultra-sensitive to the Palestinians, who are treated by much of the world as being above criticism (and have been infantilized and used by their own leadership and other forces within the Arab world for decades). But in standing up for history, Newt inspired. He reminded this commentator of something sacred: the obligation to be as faithful to the truth as one can. And he also did a tremendous service to Israelis, to Palestinians, and to everyone who actually cares about peace in the middle east.
Here is why: there can be no possibility of a true peace as long as Palestinian leaders, teachers, and parents are educating children to hate. As long as Palestinian textbooks and TV shows contain propaganda dehumanizing Israelis, as long as Palestinian “leaders” use children as human shields and the world fails to demand they stop, as long as their charters are dedicated to Israel’s destruction, all the high-level diplomacy in the world is worthless. Hamas will keep on brainwashing kids, terrorists will keep on firing rockets and sending homicide bombers into Israel, and Israeli leaders will continue to be forced to respond in order to defend Israel’s citizens. Whereupon Palestinian “leaders” will continue to use Palestinian civilians as human shields to increase the death toll and wage a propaganda war–one that Gingrich had the guts tonight to identify.
After decades of successive U.S. presidents’ futile efforts to oversee peace processes that fail to address the true, underlying problems–is it any wonder peace remains elusive? The Palestinians continue to be the world’s greatest per capita recipients of international aid while continuing an unrelenting campaign to destroy Israel (a war which even the supposedly more moderate Palestinian Authority does not deny), while Western leaders kowtow to them and engage in elaborate diplomacy rituals. The Palestinian and other Arab leadership is never held accountable, just keeps on receiving the aid money, and nothing changes.
One of the things Gingrich said in tonight’s Republican Presidential debate on ABC was, “This is a propaganda war in which our side refuses to engage and we refuse to tell the truth when the other side lies.” He also said, “The fact is, the Palestinian claim to a right of return is based on a historically false story. ‘Palestinian’ did not become a common term until after 1977.”
He also called the Palestinians an “invented” people. Here what I think he meant: the Palestinian claim to the land that is modern (or comprised ancient) Israel is based on the idea that they have unique national ties to that particular piece of land, and that is false. In this regard he’s correct. The land that is Israel for instance, and Israel’s capital Jerusalem, was part of the ancient Jewish state of Zion and resurrected as Judea during Roman times. It was an actual sovereign nation (governed by kings Saul, David and Solomon). There was never an independent Palestine, and much of the land that comprises modern Israel was uninhabited before the Zionist pioneers began resettling it in the 1800’s. While some Arab towns did exist in this mostly uninhabited desert land, the arrival of Jewish settlers and the developments they built actually drew the larger numbers of Arabs to that particular land.
While of course it would be wrong and foolish to deny that the Palestinians are a living group of people, what I think he meant is, there was never a historic Palestinian homeland that was a sovereign nation. Also, there was never a national identity called ‘Palestinian’ until well after Zionist pioneers had begun resettling the land. In other words, Israel did not destroy ‘Palestine;’ the concept of ‘Palestine’ was created at least in part in order to destroy Israel.
Palestinians like all people have human rights, including the right to call themselves whatever they choose. The problem comes in when a group of people deliberately forms an identity based on an alleged–and unsubstantiated–right to something that, historically, belongs to someone else. Or even worse, when their national identity hinges on their intention to destroy another nation and its people. When it becomes forbidden to examine their stated intentions (including the intention to destroy Israel) and forbidden to utter any criticism of these genocidal intentions or their behavior, then their dysfunction and potential to inflict damage grows.
The most important thing Gingrich said was, “[The Palestinians] teach terrorism in their schools. They have textbooks that say ‘if there are 13 Jews and 9 Jews are killed, how many Jews are left?’ We pay for those textbooks through our aid money. Time for somebody to say enough lying about the Middle East.” As I said on a TV appearance myself some years ago, “You cannot teach children to hate and expect peace.”
With the internet and social media, people–including some who have been long repressed in the Arab world–are opening their eyes to the reality that they’ve been exploited by their leaders for too long. For decades now, in an unnaturally subsidized and repressed environment, the Palestinian people have been fed a steady diet of hatred, and have been nurtured on the dream of Palestinian statehood that requires the destruction of Israel.
Time for them to get a healthier dream.
To the extent that his blunt words tonight may signal the beginning of the end of American willingness to subsidize the unhealthiest and most violent of Palestinian impulses, Gingrich might actually have advanced the cause of true peace. He spoke some harsh truths. But ultimately it is truth–not dreams of hope and change built on half-truths, distortions, and outright lies–that frees.
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