Newt Gingrich’s citing, during the Republican candidates’ debate Saturday, facts regarding Palestinians’ historical identity and U.S. funding of hate education in the Palestinian territories have grabbed headlines. It seems Newt understands the propaganda war that has been waged against Israel and feels it’s moral to speak the truth. He is also shrewd. His choice to come out strong on the issue at this juncture was probably strategic.
When he made politically incorrect statements and would not back down, even the normally unflappable Romney appeared blindsided, and flummoxed.
Newt understands the mountain of propaganda that’s been heaped on Israel for the past several decades. He also understands the incitement and unrelenting dehumanization of Israelis and Americans that goes on in Palestinian schools and mosques, as well as in official media, that we, preposterously, help fund “through our aid money,” as he said. He did the right thing to speak up about it. But why at this moment?
As a shrewd politician, Newt saw an opportunity to break from the Republican pack and “out-Israel-support” the rest. Rather than doing so in a predictable way (by spouting pledges and platitudes), he did so on substance, speaking truths that, as I wrote in an earlier post, many American Jews and other pro-Israel Americans, and even some Israelis themselves, today shy away from saying. As Gingrich said, “This is a propaganda war in which our side refuses to engage and we refuse to tell the truth when the other side lies.”
Gingrich demonstrated not only that he grasps certain politically incorrect, fundamental truths, but also that he has courage; he demonstrated he is able to endure condemnation from many corners for questioning the status quo. His words, in that sense, were not just words. Because they could and almost certainly will have some negative consequence for him–if only incurring the fury of those who benefit from the status quo–they constituted an action. The ability to act with courage, more than anything, is what voters who care about a strong America and a strong Israel want to see. Never has that been more true than now, when Israel faces a potential existential threat from Iran.
In noting that Gingrich was probably being strategic, I don’t suggest he’s not sincere. The way he attempted to explain the nature of the propaganda war against Israel suggests to me he grasps the situation perfectly and cares about it, as well as about the truth.
That he also chose to voice these truths at this moment should not be held against him. One can be simultaneously strategic and sincere.
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