Look out world. Newt Gingrich thinks he is quite the historian. He also thinks he is quite the diplomat. He has proven himself to be neither and that the sum of the two parts can equal disaster. Mitt Romney says he won’t apologize for America, implying Obama has, but Gingrich doesn’t stop there. The man who has already proven he will betray his wives for love of country has now demonstrated that he not only will not apologize for America, but will attack other countries by telling them they have no right to exist. His comments on that score were directed at Palestine and have caused quite a stir, being a point of contention between him and Romney at the recent debate.
According to Gingrich, there is no such thing as Palestinians and therefore Palestine – they are an “invented” people. And not just invented, but invented because for centuries the area called Palestine was ruled by the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Never mind that the area now called Israel was also ruled by the Ottoman Empire for the same period of time (something Ron Paul pointed out). It’s just a hunch, mind you, but I think Newt just negated Israel’s existence. Not only that: if Palestine can’t be a nation, how can the United States, an invented nation if there ever was one? Taken to its logical conclusion, most post-colonial states have no right to exist – which probably suits the anti-anti-colonialist Gingrich just fine.
Here is what the self-styled Wunderkind had to say during an interview with Steven I. Weiss on the Jewish Channel:
“I believe that the Jewish people have the right to have a state, and I believe that the commitments that were made at a time,” Gingrich said. “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. And they had a chance to go many places. And for a variety of political reasons we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940’s, and I think it’s tragic.”
Gingrich, who has never supported the peace process in the Middle East, calling it “delusional” (who was the last Republican to actually support peace?) went on to say:
“I mean, we have an armed truce with a Palestinian Authority that’s relatively weak. And on its flank is a Hamas authority which may become relatively weak because it can’t deliver anything. But both of which represent an enormous desire to destroy Israel. Frankly, given their school system and the hatred they teach in their schools, often with money that comes from us through the United Nations, I mean I think there’s a lot to think about in terms of how fundamentally you want to change the terms of debate in the region.”
Sure, you can go back in time and say, well, Israel was there long before the Ottomans, but so was Palestine. The Egyptians knew the Palestinians as the Peleset, one of the Sea Peoples who heralded the end of the Bronze Age. The Assyrians called the region Palashtu. The Greeks called it Palaistinē and the Romans knew of it as Palaestina. You Bible readers might remember it being called Philistia – the land of the Philistines. They came to the region via the sea and the Jews, says the Bible, came up out of the desert. Both invaders. Neither indigenous. One now entitled to a state and the other not.
And what about all those periods of time when Israel did not exist, when other empires ruled the area? There have been more centuries without an Israel than with. Yes, Jews continued to live there but right next to them were Palestinians. Some of the Palestinians who have lost their land since modern Israel was established by the UN in 1947 (United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181) had been farming there for hundreds of years. But they have no right to a state while their Jewish neighbors do, just on account, apparently, of their religion? And no, the Jews historically did not rule over the entire area. If we take the Bible’s word for it, the Jews are interlopers, late arrivals to the area. The game of delegitimization is a favorite GOP tactic but it is a dangerous one if you go back in history because it is a two-edged sword.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was very reasonable in his demand for Gingrich to “review history,” saying, according to Wafa, the Palestinian news agency, “From the beginning, our people have been determined to stay on their land. This, certainly, is denying historical truths.”
Republican opposition to a Palestinian state and support for Israel is nothing new. The Republican platform is as much devoted to Israel as to America “right or wrong.” Domination of the GOP by fundamentalist Christianity has only hardened this position, given the “Holy Land’s” role in fundamentalist end-time scenarios. Why Jesus would lack the power to return if an Islam he intends to destroy ruled the area rather than the Judaism he intends to destroy on behalf of his fundamentalist followers is not explained. It kind of reminds you of the God in Star Trek who needed a starship to get off the planet on which he was stranded as a god who definitely needs to lose his god-card. Where is Captain Kirk when you need him?
As Jon Stewart observed, this is the time of year GOP candidates try to prove who loves Israel more (look out, Israel, if they love you like they love the U.S.). And it’s fine to love Israel – or Germany, or France, or any other country you might care to name, but the foreign policy of any of these nations should never trump our own foreign policy, and for Republican candidates, this is exactly what has happened. Romney was right during the debate to say “We let the Israeli leadership describe what they believe the right course is going forward. We don’t negotiate for the Israeli people.” This is not what Republicans evidently want to hear but it is true. We cannot be Israel and the United States. We use the term “photobomb” to describe the insertion into a photograph of a person who should not be there. A similar term might be “diplobomb” describing insertion into a country’s internal affairs where it should not be.
Gingrich and other Republicans talk about a Palestinian unwillingness to embrace peace but the GOP has the same problem and to a greater degree. How is a policy of hostility to Israel less unreasonable and dangerous than a policy of hostility to Iran, as practiced not only by Israel but by the GOP? And a diplomacy as a process of delegitimizing other countries has little more to recommend it than a diplomacy centered on attacking those countries a la the Bush Doctrine. On the other hand, a diplomacy founded upon pragmatism has a great deal to recommend it but Republicans absolutely reject even-handed approaches founded upon the facts on the ground.
The Bush Doctrine was a disaster for America and for the world. It is clear that a Gingrich Doctrine founded on negation and delegitimization would be even worse. Meanwhile, far from apologizing, Gingrich has stood by his remarks and demanded Obama apologize instead, for supposedly delegitimizing Israel! The Arab League has denounced Syria, but it has also denounced Newt Gingrich, sure signs that the Arab League acts more responsibly than one of our leading presidential candidates.