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December 12, 2011 7:34 am

The Israeli Reaction to Newt Gingrich

avatar by Arik Elman

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Newt Gingrich. Photo: Gage Skidmore.

The statement of the new leader in the Republican contest for nomination, Newt Gingrich, that “Palestinians are an invented people” and that, as President, he’ll move the American embassy to Jerusalem in accordance with the law of Congress, has been met both in the United States and in Israel with predictable reactions. While on the Right Gingrich was lionized as a true champion of the Jewish state, on the Left he was accused both of deliberate provocation and of historical distortion. The former Clinton ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk sneered that if Gingrich does not believe in Palestinian right to statehood, then “he’s no friend of Israel at all”.

For someone whose own preferred brand of friendship with Israel included blindly supporting policies that got more than 1000 Jews horribly murdered and many thousands mutilated and scarred for life, this is quite a statement. Being a member of the Board of the New Israeli Fund, Indyk apparently still subscribes to a “peace religion” that has elevated Palestinian claims to a rank of dogma which must not be questioned. After all, the reasoning that Jews and “Palestinians” have an equal claim to the land between the sea and the Jordan river must be based on an acclamation of “Palestinian” history and culture, which in turn gives weight to the accusation that the Zionist project, like the colonization of America, has disrupted the national development of the “indigenous people”. If this the case, then the Palestinian demand for a state on the whole territory occupied by Jordan in 1949 seems not only reasonable, but a concession to the unjust Zionist might, just like Native Americans had to settle for reservations where previously they roamed the continent.

If, however, one accepts the undeniable historical fact – that the Arab Muslims in Palestine had never managed to develop a national conscience, much less national institutions – and that a large part of the Arab population of Palestine in 1948 consisted of relatively recent migrants from the Arab Levant, attracted by the perspective of employment in the booming local economy, fueled by the Jews and the British, than one must also accept that the separate and independent national development of the Palestinians began AFTER the establishment of the Jewish state and was spurred by the inability of Arab regimes to eradicate this “Zionist entity”.

Gingrich did not add, but should have, that the invention of Palestinian people came about with one purpose only – to negate and deny the historical rights of the Jews to the Land of Israel. The Palestinian ethos is one of dispossession and suffering at the hands of the enemies of Muslims. The Palestinian struggle is one for national and religious purification of the whole Palestine, since no compromise is possible on the core issue of ownership of the land which belongs to a Muslim “umma”. Passing his judgment on Gingrich, Israeli Leftist historian Tom Segev has declared that “the Palestinians aren’t less a nation than the Americans”. Perhaps – if “to be American” meant “to strive and hope for a total eradication of Canada, that British abomination on the pure soil of a New World” or same such. The essence of Palestinian nationalism lies in a total negation of the Jewish nationalism, not in any compromise with it. That’s why all  efforts to bring about the two-state solution has failed – for the Jewish side, it represent a painful, but pragmatic end to a violent and costly struggle, but for the Palestinians, it will signify an end of their current concept of themselves as a nation.

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Therefore, while the existence of the collective conscience of the Palestinians today is indeed undeniable (in fact, there are three such consciences, constantly growing apart – one of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, the other amongst the Palestinian refugees abroad and the third being the Israeli Arabs), it is quite legitimate to ask whether the adoration of Palestinian nationhood helps or harms the main cause – peaceful solution of the conflict between Jews and Arabs. To label this struggle as “Israeli-Palestinian” is to deny its true character. This is not an isolated fight between a colonizing modern state, armed to the teeth, and the desperate minority striving for freedom. This is the battle for survival of the tiny Jewish outpost of Western civilization and democracy in a sea of Arab Muslim national and religious animosity and violence.

Gingrich’s detractors also misunderstand their data, when they insist that the “Israeli mainstream” recognize Palestinians as a nation deserving a state. In fact, what polls show is the belief of the Israeli majority that after the terror campaign of the last decade any form of coexistence with Arabs is no longer possible and therefore the Israeli interest lies in separation from the most of them. A negotiated “two-state” solution is but one of the possible ways to achieve this goal – unilateral withdrawal from parts of Judea and Samaria is another, Avigdor Lieberman’s “transfer of  populations and territories” is the third. This is why the basic Palestinian demand – full territory of the West Bank with insignificant swaps – was so uniformly rejected by the majority of Israelis even after it was publicly embraced by the President. They did not accept both the illegitimacy of their presence in those territories or any preference for the Palestinian claim on them.

Between the religious Right which sees the whole Land of Israel as an exclusive Jewish patrimony, and the anti-Israeli Left which finds the very concept of the Jewish State repulsive, the Middle of the line Israelis are looking for a way to part ways with the Palestinians without putting their own future in mortal danger. Whatever way they choose, Israel will need American help and support. A President who harbors no illusions about who’s right and who’s wrong in the Middle East would be a much better friend to Israel than one who berates the Jews for failure to live up to their own fantasies, and grant Palestinian claims and demands an equal and sympathetic hearing. Who knows – maybe the Gingrich way to peace in the Middle East will be shorter and much less bloodier then of those who line up to mock him.

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  • Ron Agam

    Gingrich contribution to the debate on the future of Israel is considerable if only it teaches you that one man is capable of issuing game changing alternatives to the admitted accepted options of the moment. The flux , the inescapable changes in the region forces Israel to adapt quickly to new paradigms . It is time for Israel to seize the agenda and to stop being a passive actor in its survival. The cost of continuing the status quo can be fatal to its people. Israel needs to show a collective courage to adopt game changing decision accepted by its majority, separation from the Palestinian seems to be the most reasonable to insure the future of a Jewsih state.

  • Piera Prister

    I think that Gingrich made a mistake when he said that Palestinians are an invented people. He should have said that Palestinians were an invented people, because now they exist,above all in terms of terrorism, thanks to the complicity of so many American politicians including president Bill Clinton and president George Bush. They were ambiguous because they never signed the two Acts voted by the Congress about moving the American Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. Furthermore I do not think that he is a valid candidate to defeat Obama, let’s take a look to his back ground check, he is a bigot. Let’s pick a better candidate like Mitt Romney.

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