CAIRO - Republican White House hopeful Newt Gingrich has called Palestinians an invented people who have no right to a future state, dismaying a wide range of politicians including Democratic and Republican former diplomats and Palestinian and Israeli advocates, The Washington Post reported on Saturday, December 10.
Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire, Gingrich said in an interview which was taped Wednesday in Washington and will be broadcast Monday on The Jewish Channel.
We have invented the Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and are historically part of the Arab people, and they had the chance to go many places.
Gingrich spoke about his mistrust of Palestinian leaders, his admiration for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his view that the Obama administration is favoring the terrorists with its foreign policy.
For a variety of political reasons, Gingrich continued, we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s, and I think it's tragic.
Asked if he identifies as a Zionist, Gingrich said: "I believe that the Jewish people have the right to have a state."
With Palestinian people living in Palestine lands for thousands of years, most historians mark the start of Palestinian Arab nationalist sentiment in 1834, when Arab residents of the Palestinian region revolted against Ottoman rule.
Facing Zionist mobs in 1948, thousands of Palestinians were forced to flee their homes and villages, to be replaced by Jewish immigrants from around the world.
The number of registered refugees has subsequently grown from 914,000 in 1950 to more than 4.4 million in 2005, and continues to rise.
UN resolutions guarantee the right of return of Palestinian refugees, many still holding the keys and titles of their homes in what is now Israel.
Each year on May 15, Palestinians mourn the loss of Palestine and creation of Israel on its rubble in 1948.
Gingrich's comments were immediately criticized by different politicians as historically wrong.
Besides being factually and historically wrong, this statement is unwise, Ghaith al-Omari, executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine and a former adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, told Washington Post.
Rather than trying to delegitimize or undermine the narrative of either side, it would be much more productive to work towards a solution that guarantees the security and future of both the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Elliott Abrams, who was a deputy national security adviser under Bush and is now with the Council on Foreign Relations, also criticized the baseless theory of invented' Palestinian people.
There was no Jordan or Syria or Iraq, either, so perhaps he would say they are all invented people as well and also have no right to statehood, said Abrams.
Whatever was true then, Palestinian nationalism has grown since 1948, and whether we like it or not, it exists.
Not only fanning the flames of the already fraught Arab-Israeli conflict, Gingrich has also challenged long-standing US policy initiated by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and continued by President Obama which supports the establishment of a separate Palestinian state.
In May 2011, US president Obama reiterated his support for two-state solution, adding that the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 with "mutually agreed swaps."
Last December, several South American states recognized a Palestinian state on the 1967 lands.
The European Union didn't rule out recognition of a Palestinian state, a move that is opposed by the United States, Israel's closest ally.