Palestinian national identity as it currently is recognized was a reaction to the creation of Israel and most prominently the 1967 war when Israel captured territory controlled by Egypt and Jordan. Newt Gingrich is under fire for stating this truth.
It doesn’t really change the equation on the ground, and there is an inexorable march towards Palestinians having a state in some portion of that former Egyptian and Jordanian territory, the questions being boundaries and militarization.
The importance of Gingrich’s comment was that it skewered a false historical narrative which dominates the international debate and is used for the demonization of Israel and its chief supporter, the United States.
Newt was absolutely correct to say enough already with the falsehood. If it upset the Palestinians, well too bad. It’s about time a prominent political figure in the United States didn’t just voice support for Israel but did so in a historically accurate manner which addressed the false Palestinian narrative of perpetual victimization.
This is firing up many an Israeli hater and/or Palestinian supporter (too often indistinguishable) yet it would seem that these hater/supporters would need to argue with some of their own:
Gingrich’s statement is backed up by Zuheir Mohsen, a Palestinian leader of the pro-Syria faction of the PLO who March 1977 gave an interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw:
The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct Palestinian people to oppose Zionism.
For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.
Nor is Mohsen the only Arab to say this. Princeton University Prof. Philip Hitti, the distinguished Arab-American historian, testified against partition before the Anglo-American Committee in 1946:
There is no such thing as ‘Palestine’ in history, absolutely not.
That year was 1920.
Thus far, I’ve not found a rebuttal to Gingrich that seems plausible or isn’t filled with invectives or ad hominems. When I do, I’ll update and post them.
I wouldn’t hold my breath.